By Julie Bort
Tablets have killed the netbook market and are fast transforming the traditional PC.
Apple’s iPad gets most of the credit for that, but the tablet computer was not Steve Jobs’ idea. Tablets actually began decades before the iPad was launched in 2010.
First came the Linus Write-Top in 1987.
The is one of the first handwriting-recognition tablets. By using it’s stylus, you could write on the green screen.
Pretty revolutionary for 1987.
In 1989, Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm Computing, created the GridPad.
Some call this the first tablet computer. It ran MS-DOS and the military bought a few but consumers mostly ignored it. It was pricey and heavy compared to laptops of the era.
Apple’s first “tablet” was the MessagePad in 1993.
Apple’s Newton MessagePad from 1993 was an attempt to create a new category of device that didn’t replace the PC, a so-called “personal digital assistant” or PDA, for taking your calendar/todo list and a few apps with you.
With a stylus, you could write on it and it would recognize your handwriting (though it wasn’t particularly good at that).
1997 was the year of the PalmPilot.
By 1997, Jeff Hawkins was back with PalmPilot, the first affordable PDA.
Eventually, the PalmPilot would use touchscreens and become very popular.
This device proved that people wanted a third type of mobile device between a cell phone and a laptop, if it was affordable and was easy to use.
Microsoft’s first Tablet computer arrived in 2000.
Here’s Microsoft’s first attempt at a tablet, a prototype that Bill Gates introduced in 2000.
Some people credit Microsoft for coining the term “Tablet PC” with its early tablet devices.
He predicted tablets would become a big thing within 5 years. He was about 5 years off.
The Windows XP tablet came next.
By 2002, Microsoft was serious enough about the Tablet PC to have a version of its XP operating system designed for it and to sign up PC makers to build some models.
Here’s a tablet that Fujitsu made with XP. Compaq also had one.
In 2010, the iPad arrived, with a gorgeous touchscreen that people had grown to love from the iPhone and iPod touch.
A lot of people said it would fail. It didn’t.
As of last October, Apple had sold at least 100 million total and is expected to sell 33 million more in 2013, plus another 55 million iPad Minis.
The iPad’s success spawned new tablet competitors. Samsung came out with the Galaxy Tab.
The Tab wasn’t an immediate hit, thanks to its $600 price tag.
But eventually the prices dropped and the free-and-open-source Android operating system led to more variety and lower-priced devices.
Amazon Kindle Fire undercut all of the prices, making tablets affordable for everyone.
The Sony S2 launched in 2011.
By 2011, tablets were clearly a big thing, device makers started experimenting.
Sony’s S2, launched that year and featured a folding clamshell design for a 5.5 inch display.
The Microsoft Surface tablet launched in 2012.
By 2012, Microsoft was back in the tablet game, recognizing hat tablets were not only a threat to its PC empire, but were the future of PCs.
It also admitted that Apple’s model of producing the hardware and the operating system was superior and dove in with its first-ever Microsoft PC, the Surface.
It was a dangerous move to compete with its PC partners like that. The jury is still out on if that gamble will pay off for it.
Tablet makers like Asus are still experimenting with tablets like the Padfone 2
Asus experimented by combining smartphones and a tablet into one dual device with its Padfone.
The smartphone fits into a docking station on the back of the tablet.
The Padfone 2 is the second generation of the device, released this spring to Europe and Asia but not to the U.S. Though if it proves popular, we’ll see.
So far, nothing has been as popular as the iPad, mostly thanks to the iPad’s top notch hardware and amazing collection of apps. But the evolution of tablets has taken decades. No doubt it will keep evolving for decades to come.
More tablets and devices are coming our way …