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CES wrap: let the battle of the tablets commence

Post-netbook era looking suspiciously like pre-netbook age

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CES 2011 Consumers themselves may not yet be willing to commit themselves en masse to the media tablet and set aside the netbook, but manufacturers certainly appear ready to do so.

This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, was the launching point for uncounted Android tablets.

But while Acer launched a new netbook, almost no one else did. The few vendors who were showing the little laptops - Toshiba, HP and Lenovo, for example - were all displaying old models, as was Intel.

The netbook may not be dead, but it's clear that vendors expect punters to show far more interest in tablets during 2011.

To be fair, netbook launches tend to piggy back on the arrival of new processors, in particular Intel's Atom CPU, which was revamped as recently as September 2010 when the dual-core N550 was launched. At CES, Intel wanted to focus on its second-gen Core i processors, aka 'Sandy Bridge', not Atom.

Acer's new Aspire One 522 is notable for using an AMD CPU, the 1GHz, 9W C-50, one of the company's Fusion line, so it has some novelty value.

But the array of upcoming machines and new launches made at previous CES events were absent this time round.

Not that tablets makers will have an easy ride. As the plethora of models on display show, for every Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, Dell Streak 7 and Asus Eee Pad Slider, there are countless no-name offerings. Of these a fair few are poor, some good, but all run the same operating system with the same UI, sport the same ports, and have the same basic look.

Sure, some have more on-board storage than others, while some have resistive screens and others have capacitive, but these are all by-the-numbers offerings made by Chinese and Taiwanese OEMs, and it's almost impossible to tell them apart.

The better known names have their established brands, but it's telling that even here there's little to choose between them.

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