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  1. Samsung is apparently now ready to start mass production of AMOLED displays for tablets next month, Korean media reports. A 10-incher is mentioned in the publication, though we've heard a smaller, 8" tablet with OLED screen is in the cards, too. AMOLED displays, of Samsung fame, don't have a backlight like the LCD ones, but are rather using the photons that each pixel emits itself. Those organic diodes that comprise OLED displays, have been mastered by Samsung and LG to the extent that they have TV panels made out of them, so why not tablets, too? Until recently it was tough and cost-prohibitive to make mid-size OLED screens in the 8-10" range, so Samsung focused mainly on phones and TVs for commercializing said technology. The tables have turned, it seems, and the publication says Samsung will boost its sagging OLED production lines capacity utilization precisely on account of the tablets with such screens it is about to launch. These, however, are likely to be premium products, and priced accordingly, so we wouldn't uncork the champagne just yet, until we know the specs and price for certain. Source
  2. Intel has the tablet market covered in 2014, according to sources with Taiwan's tablet supply chain. The silicon slinger has plans to offer CPU platforms for low-end tablets all the way to top-shelf models. The company has already released its Bay Trail-T chips for Windows 8/8.1. By the end of this year, the company will have introduced its Bay Trail-T line for Android slates. Intel's Z3735D series is a Bay Trail CPU designed specifically for low-end Android tablets priced at $99 to $129, and for 7 to 8 inch models priced at $149 to $199. These chips will be available in the first quarter of next year. For those Android tablets with a screen size of 8 to 10 inches, and a retail price range of $199-$249, Intel will offer the Bay Trail and Cherry Trail platforms. The latter will also cover 10 inch Android slabs priced at $249 and higher. The Cherry Trail chip will launch next September and is based on the 14nm Airmont architecture. Cherry Trail will support both 32 and 64 bit Windows 8/8.1 and Android tablets.That will be followed up with the Willow Trail CPU in the fourth quarter. Based on the 14nm Goldmont architecture, this chip will also support Windows and Android slates. Finally, Intel has some lovin' for smartphones as well. In the first quarter, it will release Merrifield for smartphones while Moorefield is expected to launch in Q3. Both not only use the 22nm process, they both can also be used for Android tablets. Source
  3. The ~$100 tablet shootout—Amazon Fire 8 HD Plus vs. Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro The benchmarks are comparable to 2015 phones, but $100 Android tablets have come a long way. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 9+ images. Amazon versus Walmart! Two of the world's biggest retailers compete in endless ways, but they're currently going head-to-head in an unexpected market: dirt-cheap Android tablets. And after spending some time recently with the $109.99 Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus and the $99.99 Walmart Onn Tablet 8 Pro, these two cheap tablets look like a microcosm of the companies' retail efforts at large. Walmart is the old-school brick-and-mortar outfit doing its best to keep up with the modern times, while Amazon is the trailblazing technology company and has been doing this tech-focused tablet thing for a long time. Cheap, but useful The designs of the two tablets could not be more different. Amazon is on its 10th generation of Android tablets and has the hardware design down to a science. This is only Walmart's second-generation Onn tablet, and it's mostly a cookie-cutter device that has room for improvement. While Amazon wins on hardware, its tablets also come with Fire OS, a fork of Android (Android 9) that doesn't have the Play Store, Google apps, or a huge app selection. Getting the apps I've wanted has been a nonstop sideloading fest, and Fire OS, since it was designed by a retail company, often acts like its primary goal is to get you to spend money with Amazon. Walmart, on the other hand, ships regular-old Google Play Android, which is much less of a hassle to use, has a much bigger app selection, and is actually a newer version: Android 10. SPECS AT A GLANCE Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro SCREEN 8-inch 1280×800 (189 ppi) LCD 8-inch 1280×800 (189 ppi) LCD OS Android 9 with Fire OS Android 10 CPU MediaTek MT8168 (Four Cortex A53s, 2GHz) MediaTek MT8768 (Eight Cortex A53s, 2GHz) GPU Mali-G52 MC1 PowerVR Rogue GE8320 RAM 3GB 2GB STORAGE 32GB or 64GB 32GB NETWORKING 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS PORTS USB Type-C, headphone jack REAR CAMERAS 5MP 5MP FRONT CAMERA 5MP 5MP BATTERY 4850mAh 4500mAh OTHER PERKS Micro SD slot Amazon's Fire tablet is designed primarily for horizontal mode—so it's a media tablet—while Walmart's tablet is designed for vertical mode, which means big phone apps. With auto-rotate, of course, you can use both tablets in either direction, but what you can't change is the location of the hardware components, and you'll see the camera, speakers, power button, and volume buttons arranged differently on each tablet since they favor different orientations. The Walmart Onn 8 Pro is a vertical tablet with two speakers on the bottom edge, so in landscape mode, they aren't really "stereo" speakers since they'll both point out the same side of the device. The Fire tablet, when held in landscape mode, has two speakers on left and right sides of the top edge, so they're roughly in line with your ears. You've got to pick a primary orientation for the speakers, and it's hard to argue against landscape, which is the primary orientation for media and maybe half the games. So that's a point for Amazon. In just about every aspect, Walmart's tablet is as generic as possible, and the body sticks with this trend: it's pretty much just a rectangle with straight sides and lightly rounded corners. There's nothing wrong with it, but nothing special about it either. On the other hand, the Fire HD 8 Plus represents Amazon's 10th generation of tablets, and the company definitely knows what it's doing. The Fire 8 Plus has big, bulbous sides that puff out past the display cover and fit into your palms without any pressure points. The pillowy sides mean the tablet won't dig into your hands the way a more rectangular design would, and since this is a tablet meant for media consumption that you'll be holding for an extended period of time, this is a big deal. I've yet to find a teardown of the Fire 8 HD Plus, but Amazon also seems to be doing its best to simplify the internal design. Most major components are in a single cluster, with the headphone jack, USB-C port, microphone, power button, and volume button all on the same edge. Flip the tablet over and you'll find the rear camera in the same spot, along with one of the speakers. Everything is squished to the right side of the tablet, with the front camera and left speaker being the only remote components. At around $100, these are both cheap tablets, and one of the things that immediately jumped out at me about both of them were the plastic screens. Compared to the usual glass covers on phones and tablets, the plastic display cover has noticeably more friction, so sliding my finger around isn't as easy as I'd like. The plastic cover is also a fingerprint magnet, lacking the oleophobic coating that typically comes on a more expensive device. There's also a lot more give to a plastic display than a glass one, and if you press hard on them, you can actually affect the LCD pixels. It's all a major difference compared to an unbending, literally rock-hard glass display. Both displays are also not the clearest, brightest things on Earth because the displays are not bonded to the display cover. There is an air gap between the cover and the LCD, which scatters some of the light from the LCD. Compared to the usual glass phone with a bonded display, these tablets are dimmer, cloudier, and have a smaller viewing angle. All the phones I'm thinking of are several times the price of these tablets, though, so it's an excusable difference, though it's a major one. The justifiable cheapness continues in the tablet bodies, where you'll find both are plastic with a good amount of squish to them. Walmart prefers a smooth finish with a silver flake paint that looks like it came from a Radio Shack, while Amazon has a matte black plastic with a slight texture to it. Again, Amazon is better at this. Fire OS—Basically a take-home Amazon shopping cart First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 5 images. The biggest difference between the two tablets boils down to Google Play Android versus Amazon's Fire OS. Walmart is shipping a device with Google Play and all the Google apps, like YouTube, Gmail, Chrome, and the Google Assistant. We know Google gives OEMs a small kickback on revenue earned from a device, but it's nothing compared to what Amazon has going with the Fire tablet. The Fire HD 8 Plus uses a non-Google Play version of Android. Amazon has been building its own alternative Android ecosystem, from scratch, since 2011. Both of these devices are about $100, but Amazon has an opportunity to make much more money from the device over the device's lifetime. Nearly every packed-in app on the Fire tablet pushes you to pay more for an Amazon product or service: The only app store on the device is the Amazon App Store, where Amazon gets a 30 percent cut of the revenue. There are ads on the lockscreen. The first app in the app list is "Shop Amazon," and there's a tab for Amazon.com on the Silk Browser home page. Prime Video is one of the only services you get with an Amazon Prime subscription, a $12.99-a-month service. "Amazon FreeTime" is a book, video, and game content service for kids, and it runs another $2.99 a month for Prime members. "Amazon Music Unlimited" is $7.99 a month on top of Prime, and it offers streaming of 60 million songs. "Kindle Unlimited," a book subscription service, is $9.99 a month. Audible, the popular audiobook service, is another $14.95 per month. Kindle Newsstand will sell you subscriptions to magazines. There's even an app for Jeff Bezos' The Washington Post, which runs $3.99 a month for a subscription. Amazon isn't evil for having several content stores with all-you-can-eat subscription plans. Google offers some of the same services, like selling apps, books, music, magazines, and videos. The difference is that Google's content stores are mostly an afterthought, and services like Maps, Gmail, Drive, Photos, Docs, and Calendar are real productivity apps that offer a ton of functionality for free. Amazon makes it feel like the entire purpose of a Fire device is to buy more stuff from Amazon. Every time you turn on the device, you first see an ad, usually for some Amazon service. The home screen is basically dedicated to buying stuff from Amazon, too. The home screen is tabbed, and swiping horizontally on the home screen will switch between content stores. After your app collection, there are tabs for Books, Videos, Games and Apps, Shop, Music, Audible, and Newsstand. Even the app list is just a list of things to buy. Nearly every app in the app drawer is an Amazon service, while the actual productivity apps—like the clock, contacts, calendar, calculator, maps, docs, and weather—are tucked away in a folder called "Utilities." The first app in the app drawer is "Shop Amazon," followed by the Amazon Silk Browser, App Store, and Prime Video. Forget about alphabetical order—I think the apps are sorted by revenue. There is no way to change this, other than manually dragging apps around. Even if you don't tap on the app icons, you'll also be inundated with notifications from these apps, imploring you to buy something or check out some new promotion. The Fire Tablet has all the usual building blocks of an Android device—those blocks are just stacked into the shape of a shopping cart. The result is an OS that feels like a pushy salesman rather than a tool that helps you get stuff done. If Amazon wasn't so good about keeping your credit card details on file, I would feel like the Fire HD should come with a card swiper on the side. Google has some similar and competing services to what Amazon offers, but regular Android absolutely does not have the "pushy salesman" vibe that FireOS gives off. Android doesn't show ads on the lock screen. The home screen is not a collection of un-customizable tabs showing things you can buy from Google. Normally, you could replace the terrible home screen with a third-party option, but Amazon actually disabled the ability to set a different default home app. The Fire home screen is a big Amazon ad, and Amazon doesn't want users to replace it. The Amazon App Store policies actually ban "Apps that override the native user experience." It's a vague rule that could mean anything, but Amazon uses it to block competing home screens and browsers from the app store, along with banning any app, at all, that uses home-screen widgets. Alternative media apps from giant companies are OK though, so you'll still find Netflix, Disney+, and Spotify in the Amazon App Store. With all of the Amazon ads and protectionism, it would be nice if Amazon cut consumers a break with the price of the hardware. But there's nothing on the Fire tablet you can point to as being more expensive than Walmart's tab. They are more comparable than not, and the Fire tablet is $10 more. From a consumer perspective, there is nothing positive about Fire OS. If you like any of the Amazon apps, they are also on the Play Store. Walmart’s jank build of Android First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 5 images. Walmart is shipping a modern version of Android: Android 10. And it's mostly normal-looking other than one big oddity and a few rough edges. Say you're an out-of-touch Walmart executive trying to do your best Amazon impression, and you need to find some premium Android ad space for your innovative new Walmart apps. Where do you put it? The lock screen? The home screen? The notification panel? No, I've got the perfect spot: The navigation bar. While any other screen is something you'd only visit occasionally, the navigation bar is on every. single. screen. Yes, that's right, in an effort to be as obnoxious as possible, Walmart put a Walmart button on the navigation panel. It's awful. The Walmart button is the first item in the navigation bar, pushing the main buttons, back, home, and recent apps, to the right, resulting in an ugly, off-center-looking button arrangement. The button doesn't even do that much—it opens a sparse-looking screen with four Walmart app icons. Walmart tried to make it less of a blatant ad by making this screen a "Favorites" page, where you can press the plus button and add more apps to it, but I already have a place for my favorite apps (it's called the home screen) and I don't need to activate it by pressing a Walmart button. What Walmart didn't think about, though, is that the navigation bar is only an option in Android 10. You can switch to gesture navigation, and then this navigation bar ad goes away. Other than the navigation bar oddity, the rest of the OS is fine even if it feels like an amateurish build of AOSP. The square icons and teal color highlights are just the AOSP defaults, and they don't really match the rest of Android (round icons and blue highlights) anymore. The margins for the notification panel are wrong. The system settings have this weird bug where they list "null" in the search result breadcrumbs. There is a special app for OTA updates called "Wireless Update" with the package name of "com.adups.fota." Adups has been featured in Ars before, when, according to mobile security firm Kryptowire, the Chinese company was caught shipping spyware on Blu Android devices sold in the US. Kryptowire said Adups software would collect text messages, location data, and call logs, and it would then send that data to a server in China. The FTC agreed with the claims and flagged Blu for deceptive representation regarding its use of personal data and deceptive data security, all thanks to Adups' actions. Blu ended up settling with the FTC. Adups still shows up in plenty of cheap Chinese devices, and the company says previous data collection was a mistake. Adups on the Walmart tablet did not seem like it was doing anything immediately evil, but as the OTA updater, it has full control over the device. That means it can do things like silently install apps without the users' consent. Performance These are Android devices that are pretty much as cheap as you can get, and they perform like it. The two tablets are both chuggy-but-usable when things are going well behind the scenes, but be prepared for the occasional long pause. There isn't a huge difference in performance because there isn't a huge difference in overall specs. The Amazon Fire 8 HD Plus is sporting a 3GB of RAM and a MediaTek MT8168 SoC—four ARM Cortex A53 cores at 2GHz—while the Walmart Onn 8 Pro has 2GB of RAM and a MediaTek MT8768—eight ARM Cortex A53 cores at 2GHz. You might expect the Walmart tablet to do well thanks to double the core count, but that doesn't really matter. Single-threaded performance makes the biggest difference, and in that area the two tablets are even. The 2GB of RAM also stops the Walmart tablet from being some kind of multitasking savant. Of course, these tablets will get absolutely crushed in benchmarks by a high-end smartphone, but we've included the numbers for fun anyway. I also wanted to see how far back you would have to go to get comparable numbers from a high-end smartphone... and I ended up dusting off numbers from the Nexus 5X, a five-year-old device. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 9+ images. Better hardware versus less hassle If you haven't played with a cheap tablet recently, the real surprise here is that both tablets are viable, useful devices. The screens could be better, and they could be faster, but for only $100, they're a great secondary device, project tablet, or good for a kid. The $100 tablet has come a long way since our first look at this category back in 2010. If you're an advanced user and are OK jumping through a few hoops, you can even sideload a handful of Google apps on the Fire tablet to get the Play Store up and running, but you'll still never be able to set a new home screen. And getting everything to work in that situation isn't as easy as just sideloading some apps. Even with the Play Store running, Google apps still failed to receive messages or sync in the background for me (even after messing with permissions to boot). I'm sure it would be fixable, but the point is it isn't as simple as just sideloading, so you should be ready for some Googling and troubleshooting to make everything work. And even if you can make this work, you'll still be fighting the OS's inability to set a home app. Workarounds via accessibility hacks are simply not as good as the real thing. I wish there was a best-of-both-worlds option here, combining the better design of the Amazon tablet with a OS that isn't so user-hostile and allows for customization. But when faced with the realities of Amazon's OS, I think it becomes kind of a toss-up between these two tablets. If you want the least amount of hassle, buy the Walmart tablet, which comes with Google Play and all your favorite apps. The Amazon tablet is definitely superior hardware, but you'll constantly be fighting the Amazon OS. The ~$100 tablet shootout—Amazon Fire 8 HD Plus vs. Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
  4. And Apple's iPad still rules the tablet market, but Samsung is catching up. Google Chrome OS-based Chromebooks have been by far the fastest-growing category in the PC market in 2020's third quarter. Chromebook shipments have grown 122% year on year to a total of 9.4 million units in Q3 of 2020. That's still a relatively small share of the 124.5 million PCs shipped in the quarter, but it outstrips the growth in Windows 10 'detachable' PCs, ultraslim notebooks and convertibles, according to analyst Canalys' Q3 PC shipments report. In the COVID-19 pandemic, where remote working has become the new normal, notebook sales have soared while shipments of desktop stations have plummeted. That phenomenon is benefiting Apple iPad sales and makers of cheaper Chrome OS-based laptops, such as HP and Lenovo. Market leader Lenovo has shipped 23.5 million tablets, notebooks and desktops, just beating Apple shipments of 22.1 million Macs and iPads. Apple has a 17.7% market share in the quarter versus Lenovo's 18.9% if tablets are included in the measure. With a poor choice of Android tablet alternatives to the iPad, Apple is still taking the lion's share of tablet sales. Worldwide tablet shipments have reached 44.3 million units, up 43% year on year. Apple has shipped 15.2 million tablets in Q3, leaving it with a 34% share and a year-on-year growth rate of 47%. Samsung is in second spot with nine million tablet shipments and a 20.5% market share on the back of 80% year-on-year growth. Huawei has sold 5.1 million units, while Amazon's figure is 4.9 million tablets, and Lenovo's 4.2 million units. "Tablets have come back from the dead as they deliver the perfect balance of mobility and computing power at a wide range of price points during such a crucial time," said Victoria Li, an analyst at Canalys. Tablet shipments have not grown since 2015, with the exception of the past two quarters. "Tablets are a natural choice for first-time PC users who want something uncomplicated and affordable to work with. The natural extension of Android and iOS on tablets makes it easy for parents, students and educators who dabbled with extended remote learning for the first time in their lives and prefer the ease of installing apps that these platforms offer," Li said. HP leads the market for low-cost Chromebooks with shipments of 3.2 million units for the quarter, up 116% from a year ago. Lenovo Chromebook shipments have grown a massive 351% year on year to 1.8 million units for the quarter. Dell, Acer and Asus make up the rest of the top five Chromebook vendors. Once again, the pandemic helps explains the surge in Chromebook sales. "Chromebooks emerged as the centerpiece of the education segment's digital response to the COVID-19 pandemic", said Ishan Dutt, an analyst at Canalys. "Uncertainty in how school terms will proceed remains at the forefront of educators' minds in the face of secondary lockdowns and protocols related to dealing with infections within a school's population." The other big market for Chromebooks are small and medium-sized businesses that just need a cheap computer that works. Chromebook shipments have risen 122% year on year, outstripping the growth in Windows 10 'detachable' PCs, ultraslim notebooks and convertibles. Image: Canalys Market leader Lenovo has shipped 23.5 million tablets, notebooks and desktops, just beating Apple shipments of 22.1 million Macs and iPads . Image: Canalys Source
  5. Like almost every company that’s ever tried to build a tablet What is a tablet? What is a tablet supposed to be and do? Nine years ago, these questions were foremost in debates about new technology, as Apple was preparing to introduce its first iPad and rival companies were rushing to beat it to the punch. CES 2010 gave us one answer in the form of the 8.9-inch HP Slate, a Windows 7 PC running on an Intel Atom processor. A few weeks later, Apple’s iPad made its debut with a 9.7-inch screen and mobile chips and software. And then a year after that, Google released a version of Android called Honeycomb that was tailored specifically for tablets. No one understood tablets back then; everyone was guessing. Apple originally envisioned the iPad as the glossy magazine equivalent of Amazon’s Kindle. The iPad would be more interactive, it would have apps, but a major part of its appeal was supposed to come from “digital magazines” and comic books created for the platform. Publishers quickly found that idea too costly to sustain, and Apple discovered people were using the iPad for many other purposes as well. The company’s initial reluctance to offer a stylus or a keyboard has since turned into multiple generations of keyboard covers and Apple Pencils. Apple’s iPad development has been characterized by learning, adapting, and evolving. What has Google done in that time? Well, the Mountain View company has taken over the smartphone world with Android, so there’s that. But translating that operating system (OS) to tablets has been a tragic, chronic failure for Google. The Motorola Xoom and Xyboard, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, the 13-inch Toshiba Excite, and a litany of others from Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Google have shown promise only to ultimately disappoint. Android on tablets has only ever been somewhat appealing on a couple of 7-inch devices — the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab — and on task-specific tablets like Amazon’s Fire HD and Nvidia’s Shield Tablet, both of which are more about the content than the OS. The reason for Android’s failure as a tablet OS should be obvious. Android is made for smartphones. Its system requirements are aligned with a smartphone’s capabilities, its app library is made to fit a smartphone’s screen, and all of its core usability features are built for a smartphone’s vertical orientation. Granted, phone displays have kept growing over the past decade, but they’re likely to find their ceiling right around the point where they reach the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab’s dimensions. Android is not infinitely expandable. Putting Android on a 10-inch (or larger) tablet makes as much sense as trying to find clothes for Yao Ming in a regular store. Sure, you might dig up some scarves, ties, and belts that are a fit, but most things will be a total mismatch. Google got that message after its series of embarrassing flops. But instead of going to a tailor, the company just started looking in the clown costume aisle with its Chrome OS, as exhibited by the distinctly doofy Pixel Slate. Android is an operating system designed for phones, Chrome OS is an operating system designed for laptops, and the mix of Android apps and Chrome software that Google serves on the Pixel Slate is a buggy mess. It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at a tablet’s display size and say, “It’s like a laptop, so put laptop software on it,” or to consider its touchscreen and declare, “It’s just an enlarged phone.” Easy and wrong. Tablets, despite being proximate to both phones and laptops, are unique. To have a good tablet experience, you need an OS that is made specifically for that task. It must offer an intuitive touchscreen interface, like a phone, but it should also make full use of its greater screen real estate and higher spec ceiling. Apple’s iPad is, of course, the role model for how this is done. Apple has developed custom X editions of its iPhone chips for use in the iPad, taking advantage of the larger battery and better cooling of the tablet. The company has also dedicated major iOS releases to improving iPad functionality, even while the iPhone remains its most important product. That, together with a historic willingness among app developers to create iPad-specific apps, generates a distinct iPad-only user experience. So long as Google keeps trying to cram its software for other platforms onto a tablet, it will continue to suffer the ignominy of failure. Android Wear on smartwatches, now renamed Wear OS, has been another instructive example of what should be a very simple concept: if you want to build the best possible version of any gadget, the software for it has to be designed for it. Someone at Google really ought to consult Microsoft’s long, abortive history of trying to slim Windows down just enough to make it fit onto mobile devices. (The Surface Pro 2-in-1s of today are good, but they’re still more laptop than tablet.) There’s also Intel’s spectacularly profligate run of pseudo-mobile chips that were just trimmed-down laptop and desktop processors. The future of technology will be defined by more software specialization, not less. Even today, the best fitness trackers have featherlight software built specifically for the efficient processing of biometric data. The best cameras — something Google knows a lot about — are defined by highly customized, multilayered exploitation of the basic hardware. Good software, in spite of its name, is incredibly hard to do. That’s what makes it tempting for pragmatic companies to try and take shortcuts, as every PC manufacturer shipping a copy of Windows or every phone maker relying on Android tends to do. But Google isn’t just another company, and its competition, Apple’s iPad, isn’t just another formulaic slab of transistors and pixels. To take on the iPad, Google needs to give up its Dr. Frankenstein act and just take the time to craft a tablet from fresh parts. The truth is that just about anyone in tech can build a good tablet, but very few have yet been able to build a good tablet experience. Source
  6. Apple finally admits Microsoft was right about tablets The iPad Pro now looks even more like a Surface Pro Apple has spent the past 10 years trying to convince everyone that the iPad and its vision of touch-friendly computing is the future. The iPad rejected the idea of a keyboard, a trackpad, or even a stylus, and Apple mocked Microsoft for taking that exact approach with the Surface. “Our competition is different, they’re confused,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook as he stood onstage to introduce the new Macs and iPads six years ago. “They chased after netbooks, now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they will do next?” Every iPad has transformed into a Surface in recent years, and as of this week, the iPad Pro and Surface Pro look even more alike. Both have detachable keyboards, adjustable stands, trackpads, and styluses. With iPadOS getting cursor and mouse support this week, Apple has finally admitted that Microsoft was right about tablets. Let me explain why. Microsoft’s return to tablets was a rough ride and far from perfect. Bill Gates tried to convince the world that tablets would be a thing all the way back in 2002, but the hardware and software were far too primitive back then. The software maker eventually introduced the Surface RT alongside Windows 8 in 2012 as a clear response to the iPad, but it had an ARM-powered desktop operating system that didn’t support your favorite apps. It was slightly confused, but Microsoft’s tablet principles were clear at the time. Microsoft’s original Surface RT tablet. “Something is different about tablets, people still do desire a physical keyboard,” wrote former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky in a detailed blog post about Windows 8 back in 2012. “Even in the absence of software like Microsoft Office, the reality is that when you need to write more than a few quick lines of text, you yearn for something better than on-screen typing ... People benefit from the highly accurate, reliable, and fast user input enabled by a physical keyboard, and we think an OS and its apps should not compromise when one is available.” The message was clear: touch-based computing would be a first-class input for Windows 8 but not the only way to use the operating system. Microsoft insisted you needed a mouse for precision, a keyboard for typing, and a stylus for taking notes or drawing. These basic foundations led to the Surface Pro, with its variety of inputs to suit different needs. Microsoft also mastered the ability to use a tablet at a desk or on a couch, thanks to its Surface kickstand and hinge designs. It was a key differentiator against devices like the iPad, and Microsoft and Intel now license out the design for other PC makers to use. It didn’t take long for everyone to start copying Microsoft’s Surface design. The Surface Pro 3 really defined the Surface design. Even Apple moved quickly to respond to the Surface, a year after Microsoft released a stunning new design with the Surface Pro 3. Apple’s first iPad Pro debuted in 2015 with support for the Apple Pencil stylus and a smart keyboard. It arrived just as iPad sales had declined to the point where Apple was making more money on Macs instead. The iPad Pro keyboard magnetically attached to the iPad Pro, just like the Surface Pro, but Apple claimed it was “unlike any keyboard you’ve ever used before.” It marked a big shift for the iPad, and every big iPad now supports a keyboard and stylus. Despite the hardware additions, Apple persisted with its touch-first vision for the iPad. Using a keyboard with the iPad was an ergonomic disaster. You’d have to lift your hands away from the keyboard to touch the screen and adjust text or simply navigate around the OS. It didn’t feel natural, and the large touch targets meant there was no precision for more desktop-like apps. Alongside Apple’s refusal to bring touchscreen support to the Mac, it was clear something had to change. The first signs of a new direction for the iPad arrived with iPadOS and the hints at cursor support last year. Apple is now introducing trackpad and mouse support fully in iPadOS, and you can use an existing Bluetooth device. Unlike pointer support you’d find in Windows or macOS, Apple has taken a clever approach to bringing it to a touch-friendly OS like iPadOS. The pointer only appears when you need it, and it’s a circular dot that can change its shape based on what you’re pointing at. That means you can use it for precision tasks like spreadsheets or simply use multitouch gestures on a trackpad to navigate around iPadOS. It’s far more than most people were expecting at this stage, and Apple has importantly kept its touch-friendly iPad principles intact. Right now, you still can’t use this mouse support to drag and drop windows on top of each other freely like you might on Windows or macOS. Nor is it there to do everything you’d typically do with a mouse on a desktop operating system. Apple has adapted a legacy input and modernized it for iPadOS. This careful and considered approach explains why it took Apple so long to bring cursor support to iPadOS. Tim Cook has previously discussed product trade-offs and the idea of converging PCs and tablets. “Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left doesn’t please anyone,” Cook said on an earnings call nearly eight years ago. He famously added: “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user.” Cook was also adamant that Apple wouldn’t converge the MacBook Air and an iPad. “The compromise of convergence — we’re not going to that party,” he said. Cook has stayed true to that vision. Apple hasn’t converged macOS and iPadOS to bring trackpad and mouse support to the iPad. Instead, the message for the iPad now is that it can adapt to be more like a laptop or remain just like a tablet. That message sounds similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but what’s now at play is a battle of ecosystems, apps, and operating systems. Microsoft has persisted with Windows and walked back many of its touch-friendly tablet changes. The software maker is even diverging Windows further into a Windows 10X operating system for dual-screen devices this year. The new iPad Pro keyboard with a trackpad. Image: Apple Meanwhile, Apple is hoping that iPadOS could be enough for people who want some laptop familiarity. With the essential trackpad support and improvements to the Safari web browser, the iPad is starting to look like a much more viable option for both a tablet and a laptop for many. That’s a big change from just a few years ago. Now that Apple and Microsoft are aligned on what a tablet can offer in terms of hardware, the battle between PC and iPad will shift toward what both do in software. Apple has shown that it’s willing to adapt, and we’ll likely see a lot more desktop-like apps for the iPad as a result. Mouse support for the iPad is a significant game-changer, and the iPad has now moved well beyond a third category of device for browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and ebooks. That will unnerve Microsoft and its PC partners, but it doesn’t mean it’s an immediate death sentence for the PC just yet. Just as it has taken Apple 10 years to get to this point on the hardware and software sides, there will be many years ahead of experimentation from app developers to adjust to mouse support in iPadOS. Windows and macOS won’t stand still, either, and they’re still far more powerful for multitasking and running complicated desktop apps. Apple has painted a line in the sand here, though. The iPad is changing rapidly, even if Apple’s new iPad tagline is “your next computer is not a computer.” The next 10 years will truly define exactly what kind of computer Apple wants the iPad to be. Source: Apple finally admits Microsoft was right about tablets (The Verge)
  7. (Reuters) - Dell Technologies Inc, HP Inc, Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp on Wednesday opposed U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to include laptop computers and tablets among the Chinese goods targeted for tariffs. Dell, HP and Microsoft, which together account for 52% of the notebooks and detachable tablets sold in the United States, said the proposed tariffs would increase the cost of laptops in the country. The move would hurt consumers and the industry, and would not address the Chinese trade practices that the Trump administration’s office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeks to remedy, the four companies said in a joint statement posted online. Implementing the proposed tariffs would increase U.S. prices for laptops and tablets by at least 19%, or around $120 for the average retail price of a laptop, the companies said, citing a recent study by the Consumer Technology Association. “A price increase of that magnitude may even put laptop devices entirely out of reach for our most cost-conscious consumers,” the companies said, noting that the price hikes would occur during peak holiday and back-to-school seasons. In a separate statement, Microsoft, along with video game makers Nintendo of America Inc and Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC said the tariffs on video game consoles could stifle innovation, hurt consumers and put thousands of jobs at risk. The USTR kicked off seven days of testimony from U.S. retailers, manufacturers and other businesses about Trump’s plan to hit another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods with tariffs. The hearings will end on June 25 and the tariffs will not come into effect until after July 2, when a seven-day final rebuttal comment period ends. Source
  8. This just in: The Pixel Slate won't get a younger sibling, and Google's future self-made computers will revolve exclusively around the laptop form. Here's an interesting little nugget of info to chew on: Google's decided to step away from its self-made tablets and focus instead on the laptop form. To be clear, Google hadn't actually announced any tablet-specific products this year; the last such item that made its way to the market was the Pixel Slate in 2018. But, as I learned today, the company did have two smaller-sized tablets under development — and earlier this week, it decided to drop all work on those devices and make its roadmap revolve entirely around laptops instead. A couple of clarifying points here: First, none of this has any impact on Pixel phones. Pixel phones and Pixel computers are two different departments, and the roadmap in question is related exclusively to the latter. (The same applies to the various Google Home/Nest products. What we're talking about today has absolutely zero impact on any that stuff.) And second, when Google talks about a "tablet," it means a device that detaches completely from a keyboard base or doesn't even have a physical keyboard in the first place — not a swiveling two-in-one convertible like the Pixelbook. The Pixelbook, with its attached keyboard and 360-degree hinge, falls under Google's definition of "laptop." Blurred lines, baby. A Google spokesperson directly confirmed all of these details to me. The news was revealed at an internal company meeting on Wednesday, and Google is currently working to reassign employees who were focused on the abandoned projects onto other areas. Many of them, I'm told, have already shifted over to the laptop side of that same self-made hardware division. As for the cast-aside tablets, the only details we know for sure are that they were smaller in size, compared to Google's existing products, and that they were standalone slates without keyboards. They weren't even far enough along in their development to have names beyond the codenames used for internal reference. So ultimately, what we're saying here is that Google was working on some stuff that it hadn't discussed publicly, and it's now decided to move away from those projects. So, yeah: "Unannounced products won't be announced," in other words. Nothing too earth-shattering, I realize. It's noteworthy, though, mostly because of the history here — with reports earlier this year that Google was planning to pivot and "scale back" on its self-made hardware efforts — and because of what the move reveals to us about the future of the company's homemade computers. As for that future, a Google spokesperson tells me it's quite possible we'll see a new laptop-oriented Pixelbook product before the end of this year. The existing Pixel Slate will continue to be supported and to receive regular software updates all the way through June of 2024, meanwhile, as had initially been promised — nothing's changing there. And the Chrome OS team in general will continue to focus on both laptops and tablets with its software development, as regardless of Google's plans for its own self-made hardware, plenty of other manufacturers still create Chrome OS devices with all types of forms. The real news, again, is simply that Google is refocusing its own computer-making efforts to laptops — the nondetachable variety, with or without swiveling screens in place — and away from tablets for the foreseeable future. And now you know. Source
  9. Best Android tablets of 2021: which should you buy? Don't want an iPad? Try one of the best Android tablets (Image credit: Samsung; Asus) The best Android tablet at any given time is often made by Samsung, as not many other companies are making premium Android slates. As such, this list has a few different Samsung tablets in it, with the iPad Pro 2020-rivaling Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus sitting at the top. There are some options if you’re not into Samsung’s slates though. Amazon also makes excellent Android tablets, albeit usually ones that sit at the cheaper end of the market. These include the likes of the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus. And every now and again another company will produce an excellent Android tablet too, such as Huawei with the MatePad Pro. So one way or another there are quite a few to choose from. We’ve laid out all the best Android tablet options below, in order of preference, along with a specs list and overview of each, so you can quickly work out which is right for you. And if none feel right, make sure to check out our other tablet guides linked below – ideal if you’re on a budget, or open to tablets that don’t run Android. Best Android tablets in 2020 at a glance: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Huawei MatePad Pro Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) Best Android tablets: which should you buy? (Image credit: Samsung) The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is the best tablet Samsung has ever made, and a serious rival to the iPad Pro range. In fact, its screen arguably has those slates beat, as it’s a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED one with a 2800 x 1752 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. The iPad Pro range can match much of that, but those slates have LCD screens, which aren’t quite as good. You also of course get a whole lot of power from the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus’s Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, and a premium metal build that’s incredibly slim at 5.7mm thick. There’s also a 5G model for speedy mobile data, and Samsung’s S Pen stylus comes bundled with the slate. Chuck in a keyboard (sold separately) and this is a serious productivity machine. But even without that this is a top-end slate and great for media. Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review (Image credit: Samsung) Happy to sacrifice a few of the features of the Galaxy Tab S6 in trade for a cheaper tablet? If yes, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the product you want to consider. The chipset isn't as powerful as its sibling, the cameras aren't as impressive, and the screen isn't as beautiful... but it's around half the price, and all of its specs are still quite impressive for a slate at this price. It's a remarkably good product considering how much you're spending on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. It isn't particularly smaller than the Galaxy Tab S6 - and ironically, it's actually heavier too - but if you don't want to spend top-dollar you may love this. Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review (Image credit: Samsung) While it's not the newest model, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is still a great Android tablet, with a plethora of brilliant features. It comes with an S Pen stylus in the box that you can use to take notes, draw and much more on the tablet's display. You can also buy a smart keyboard to make it an experience that is close to a laptop. The 10.5-inch AMOLED display on the Galaxy Tab S6 is one of the highlights with an impressive resolution of 1600 x 2560. This tablet also comes with two cameras on the rear too, so you can get better photography than on many other slates. It's not the perfect device - there isn't a 3.5mm headphone jack and the user interface has its own quirks - but it's still a top Android slate. Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review (Image credit: Huawei) The Huawei MatePad Pro is Huawei’s attempt at taking on the iPad Pro range, and in a lot of ways it’s a very strong rival, from its high-quality 10.8-inch screen, to its top-end power and its long-lasting battery. The Huawei MatePad Pro also has a stylish, slim, and lightweight design, plus an optional stylus and keyboard, so it’s premium and built for productivity. However, in our tests we found that those accessories were simply okay, and the big problem faced by the MatePad Pro is its lack of Google services – meaning no access to the Google Play app store, and no Google apps, such as Maps. That’s going to be a major issue for a lot of people, but if you can live without that then this comes closer than most Android slates to matching the iPad Pro experience. Read our full Huawei MatePad Pro review (Image credit: Samsung) The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 was once our best Android tablet, but now it has been bumped down by the Galaxy Tab S6, among other things. It's not exactly cheap - although its price has dropped significantly in recent months - but it comes packing a whole host of features to ensure you're getting plenty of bang for your buck. Unlike Apple's iPad Pro range, the Galaxy Tab S4 comes with Samsung's S Pen stylus included in the box, while under the hood you get the powerful Snapdragon 835 chipset alongside 6GB of RAM ensuring Android runs super-smoothly on screen. That's only half the story though. Pair the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 with a keyboard and mouse and it'll transfer from Android into a desktop-like experience as it attempts to replace your laptop as well as your tablet. The desktop aspect of the tablet is limited, but still useful. In short, the Galaxy Tab S4 is one of the most versatile Android tablets around. Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review (Image credit: Amazon) The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus (2020) is the best of Amazon’s 8-inch slates. It’s no premium tablet – far from it in fact, so you’re not getting top-end performance, but with 3GB of RAM you do get a boost on the standard Fire HD 8 (2020). Arguably the real highlight of this Plus model though is its support for wireless charging and the optional dock you can therefore get that turns it into a smart display like the Echo Show. Beyond that it’s a fairly basic tablet, but with all the basics covered, a respectable amount of storage, and the same compact build as the non-Plus model. Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review (Image credit: Amazon) The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is essentially built for Amazon Prime members, since its big 10.1-inch 1200 x 1920 screen is a great way to consume the films, TV shows and even ebooks it gives you access to. And the Amazon-centric interface used – which won’t appeal to everyone – ensure you’re never far from Amazon Prime content. That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) if you’re not an Amazon Prime member. This is a durable, affordable slate with reasonable specs for the money, so it’s also a strong choice for anyone on a tight budget. But some of the options above in this list will likely be a better fit if money is no object. Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review (Image credit: Amazon) The Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) is - along with the Fire HD 8 Plus - the latest version of Amazon’s 8-inch tablet, and by opting for this rather than the Plus model you get slightly less RAM and no wireless charging, but an otherwise near identical slate at a lower price. It’s an upgrade on its predecessor thanks to 30% more power, improved battery life, double the storage, and the presence of a USB-C (rather than micro USB) port, but that aside this is familiar territory if you’ve used an Amazon slate before. You’re locked in to Amazon’s ecosystem, which isn’t quite as rich as full-fat Android, but if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber then much of your content will be front and center, and you’re paying a lot less than you would for most comparable Android tablets. Best Android tablets of 2021: which should you buy?
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