Tablet Update: New Models Expected Before Xmas

With all the interest in the latest iPhone and Ultrabooks dominating the gadget news landscape in the last few weeks, one area that has been rather quiet is the tablet category. The release of the first generation of Android tablets has achieved limited success in the market, and while they may have offered additional features to compete with the dominating iPad 2, it hasn’t yet been enough to compel a large proportion of tablet users across to the Google platform.

By comparison, the combined efforts of Samsung, HTC and Motorola have made Android a force to be reckoned with in the Smartphone market. The introduction of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is known, may be the catalyst for a shift to the Android platform in large touch screen devices, as 4.0 is designed to be a cross-device platform. This means that Android users can finally experience similar compatibility to both their Smartphone and tablets the way Apple users do now with their iPhone and iPad.

Software and operating systems aside, Android manufacturers have found it a challenge to meet the visual appeal of the iPad 2. One of the defining characteristics of many Android tablets has been the inclusion of multiple ports – HDMI, USB and SD Card Slot – which has hampered the ability of these devices to offer models with similar dimensions, limiting the style propositions that can be achieved.

That may be about to change, with the major tablet manufacturers taking the same design aesthetics that they have with Ultrabooks in terms of slimness and weight while retaining some of the key attributes that they believe offer a credible alternative to Apple’s incumbent.

This will be the first holiday season with Android tablets in existence and with the New Year only a few weeks away, we can expect a few key launches that should reinvigorate the greater tablet market. Here are a few products we will be keeping an eye on and plan to get some hands on time with to share with our readers.

Model: Xoom 2 by Motorola

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Why it’s important: Google’s acquisition of Motorola may not have affected the current output of Motorola Mobility, but eyes will be firmly fixed on the sophomore release of what was the very first Honeycomb tablet earlier this year. Slimmer, lighter and available in two sizes – 10.1 and 8.9 inches – Motorola intend to take the fight to Apple with more powerful processors, tough Gorilla Glass by Corning and a new pre-loaded app called MotoCast, which enables easy streaming of content from connected PCs and Macs.

Will Motorola’s new owners show parental favouritism by deploying Ice Cream Sandwich before all others on the Xoom 2? We are certainly keen to see the first iteration of Android 4.0 on a tablet, and we’re betting that the Xoom 2 will be one of the first to have it.

Model: Galaxy Tab 7.7 by Samsung

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Why it’s important: Samsung’s 10.1 never had the opportunity to display its potential in many countries around the world, and Apple’s public legal action has actually fuelled the fire for interest in Samsung’s tablets, with many customers going so far as buying them from smaller online retailers willing to import them in.

Samsung have a slew of information already available on a public microsite, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 sounds like a real contender. Featuring a Super AMOLED screen, 1280 x 800 resolution, weighing only 335 grams and measuring an impressively thin 7.9mm, this model may actually see the light of day – and we hear before the end of this calendar year.

Model: Eee Pad Transformer Prime by Asus

Slimmer, lighter, faster, and still the coolest tablet name in the market... the Asus Transformer Prime.

Why it’s important: The original Transformer with detachable keyboard succeeded in melding the touchscreen functionality of a tablet with the day-to-day needs of a netbook or notebook user. The innovative features included a separate battery in the keyboard compartment and Android-specific shortcut keys.

The highly anticipated Transformer Prime will be the first major tablet release to include the Tegra 3 quad core processor, slimming its screen component down to sub-iPad 2 levels of thinness. Improved battery life, Ultrabook-style design, brighter IPS Plus screen, and improved weight means this model will be on a bunch of Xmas wish-lists. We can’t wait to see this in the flesh either.

Expect a lot more detail on each of the above models in the coming weeks, which should reinvigorate an important category of the IT industry.

Are you biting your fingernails waiting for any particular tablet to come to the market?