Tablets! Hands-On with AT&T's OpenPeak, Meego's WeTab and the Win7 ExoPC
Hai! from the Intel Developers Forum 2010 in San Francisco, CA. I spent a big chunk of time today way in the back corner of the Technology Showcase, checking out the latest tablet computers including a few that are about to ship, one that shipped to a few people and then disappeared (JooJoo!) and a reference design for one coming to a US carrier early next year.
The AT&T-bound, Android-powered OpenPeak tablet should hit Ma Bell stores in early 2011, perhaps even in January. OpenPeak was showing a prototype reference design running Android 2.1, though we hear that the tablet will ship with 2.2. Expect a fair amount of tweaks to the tablet's look and feel, including AT&T software add-ons (ahem, bloatware) and possible minor hardware changes, on the shipping version. What I saw had a 7" display and rear-facing camera, though OpenPeak told me a dual-camera setup was well within their capabilities.
OpenPeak has a neat widget-based feature that allows multiple users to set up passcode-protected profiles on a single device, so Mom, Dad, Bro and Sis can each have their own homescreen on the tablet, complete with customized wallpaper, widgets and shortcuts. I'm also guessing we'll see some sort of TV tie-in along the lines of AT&T's recently launched Uverse app for iOS that allows DVR scheduling and limited content sharing between a customer's iPhone and home DVR settop boxes.
Yes, that TV comment was a very "educated" guess.
I also checked out the Meego-based WeTab, which is set to begin shipping next week. Featuring an 11.6" capacitive touch display and the Intel-backed Meego operating system, WeTab sports a nifty gesture and icon-based user interface and front-facing camera. The units I played with were somewhat buggy, though WeTab's Expose-style multitasking and mini-map style scrollable UI were pretty neat. Current versions based on Meego 1.0 lack full multitouch support though I was told that with Meego 1.1 set to roll out in October, we should expect pinch-and-zoomable WeTabs before too long.
Finally there was the rather impressive ExoPC Slate, which runs Windows 7 Home Premium with a custom UI/app system. Said to be shipping from Canada within a month's time, Slate was definitely the most production-ready of the units I toyed around with. Slate's combination of Win7 with a very ambitious native app/UI ecosystem replete with its own app store makes it a very intriguing unit. On the one hand there's a ton of potential here: You've got a tablet with software designed from the ground up for a tablet experience, but it's also backed by a full-on desktop class OS with Windows Media Center for audio/video/DVR applications. On the other hand, does the world really need another proprietary app store, and will developers care enough to really get behind it? Time will tell, I suppose, but for now ExoPC's combination of 11.6", 1366 x 768 display, full 1080p video playback with HDMI out, and WiFi/3G connectivity makes for a compelling, supersized alternative to iPad and Galaxy Tab.
Look for both WeTab and ExoPC to sell for between $500 and 750 USD, depending on configurations.
Also look for hands-on videos with all three tablets mentioned above. Like, real soon.