Tablet redux at CES

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Tablets were the talk of last year’s CES. This year may offer a repeat performance, as a host of next-generation devices are expected to debut. The question is, what have manufacturers learned in a year?

We know that tablets are approaching the mainstream – rising from 17 million units shipped in 2010 to an estimated 99 million in 2012. “There’s still lots of growth in the category,” GfK Boutique Research global business director Steve Bambridge said on Sunday in Las Vegas, as reported by Dealerscope.

Unfortunately for some of the manufacturers that made a big splash at last year’s CES, the growth hasn’t come quickly enough. Motorola’s much-hyped Zoom captured just 4 percent of the U.S. tablet market last year, while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab grabbed only 5 percent share among U.S. tablet owners, according to Wired (citing Forrester estimates). Apple still holds 73 percent of the U.S. tablet market.

But many are back for another try. Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba and ViewSonic are among the manufacturers that are expected to introduce new tablet devices this week.

What to look for: more power, bigger and better screens. Asus and Acer are each introducing high-end tablets with high-resolution screens. Acer's tablet has a quad-core processor. Vizio is promising a new M series tablet line (photo) that features 10-inch displays and cameras on each side.

Many of the new tablets will feature Android’s tablet-optimized operating systems, Honeycomb and the new Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich

Microsoft also continues to dance around the tablet space with its upcoming Windows 8 operating system. During his CES keynote last night, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would only promise a “milestone” next month for the platform, which PCmag.com inferred would be the public beta. Wired expects to at least see some Windows 8 tablet demos on the show floor.

These tablets will give publishers more to think about regarding their app and tablet-optimization strategies. But the bottom line is that many of these devices will fail to have any significant impact on the market, despite all the bells and whistles.

“Tablet success is not about 4G, quad-core chips, or Ice Cream Sandwich,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told Wired. “It’s about demonstrating the value, utility, and wonder of the device.”

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