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Tablet computer


Tablet computer

iPad (1st generation), a tablet computer

A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a mobile computer with display, circuitry and battery in a single unit. Tablets come equipped with sensors, including cameras, a microphone, an accelerometer and a touchscreen, with finger or stylus gestures substituting for the use of computer mouse and keyboard. Tablets may include physical buttons (for example: to control basic features such as speaker volume and power) and ports (for network communications and to charge the battery). They usually feature on-screen, pop-up virtual keyboards for typing. Tablets are typically larger than smart phones or personal digital assistants at 7 inches (18 cm) or larger, measured diagonally.[1][2][3][4] One can classify tablets into several categories according to the presence and physical appearance of keyboards. Slates and booklets do not have a physical keyboard and typically feature text input performed through the use of a virtual keyboard projected on a touchscreen-enabled display. Hybrids and convertibles do have physical keyboards, although these devices typically also make virtual keyboards available.

Conceptualized in the mid-20th century and prototyped and developed in the last two decades of that century, tablet devices became popular in 2010. In March 2012, PC Magazine reported that 31% of U.S. Internet users owned a tablet, used mainly for viewing published content such as video and news.[5] The top-selling line of devices was Apple's iPad with 100 million sold between its release in April 2010 and mid-October 2012,[6] but iPad market share in 2013 (number of units) was down to 36% with Android tablets selling to 62%. Android tablet sales volume was 121 million devices, plus 52 million, in 2013 and 2012 respectively.[7] Individual brands of Android operating system devices or compatibles follow iPad with Amazon's Kindle Fire with 7 million, and Barnes & Noble's Nook with 5 million.[8][9][10] By May 2013, over 70% of mobile developers were targeting tablets (versus 93% for smartphones and 18% for feature phones).


  • History 1
    • Fictional and prototype tablets 1.1
    • Early devices 1.2
    • 2010 and afterwards 1.3
  • Touch interface 2
    • Handwriting recognition 2.1
    • Touchscreen hardware 2.2
  • Features 3
  • Types 4
    • Without physical keyboard 4.1
      • Slate 4.1.1
        • Traditional slate tablet
        • Mini tablet
        • Phablet
      • Booklet 4.1.2
    • With physical keyboard 4.2
      • Hybrid 4.2.1
        • Traditional hybrid
        • Laplet
      • Convertible 4.2.2
  • System architecture 5
  • Operating system 6
    • Android 6.1
    • iOS 6.2
      • Modbook 6.2.1
    • Windows 6.3
      • Windows 3.1 to 7 6.3.1
      • Surface and Surface Pro 6.3.2
      • Windows 8 6.3.3
    • Firefox OS 6.4
    • Linux 6.5
      • Nokia's use 6.5.1
      • Tizen 6.5.2
    • Hybrid OS operation 6.6
    • Discontinued 6.7
      • Blackberry OS 6.7.1
      • WebOS 6.7.2
  • Application markets and software walled gardens 7
  • Market share 8
  • Usage 9
  • Sales 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


1888 telautograph patent schema
Wireless tablet device portrayed in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The tablet computer and its associated operating system began with the development of pen computing.[11] Electrical devices with data input and output on a flat information display existed as early as 1888 with the telautograph,[12] which used a sheet of paper as display and a pen attached to electromechanical actuators. Throughout the 20th century devices with these characteristics have been imagined and created whether as blueprints, prototypes, or commercial products. In addition to many academic and research systems, several companies released commercial products in the 1980s, with various input/output types tried out:

Fictional and prototype tablets

Tablet computers appeared in a number of works of science fiction in the second half of the 20th century, with the depiction of Arthur C. Clarke's NewsPad,[13] in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the description of Calculator Pad in the 1951 novel Foundation by Isaac Asimov, the Opton in the 1961 novel Return from the Stars by Stanislaw Lem, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in Douglas Adams's 1978 comedy of the same name, and the numerous devices depicted in Gene Roddenberry 1966 Star Trek series, all helping to promote and disseminate the concept to a wider audience.[14] A device more powerful than today's tablets appeared briefly in Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven's 1974 The Mote in God's Eye.[15]

In 1968, computer scientist Alan Kay envisioned a KiddiComp, while a PhD candidate[16][17] he developed and described the concept as a Dynabook in his 1972 proposal: A personal computer for children of all ages,[18] the paper outlines the requirements for a conceptual portable educational device that would offer functionality similar to that supplied via a laptop computer or (in some of its other incarnations) a tablet or slate computer with the exception of the requirement for any Dynabook device offering near eternal battery life. Adults could also use a Dynabook, but the target audience was children.

The sci-fi TV series Star Trek The Next Generation featured tablet computers which were designated as "padds".[19]

In 1994, the European Union initiated the 'OMI-NewsPAD' project (EP9252), inspired by Clarke and Kubrick's fictional work.[20] Acorn Computers developed and delivered an ARM-based touch screen tablet computer for this program, branded the NewsPad. The Barcelona-based trial ended in 1997.[21]

During the November 2000 COMDEX, Microsoft used the term Tablet PC to describe a prototype handheld device they were demonstrating.[22][23][24]

In 2001, Ericsson Mobile Communications announced an experimental product named the DelphiPad which was developed in cooperation with the Centre for Wireless Communications in Singapore, with touch-sensitive screen, Netscape Navigator as web browser and Linux as its operating system.[25][26]

Early devices

Following their earlier tablet-computer products such as the Pencept PenPad[27][28] and the CIC Handwriter,[29] in September 1989, GRiD Systems release the first commercially available tablet-type portable computer, the GRiDPad.[30] All three products were based on extended versions of the MS-DOS operating system.

In 1991, AT&T released their first EO Personal Communicator, this was one of the first commercially available tablets and ran the GO Corporation's PenPoint OS on AT&T's own hardware, including their own AT&T Hobbit CPU.

In 1992, Atari showed the Stylus, later renamed to ST-Pad prototype to developers, this one was based on the TOS/GEM Atari ST Platform and included already an early handwriting recognition. Shiraz Shivji's company Momentus demonstrated in the same time a failed x86 MS-DOS based Pen Computer with its own GUI.[31]

Apple Computers launched the Apple Newton personal digital assistant in 1993. It utilised Apple's own new Newton OS, initially running on hardware manufactured by Motorola and incorporating an ARM CPU, that Apple had specifically co-developed with Acorn Computers. The operating system and platform design were later licensed to Sharp and Digital Ocean, who went on to manufacture their own variants.

In 1996, Palm, Inc. released the first of the Palm OS based PalmPilot touch and stylus based PDA, the touch based devices initially incorporating a Motorola Dragonball (68000) CPU.

Intel announced a StrongARM[32] processor-based touchscreen tablet computer in 1999, under the name WebPAD. It was later re-branded as the "Intel Web Tablet".[33]

In 2000, Norwegian company Screen Media AS and the German company Dosch & Amand Gmbh released the " FreePad".[34] It was based on Linux and used the Opera browser. The Internet access was provided by DECT DMAP, only available in Europe and provided up to 10Mbit/s wireless access. The device had 16 MB storage, 32 MB of RAM and x86 compatible 166 MHz "Geode"-Microcontroller by National Semiconductor.[35] The screen was 10.4" or 12.1" and was touch sensitive. It had slots for SIM cards to enable support of television set-up box. FreePad were sold in Norway and the Middle East; but the company was dissolved in 2003.

In April 2000, Microsoft launched the Pocket PC 2000, utilising their touch capable Windows CE 3.0 operating system.[36] The devices were manufactured by several manufacturers, based on a mix of: x86, MIPS, ARM, and SuperH hardware.

In 2002, Microsoft attempted to define the Microsoft Tablet PC[37] as a mobile computer for field work in business,[38] though their devices failed, mainly due to pricing and usability decisions that limited them to their original purpose - such as the existing devices being too heavy to be held with one hand for extended periods, and having legacy applications created for desktop interfaces and not well adapted to the slate format.[39]

Nokia had plans for an internet tablet since before 2000. An early model was test manufactured in 2001, the Nokia M510, which was running on EPOC and featuring an Opera browser, speakers and a 10-inch 800×600 screen, but it was not released because of fears that the market was not ready for it.[40] In 2005, Nokia finally released the first of its Internet Tablet range, the Nokia 770. These tablets now ran a Debian based Linux OS called Maemo. Nokia used the term internet tablet to refer to a portable information appliance that focused on Internet use and media consumption, in the range between a personal digital assistant (PDA) and an Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC). They made two mobile phones, the N900 that runs Maemo, and N9 that run Meego.[41]

Android was the first of today's dominating platforms for tablet computers to reach the market. In 2008, the first plans for Android-based tablets appeared. The first products were released in 2009. Among them was the Archos 5, a pocket-sized model with a 5-inch touchscreen, that was first released with a proprietary operating system and later (in 2009) released with Android 1.4. The Camangi WebStation was released in Q2 2009. The first LTE Android tablet appeared late 2009 and was made by ICD for Verizon. This unit was called the Ultra, but a version called Vega was released around the same time. Ultra had a 7 inch display while Vega's was 15 inches. Many more products followed in 2010. Several manufacturers waited for Android Honeycomb, specifically adapted for use with tablets, which debuted in February 2011.

2010 and afterwards

Apple is often credited for defining a new class of consumer device.[42] It shaped the commercial market for tablets in the following years.[43] iPads and competing devices have been tested by the US military.[44] The most successful tablet is the Apple iPad, using the iOS operating system. Its debut in 2010 pushed tablets into the mainstream.[45][46] Samsung's Galaxy Tab and others followed, continuing the trends towards the features listed above.

In 2013, Samsung announced a tablet running Android and Windows 8 operating systems concurrently; switching from one operating system to the other and vice versa does not require restarting the device, and data can be synchronized between the two operating systems.[47] The device, named ATIV Q, was scheduled for release in late 2013 but its release has been indefinitely delayed.[48] Meanwhile, Asus released its Transformer Book Trio, a tablet that is also capable of running the operating systems Windows 8 and Android.[49]

In 2014, the era of customized tablets began. Many of these tablets are specific to a particular industry. The tablets come preloaded with software created or adapted for the specific industry they are meant for.[50] Often, these include custom client branding. Around 23% of B2B companies were said to have deployed tablets for sales-related activities, according to a survey report by Corporate Visions.[51]

Touch interface

A key component among tablet computers is touch input. This allows the user to navigate easily and type with a virtual keyboard on the screen. The first tablet to do this was the GRiDPad by GRiD Systems Corporation; the tablet featured both a stylus, a pen-like tool to aid with precision in a touchscreen device as well as an on-screen keyboard.[52]

The system must respond to touches rather than clicks of a keyboard or mouse, which allows integrated hand-eye operation, a natural use of the somatosensory system.[53][54][55] This is even more true of the more recent multi-touch interface, which often emulate the way objects behave.

Handwriting recognition

Chinese characters like this one meaning "person" can be written by handwriting recognition (人 animation, Mandarin: rén, Korean: in, Japanese: jin, nin; hito, Cantonese: jan4). The character has two strokes, the first shown here in dark, and the second in red. The black area represents the starting position of the writing instrument.

All version of the Windows OS since Vista have natively supported advanced handwriting recognition, including via a digital stylus.[56] Windows XP supported handwriting with optional downloads from MS. The Windows handwriting recognition routines constantly analyze the user's handwriting to improve performance. Handwriting recognition is also supported in many applications such as Microsoft OneNote, and Windows Journal. Some ARM powered tablets, such as the Galaxy Note 10, also support a stylus and support handwriting recognition. Wacom and N-trig digital pens provide very, ≈2500 DPI resolution for handwriting,[57] exceeding the resolution of capacitive touch screens by more than a factor of 10. These pens also support pressure sensitivity, allowing for "variable-width stroke-based" characters, such as Chinese/Japanese/Korean writing, due to their built-in capability of "pressure sensing". Pressure is also used in digital art applications such as Autodesk Sketchbook.[58][59]

Touchscreen hardware

Touchscreens are usually one of two forms;

  • Resistive touchscreens are passive and respond to pressure on the screen. They allow a high level of precision, useful in emulating a pointer (as is common in tablet computers) but may require calibration. Because of the high resolution, a stylus or fingernail is often used. Stylus-oriented systems are less suited to multi-touch.
  • Capacitive touchscreens tend to be less accurate, but more responsive than resistive devices. Because they require a conductive material, such as a finger tip, for input, they are not common among stylus-oriented devices, but are prominent on consumer devices. Finger-driven capacitive screens do not currently support pressure input.[60]

Some tablets can recognize individual palms, while some professional-grade tablets use pressure-sensitive films, such as those on graphics tablets. Some capacitive touch-screens can detect the size of the touched area and the pressure used.[61]


Today's tablets use capacitive touchscreens with multi-touch, unlike earlier stylus-driven resistive touchscreen devices. After 2007 with the access to capacitive screens and the success of the iPhone, multi-touch and other natural user interface features, as well as flash memory solid state storage and "instant on" warm-booting; external USB and Bluetooth keyboards defined tablets. Some have 3G mobile telephony applications.

Most tablets released since mid-2010 use a version of an ARM processor for longer battery life. The ARM Cortex family is powerful enough for tasks such as internet browsing, light production work and mobile games.[62]

As with smartphones, most mobile tablet apps are supplied through online distribution, rather than boxed software or direct sales from software vendors. These sources, known as "app stores", provide centralized catalogues of software and allow "one click" on-device software purchasing, installation and updates. The app store is often shared with smartphones that use the same operating system.[63]


Special hardware: The tablets can be equipped with special hardware to provide functionality, such as camera, GPS and local data storage.

  • Mobile web browser
  • Reader for digital books, periodicals and other content
  • Downloadable apps such as games, education and utilities
  • Portable media player function including video playback
  • Email and social media
  • Mobile phone functions (messaging, speakerphone, address book)
  • Video-teleconferencing
Data storage
Additional inputs

Besides a touchscreen and keyboard, some tablets can also use these input methods:

  • Accelerometer: Detects the physical movement and orientation of the tablet. This allows the touchscreen display to shift to either portrait or landscape mode. In addition, tilting the tablet may be used as an input (for instance to steer in a driving game)
  • Ambient light and proximity sensors, to detect if the device is close to something, in particular, to your ear, etc., which help to distinguish between intentional and unintentional touches.
  • Speech recognition
  • Gesture recognition
  • Character recognition to write text on the tablet, that can be stored as any other text in the intended storage, instead of using a keyboard.
  • Near field communication with other compatible devices including ISO/IEC 14443 RFID tags.


The most recent crossover tablet device types: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 laplet, and Sony Xperia Z Ultra phablet, as compared in size with a generic blue-colored lighter

There are number of tablets, which can be loosely separated in several categories, by physical size and input/output technology.

Without physical keyboard

Tablets without dedicated keyboards were the first tablets which gained commercial success, and they contributed highly to the general public tablet image.


Slates are single-piece devices without any rotating or slide-out parts.

Traditional slate tablet
Writing slate with sponge (circa 1950).

A slate's size may vary, starting from 7 inches (approximately 18 cm).[64] Some models in the larger than 10-inch category include the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 at 12.2 inches, the Toshiba Excite at 13.3 inches[65] and the Dell XPS 18 at 18.4 inches.[66] As of March 2013, the thinnest tablet on the market was the Sony Xperia Tablet Z at only 0.27 inches (6.9 mm) thick.[67] In October 2013, HP announced the HP Slate 21 All-in-One (Hybrid) with 21.5" IPS display complete with keyboard and mouse. It runs on Android, but has no internal battery.[68]

Mini tablet
Comparison of several mini tablet computers: Amazon Kindle Fire (left), iPad Mini (center) and Google Nexus 7 (right)

Mini tablets are smaller and lighter than standard slates, with a typical screen size between 7 and 8. The first successful ones were introduced by Samsung (Galaxy Tab 7-inch), Barnes & Noble (the Nook Tablet), Blackberry Playbook, and Amazon (the Kindle Fire) in 2011, and by Google (the Nexus 7) in 2012. Most of them work like the larger tablets.

In October 2012, Apple released the iPad Mini. Its size is 7.9 inches, about 2 inches smaller than the regular size iPad, but was less powerful than the then current iPad 3.[69] In November 2013, Apple released the iPad Mini 2, it remains at 7.9 inches and it nearly matches the hardware of the iPad Air.

Amazon released an upgraded version of the Kindle Fire, called the Kindle Fire HD, on September 14, 2012, with higher resolution and more features compared than the original Kindle Fire, and it remains 7 inches.[70] Amazon further updated the Fire tablet with the Kindle Fire HDX in September 2013.

Google released an upgraded version of the Nexus 7 on July 24, 2013, with FHD display, dual cameras, stereo speakers, more color accuracy, performance improvement, built-in wireless charging, and a variant with 4G LTE support for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Samsung's Galaxy Note series were the first commercially successful phablet devices.

Since 2010, crossover touch-screen mobile phones with screens greater than 5-inches have been released. That size is generally considered larger than a traditional smartphone, creating a hybrid category called a phablet by Forbes and Engadget. Phablet is a portmanteau of phone and tablet.[71] Examples of phablets are the LG Optimus Vu, Samsung Galaxy Note and Dell Streak. Samsung announced they had shipped a million units of the Galaxy Note within two months of introducing it.[72][73]


Booklets are dual-touchscreen tablet computers with a clamshell design that folds like a laptop. Examples include the Sony Tablet P (which was considered a flop),[74] the Toshiba Libretto W100 and the aborted Microsoft Courier. Booklets were discontinued in 2010.[75]

With physical keyboard

Tablets with dedicated keyboards form the boundary between slate tablets and laptop computers.


Hybrids are tablets with a dedicated detachable keyboard, in some cases sold separately.

Traditional hybrid

Hybrid tablets have a standard tablet base with a detachable keyboard that resembles a laptop keyboard. They are usually sold together as parts of the same product, unlike slates, whose keyboards are an optional accessory. The term hybrid was coined by users of the HP/Compaq TC1000 and TC1100 series.


Laplet is a portmanteau of the words laptop and tablet; it is a cross of these device types.[76] Being in general a hybrid, it is different from other hybrids in the following ways: laplets are to run an x86-architecture CPU (typically low- or ultra-low-voltage model), such as Intel Core i5, run a full-featured OS like Windows 8.1, and have a number of typical laptop I/O ports, such as USB and Mini DisplayPort. Laplets are to be used not only as media consumption devices, but also as desktop or laptop replacements; laplets are designed to run desktop applications, such as Adobe Photoshop, and to connect peripheral devices, such as mouse, or keyboard, or a number of external displays.[77] Microsoft's Surface Pro-series devices exemplify laplets.


A Lenovo X61 convertible tablet in slate mode

Convertible tablets have a slate tablet top-half with a keyboard bottom-half. They more closely resemble laptops, usually considered more as laptops than tablets, and are heavier and larger than slates. While some convertibles (such as the Asus Transformer series) run Android, the release of Windows 8 increased the prominence of this form factor among the laptop market. Typically, the base of a convertible attaches to the display at a single joint called a swivel hinge or rotating hinge. The joint allows the screen to rotate through 180° and lie against the back of the keyboard to provide a flat writing surface. This design, although the most common, creates a physical point of weakness. The Panasonic Toughbook 19, for example, is advertised as a more durable convertible notebook. The HP EliteBook 2760p convertible notebook uses a reinforced hinge that protrudes slightly from the rear of the unit. And the Acer TravelMate C210, has a sliding design in which the screen slides up from the slate-like position and locks into place to provide the laptop mode. The first tablet to have a sliding screen was the Samsung Sliding PC7 Series,[78] a tablet with Intel Atom processor and a sliding screen that allows it to be used as a laptop or slate tablet when the screen is locked in place covering the whole keyboard. It is intended to combine the virtues of tablet PCs with those of notebooks. The Inspiron Duo from Dell rotates the screen horizontally when opened.

System architecture

Two major architectures dominate the tablet market,[79] ARM Holdings' ARM architecture and Intel's and AMD's x86.

Intel's x86, including x86-64 has powered the "IBM compatible" PC since 1981 and Apple's Macintosh computers since 2006. The CPUs have been incorporated into tablet PCs over the years and generally offer greater performance along with the ability to run full versions of Microsoft Windows, along with Windows desktop and enterprise applications. Non-Windows based x86 tablets include the JooJoo. Intel announced plans to enter the tablet market with its Atom in 2010;[80][81] see the next section for Intel processors for the tablet market.

ARM has been the CPU architecture of choice for manufacturers of smartphones (95% ARM), PDAs, digital cameras (80% ARM), set-top boxes, DSL routers, smart televisions (70% ARM), storage devices and tablet computers (95% ARM).[82] This dominance began with the release of the mobile-focused and comparatively power-efficient 32-bit ARM610 processor originally designed for the Apple Newton and Acorn A4 in 1993. The chip was adopted by Psion, Palm and Nokia for PDAs and later smartphones, camera phones, cameras, etc. ARM's licensing model supported this success by allowing device manufacturers to licence, alter and fabricate custom SoC derivatives tailored to their own products. This has helped manufacturers extend battery life and shrink component count along with the size of devices.

The multiple licensees ensured that multiple fabricators could supply near-identical products, while encouraging price competition. This forced unit prices down to a fraction of their x86 equivalents. The architecture has historically had limited support from Microsoft, with only Windows CE available, but with the 2012 release of Windows 8, Microsoft announced additional support for the architecture, shipping their own ARM-based tablet computer, branded the Microsoft Surface, as well as an x86-64 Intel Core i5 variant branded as Microsoft Surface Pro.[83][84][85][86]

Intel tablet chip sales were 1 million units in 2012, and 12 million units in 2013.[87] Intel chairman Andy Bryant has stated that its 2014 goal is to quadruple its tablet chip sales to 40 million units by the end of that year,[88] as an investment for 2015.[89]

Operating system

Tablets, like conventional PCs, run multiple operating systems (though dual-booting on tablets is relatively rare). These operating systems come in two classes, desktop-based and mobile-based ("phone-like") OS. Desktop OS-based tablets are currently thicker and heavier, require more storage, more cooling and give less battery life, but can run processor-intensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop in addition to mobile apps and have more ports,[90] while mobile-based tablets are the reverse, only run mobile apps. Those that focus more so on mobile apps use battery life conservatively because the processor is significantly smaller. This allows the battery to last much longer than the common laptop.[91]

At the end of Q1 2013, GlobalWebIndex noted that in two years tablet usage increased by 282 percent, with 156 million Android tablet users and 122 million iPad users making up 75 percent.[92]

By year-end 2013, Gartner found that 121 million (plus 53M in 2012) Android tablets, 70 million (plus 61M in 2012) iOS tablets, and 4 million (plus 1M in 2012) Windows tablets had been sold to end-users (2013 and 2012 results).[93]


Google Nexus 9 running Android 5.0.
An ASUS Eee Pad Transformer running Android 3.2.1 Honeycomb; the keyboard is part of a docking station for the tablet.

Android is a Linux-based operating system that Google offers as open source under the Apache license. It is designed primarily for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Android supports low-cost ARM systems. Many such systems were announced in 2010.[94] However, much of Android's tablet initiative came from manufacturers, while Google primarily focused on smartphones and restricted the App Market from non-phone devices.[95]

Vendors such as Motorola[96] and Lenovo[97] delayed deployment of their tablets until after 2011, when Android was reworked to include more tablet features.[98] Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) and later versions support larger screen sizes, mainly tablets, and have access to the Google Play service. Android includes operating system, middleware and key applications.

Other vendors sell customized Android tablets such as Nook and Kindle Fire, which are used to consume mobile content and provide their own app store, rather than using the larger Google Play system, thereby fragmenting the Android market.[99]

Google introduced the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets in 2012. Hardware makers that have shipped Android tablets include Acer, Asus, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony.[100]


The iPad in a case running the YouTube app.

The iPad runs iOS, which was created for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Although built on the same underlying Unix implementation as MacOS, its user interface is radically different. iOS is designed for fingers and has none of the features that required a stylus on earlier tablets. Apple introduced multi-touch gestures, such as moving two fingers apart or together to zoom in or out, also known as "pinch to zoom".[101] iOS is built for the ARM architecture.[102]


Previous to the iPad, Axiotron introduced[103] an aftermarket, heavily modified Apple MacBook called Modbook, a Mac OS X-based tablet personal computer. The Modbook uses Apple's Inkwell for handwriting and gesture recognition, and uses digitization hardware from Wacom. To get Mac OS X to talk to the digitizer on the integrated tablet, the Modbook is supplied with a third-party driver called TabletMagic; Wacom does not provide driver support for this device. Another predecessor to the iPad was the Apple MessagePad introduced in 1993.


Windows 3.1 to 7

Following Windows for Pen Computing for Windows 3.1 in 1991, Microsoft supported tablets running Windows XP under the Microsoft Tablet PC name.[104] According to Microsoft[105] in 2001, "Microsoft Tablet PCs" are pen-based, fully functional x86 PCs with handwriting and voice recognition functionality. Tablet PCs used the same hardware as laptops but added support for pen input. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition provided pen support. Tablet support was added to both Home and Business versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Tablets running Windows could use the touchscreen for mouse input, hand writing recognition and gesture support. Following Tablet PC, Microsoft announced the Ultra-mobile PC initiative in 2006 which brought Windows tablets to a smaller, touch-centric form factor.[106][107] In 2008, Microsoft showed a prototype of a two-screen tablet called Microsoft Courier, but cancelled the project. A model of the Asus Eee Pad shown in 2010 was to use Windows CE but switched to Android.[108]

Surface and Surface Pro

On June 18, 2012, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Surface tablet (initially named Surface RT upon release), the first computer[109] in the company's history. Also Microsoft Surface Pro laplet was released — a laptop replacement in a tablet form factor. Surface runs Windows RT and comes with a copy of Office 2013, which gives a customer access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It comes with a Tegra 3 SoC, one kickstand position, USB 2.0 port, microSD card slot to expand storage and one-megapixel cameras (front and back). It has been succeeded by Surface 2 in 2013.

The Surface Pro contains similar hardware to a standard laptop. The device does not come equipped with Office 2013. It contains an Intel Core i5 processor, USB 3.0 port, Windows 8 Pro (free update to Windows 8.1 Pro available) and allows the user to run traditional desktop applications.[110] Two successors has been released since the release of the first device, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3.

Windows 8

In October 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8, which features significant changes to various aspects of the operating system's user interface and platform which are designed for touch-based devices such as tablets. The operating system also introduced an application store and a new style of application optimized primarily for use on tablets.[111][112] Microsoft also introduced Windows RT, an edition of Windows 8 for use on ARM-based devices.[113] The launch of Windows 8 and RT was accompanied by the release of devices with the two operating systems by various manufacturers (including Microsoft themselves, with the release of Surface), such as slate tablets, hybrids, and convertibles.[114] Windows RT is likely to be discontinued.[115] In the first half of 2014, Windows tablets have grown 33%.[116]

Firefox OS

Firefox OS is an open-source operating system based on Linux and the Firefox web browser, targeting low-end smartphones, tablet computers and smart TV devices. In 2013, the Mozilla Foundation started a prototype tablet model with Foxconn.[117]


The ProGear by FrontPath was an early implementation of a Linux tablet that used a Transmeta chip and a resistive digitizer. The ProGear initially came with a version of Slackware Linux, and later with Windows 98. They can run many operating systems. However, the device is no longer for sale and FrontPath has ceased operations. Many touch screen sub-notebook computers can run any of several Linux distributions with little customization.

Qt-based Qtopia and GTK+-based Internet Tablet OS provide open source systems. KDE's Plasma Active is a graphical environment for tablet.[118]

Linux open source note taking software includes Xournal (which supports PDF file annotation), Gournal (a Gnome based note taking application), and the Java-based Jarnal (which supports handwriting recognition as a built-in function). A standalone handwriting recognition program, CellWriter, requires users to write letters separately in a grid.

Many desktop distributions include tablet-friendly interfaces smaller devices. These open source libraries are freely available and can be run or ported to devices that conform to the tablet PC design. Maemo (rebranded MeeGo in 2010), a Debian Linux based user environment, was developed for the Nokia Internet Tablet devices (770, N800, N810 & N900). It is currently in generation 5, and has many applications. Ubuntu uses the Unity UI, and many other distributions (such as Fedora) use the Gnome shell (which also supports Ubuntu).

Canonical has hinted that Ubuntu will be available on tablets by 2014.[119]

TabletKiosk was the first to offer a hybrid digitizer / touch device running openSUSE Linux.

Nokia's use

Nokia entered the tablet space in May 2005 with the Nokia 770 running Maemo, a Debian-based Linux distribution custom-made for their Internet tablet line. The product line continued with the N900, with phone capabilities. The user interface and application framework layer, named Hildon, was an early instance of a software platform for generic computing in a tablet device intended for internet consumption.[120] But Nokia didn't commit to it as their only platform for their future mobile devices and the project competed against other in-house platforms and later replaced it with the Series 60.[121]

Following the launch of the Ultra-mobile PC, Intel started the Mobile Internet Device initiative, which took the same hardware and combined it with a tabletized Linux configuration. Intel co-developed the lightweight Moblin (mobile Linux) operating system following the successful launch of the Atom CPU series on netbooks.


MeeGo was a Linux-based operating system developed by Intel and Nokia that supports netbooks, smartphones and tablet PCs. In 2010, Nokia and Intel combined the Maemo and Moblin projects to form MeeGo. The first tablet using MeeGo is the Neofonie WeTab launched September 2010 in Germany. The WeTab uses an extended version of the MeeGo operating system called WeTab OS. WeTab OS adds runtimes for Android and Adobe AIR and provides a proprietary user interface optimized for the WeTab device. On September 27, 2011 the Linux Foundation announced that MeeGo would be replaced in 2012 by Tizen.[122]

Hybrid OS operation

Several hardware companies have build hybrid devices with the possibility to work with both the Windows 8 and Android operating systems.[123]

In mid-2014, Asus released a hybrid touchscreen Windows tablet/laptop with a detachable Android smartphone; when docked to the back of the tablet/laptop display, the Android phone is displayed within the Windows 8 screen, which is switchable to Android tablet and Android laptop.[124]


Blackberry OS

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a tablet computer announced in September 2010 that runs the BlackBerry Tablet OS.[125] The OS is based on the QNX system that Research in Motion acquired in early 2010. Delivery to developers and enterprise customers was expected in October 2010. The BlackBerry PlayBook was officially released to US and Canadian consumers on April 19, 2011. As of 2014, Playbook is not available on sale on any Blackberry websites. The OS though continues on its smartphones.


Hewlett Packard announced that the TouchPad, running WebOS 3.0 on a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon CPU, would be released in June 2011. On August 18, 2011, HP announced the discontinuation of the TouchPad, due to sluggish sales.[126] In February 2013, HP announced they had sold WebOS to LG Electronics.[127]

Application markets and software walled gardens

Mobile device suppliers typically adopt a walled garden approach, wherein the supplier controls what applications are available. Software development kits are restricted to approved developers. This can be used to reduce the impact of malware, provide material with an approved content rating, control application quality and exclude competing vendors.[128]

Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble all adopted the strategy. The latter originally allowed arbitrary apps to be installed,[129][130][131] but, in December 2011, excluded third parties.[132][133][134][135][136] Apple and IBM have agreed to cooperate in cross-selling IBM-developed applications for iPads and iPhones in enterprise-level accounts.[137]

Proponents of open source software say that it violates the spirit of personal control that traditional personal computers have always provided.[138][139][140]

Market share

Among tablets available in the market, Apple's iPad (left) is the top-selling tablet with 170 million units sold by mid-October 2013, followed by Amazon's Kindle Fire (right) with an estimated 7 million sold as of May 2012.

As of October 2012, display screen shipments for tablets began surpassing shipments for laptop display screens.[141]

According to a survey conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) in March 2012, 31% percent of Internet users in the United States owned a tablet, up from 12% in 2011. The survey also found that 72% of tablet owners had an iPad, while 32% had an Android tablet. By 2012, Android tablet adoption had increased. 52% of tablet owners owned an iPad, while 51% owned an Android-powered tablet (percentages do not add up to 100% because some tablet owners own more than one type).[142] By end of 2013, Android's market share rose to 61.9%, followed by iOS at 36%. [143] By late 2014, Android's market share rose to 72%, followed by iOS at 22.3% and Windows at 5.7%.[144]

Tablet market share (in percent)[145][146]
Vendor Q3 2013 Q3 2012 Year-over-Year
Apple 29.7 40.2 (10.5)
Samsung 22.2 12.4 9.8
Asus 7.4 6.6 0.8
Others 42.6 40.8 1.8

Note: Others consists of small vendors with market share about one percent or mostly less. In one year Apple market share dropped significantly and, on the other side, Android vendors' market share increased with Samsung dominating.


Tablet use by businesses has jumped in the 2010s, as business have started to use them for conferences, events and trade shows.[147] In 2012, Intel reported that their tablet program improved productivity for about 19,000 of their employees by an average of 57 minutes a day.[148] In the US and Canada, it is estimated that 60% of online consumers will own a tablet by 2017 and in Europe, 42% of online consumers will own one.[149]

As of the beginning of 2013, 29% of US online consumers own tablet computers, a significant jump from 5% in 2011.[150] As of the beginning of 2014, 44% of US online consumers own tablets.[151] Tablet use has also become increasingly common amongst children. A 2014 survey found that touch screens were the most frequently used object for play amongst American children under the age of 12. Touch screen devices were used more often in play than game consoles, board games, puzzles, play vehicles, blocks and dolls/action figures. Despite this, the majority of parents said that a touch screen device was "never" or only "sometimes" a toy.[152] As of 2014, nearly two-thirds of American 2-to 10-year-olds have access to a tablet or e-reader.[153] The large use of tablets by adults is as a personal internet-connected TV.[154]


Unit Sales to Global Tablet Market
2010[155] 2011[156] 2012[93] 2013[93]
Units (M) 17.6 60.0 116.3 195.4
Growth (pct.) - 240.9 93.8 68.0

Research firms Gartner and IDC both predict that tablet sales will exceed traditional personal computer (desktops, notebooks) sales in 2015.[157][158]

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External links

  • Annotated bibliography of references to handwriting recognition and pen computing
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