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Tablet PCs bashed but not beaten by media tablets

iPad 2, tablet PC nil

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Fans of old-style tilt'n'swivel screen tablets will undoubtedly be disheartened to hear from market watcher iSuppli that their favoured form of fondleslab will be massively outshipped by iPad-style stuff in the years to come.

Everyone else will have figured this out already.

So few 'convertible notebook' type tablets shipped anyway - barely hundreds of thousands of them, globally, in each of the past few years - that Apple suddenly selling millions of iPads couldn't do anything but expose how unpopular traditional tablets are.

And with the world's other vendors keen to emulate Apple's sales numbers - albeit with various degrees of success but, combined with Apple's numbers, you're looking at 25m to date - tablet 2.0 is inevitably set on a course that will do for tablet 1.0.

iSuppli characterises the former as ARM-based media-centric offerings and the older ones as "tablet PCs with full PC functionality" - Intel-based kit, essentially - with clear water between them.

We'd argue that that's not the case. Acer, Asus and others have - or are preparing - Windows-based tablets, and of course Microsoft is porting Windows to ARM. Old-style tablets do have advantages, as iSuppli notes.

While a media tablet can work with a Bluetooth-connected keyboard, it lacks the mouse and multi-window UI you need for apps for productivity.

But the simple fact is, they offer little that a regular laptop does not: a touchscreen. And just as the media tablet UI isn't geared up for multiple windows and mouse pointers, so the desktop UI run on laptops isn't really suitable for touch.

Buyers who already use laptops will turn to media tablets for roles unsuitable for notebooks or netbooks, rather that migrating to a device - the old-style tablet PC - that tries - but fails - to be the best of both worlds.

Even so, iSuppli reckons tablet PCs will be around for a while, and warns not to write the category off just yet. You watch, Windows 8 will make all the difference. Apparently. ®

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