|Microsoft's colorful Surface.|
Tablet shoppers this year have a lot more to be thankful for heading into Black Friday and the holiday season, with an explosion of new devices packing a market that last year consisted of only a few choices.
Companies from Google to Microsoft, from Hewlett-Packard to Barnes & Noble, are looking to enter the growing market, and not surprisingly have done so just in time for the holidays.
In trying to compete with Apple's dominant iPad, companies are trying to bring the tablet concept into new directions much the way Amazon.com did last year with its Kindle Fire—a tablet that posed the first big challenge to the iPad, by being, simply, more affordable at $199.
Hoping to emulate that success is Google with its Nexus tablets, which start at $199, and even Apple itself, which has released the iPad Mini at a price of $329 and up.
|Kindle Fire HD 8.9"|
Amazon also faces new competition in the cheaper tablet market from one of its more-traditional rivals, Barnes & Noble, which followed suit and added tablet models of its Nook e-reader line, the tablets beginning at $199.
Not to be outdone, Amazon recently upgraded its Kndle Fire, adding a camera and other features.
Another direction the new devices are going is to be more business-friendly. Hewlett-Packard unveiled in August a tablet-laptop hybrid, the Envy X2, with a removable screen. And more recently the company introduced a tablet aimed at businesses, the ElitePad, though the device will not be in stores until January.
But perhaps the biggest entry into the tablet arena is from Microsoft, which is again trying to offer both software and hardware, as Apple does. Microsoft recently launched its Surface tablets, with have detachable keyboards, and also Windows RT, a tablet version of its new Windows 8 operating system.
|Windows 8 screen shot.|
Window RT is being used on devices from several companies (as Windows 8 is on PCs from various manufacturers) and stands to open up a third front on the mobile OS market, along with Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Or it could fail miserably in the grand tradition of Windows redesigns that alienate more than interest users.
But the Windows-powered devices' ability to use Microsoft Office will offer a huge advantage for Microsoft. The devices could be a big hit for businesses in particular, since workers will be able to move documents easily back and forth from their PCs.
In any case, if you're tablet shopping this holiday season, you have a bit more research to do. Last year the choice was pretty much the iPad, the Kindle Fire, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
This year you can add to that the iPad Mini, new models of the Kindle Fire, Microsoft's Surface, Google's Nexus 10 and Nexus 7, and Barnes & Noble's Nook, among other devices.
Check out athrough comparison of the tablets at Gizmag and reviews of the best tablets thisholiday season at the Washington Post.
(C) 2012, by Story Crest Press.