Tablets: The Next Big Open Source Opportunity?
All of a sudden, tablet computers are all the rage, with Apple's iPad stoking the fire. But Apple is hardly going to compete unchallenged in the tablet space. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claims that his company is "hardcore" about tablets, and is working with Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony before the end of the year. Ballmer demonstrated an HP slate at the Consumer Electronics Show in January as well. One has to wonder if the real opportunity in tablets lies on the open source front, though.
It's already a lock that tablets based on Google's upcoming Chrome OS will show up, and they could be quite impressive. Chrome OS is tuned for absolutely instant booting, appears to have very tight security, and will be optimized for a cloud model that could lend itself well to tablets. Moreover, Google views Chrome OS as yet another on-ramp to its lucrative search-and-ad ecosystem, and has little reason to build huge costs into Chrome OS tablets.
Also on the Google front, numerous Android-based tablets have already appeared, and these can only become more attractive as applications proliferate. Google is actively pursuing a model where almost anybody can easily create applications for Android, and there is no reason why they can't include tablet-based apps. Meanwhile, many interesting tablets based on Linux distros are arriving.
Even as tablets grab headlines, they are still fourth devices for many people, after desktop computers, laptops, and mobile phones. Not everyone will choose to carry a tablet, and that may mean that they have a future as kitchen and living room devices. It remains to be seen how relevant to business tablets will become.
Undeniably, though, tablets have more momentum than ever. It's easy to forget that Microsoft pushed the tablet model heavily almost a decade ago, but Windows-based tablets didn't go far. With so many unanswered questions surrounding the future of tablets, the time is ripe for creative open source thinkers to explore new pricing models, open app development strategies for tablets and more.