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01/22/2010

Beyond Ereaders: Future/Past Tablets & User Interfaces

The Tablets of Our Dreams

Gizmodo shares the above video that strongly reminded me that we've already seen so many of the design possibilities for tablets, a form of portable computer, as well as related user interfaces in science fiction films.

I've been keeping up with the avalanche of news regarding ereaders and tablets and I'm pretty convinced that ereaders will basically morph into tablets or fall by the wayside. At the end of the day, all such mobile devices will have to be some form of computer or they won't make it in the market.

We can thank the Apple iPhone for that, since it's basically a mobile computer that includes phone services among its features.

Fast Company has an interesting Layman's Guide to the Tablet PCs of 2010 that provides a nice overview of the current landscape as well as this brief summary of developments:

"Every major PC maker is releasing a tablet now. Think of it as the next phase of the mobile computing evolution: in the past few years we've gone from smartphone (again spearheaded by Apple) to netbook to e-reader. And now the tablet, a mobile Internet device that serves as a multimedia player, e-reader, and Web browser all in one."

While one should never assume the death of any format until it's actually dead, for example, vinyl LP's are currently experiencing quite a profitable resurgence, it's most likely that ereader makers themselves will find ways to push the transition as Amazon seems to be doing with the Kindle.

If you're really into this stuff, whether or not you want to be, here are some other useful and/or interesting articles of note.

For those who need to evaluate such devices, DIY Touchscreen Analysis looks pretty darn useful.

Since the future should be accessible, devices like the Intel Reader are worth following, though it apparently has a long way to go to meet the actual needs of its target market.

And don't forget to factor in the issues of DRM and customer service:
Calculating The DRM Tax On A Kindle
Despite Awful Customer Service, Woman Felt Forced To Buy
Another Sony eBook Reader... Thanks To DRM

Of course, all this talk of devices can obscure the fact that a lot of the most interesting developments are in the area of user interfaces for both devices and for ebooks themselves, independent of the particular piece of equipment.

Many of the tablet OS's will come from smartphone design, with the likelihood that lessons learned on smartphone operating systems, rather than desktop/laptop OS's, will be applied to other portable computing devices such as tablets.

But, independently of that development, ebook interfaces are also worth following, for example, Ray Kurzweil's Blio ebook format is well worth checking out.

Personally, I'm most interested in the future of flexible epaper displays. I think it would be so cool to have a display that you could roll up like an old time scroll or something. I've seen some cool examples of such things in other sci fi movies not included in the above video though, sadly, I can't recall which ones!

Note on future coverage:
I don't want to be "that guy who keeps up with everything about ebooks and ereaders" but I am keeping up as much as I can and would be happy to share that info as requested. I'll periodically do posts like this and, if that's all you need, that's cool. But I am quite happy to try to please my handful of current readers cause you guys rock!

Spelling note:
There are so many variations on ebook and ereader that I'm going with the simplest version that looks the least like something schemed up in a marketing meeting.  If anybody has a different sense of what should be the standard spelling of such terminology, I'd be interested in hearing more.

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