Company TCL, which owns brands Blackberry and Alcatel, October 25, presented an unusual tablet with a folding in two places display. This step can be seen as a desperate attempt not to die of the tablet market, which is slowly but surely declining in 2014.

Another drop is recorded in the current year: manufacturers have released half a million fewer tablets than for the same period of 2018. What is the cause of the crisis of the once popular gadget? The answer lies in the peculiarities of its development. Initially, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Apple and Samsung have released far from ideal portable computers, probing the demand and filling cones. Then was worked out, it seemed the perfect recipe tablet, which allowed him to win a place in the IT world.

But the “Golden age” lasted only four years. Then vendors began to complicate the device and lost the audience. Now they hope that a new breath in the market of tablets is inhaled the device. But they are unlikely to be massive. “Profile” has traced the history of the controversial gadget and understand what the tablets today should pick up for professional and Amateur task.

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The era of modern tablets should be counted from 2010, when Steve jobs introduced the world’s first Apple iPad device in format between a smartphone and a laptop. But in fact the iPad was not a pioneer. The earliest projects portable personal computers date from the second half of the 1980s. Then created a startup Hindsight, the founders of which was prepared and never saw the light tablet Letterbug. Experimented with large format at that time, the company manufacturing electronics and software for the Atari.

At the same time started the development of the first Apple (jobs at that time was in exile and directed his other company, NeXT). He saw the light in 1992 and was called the MessagePad, or Newton. This gadget can rightly be considered the first full-fledged tablet computer in the world. For six years the device was produced in several versions, were powerful at the time the StrongARM processor, 4 to 8 MB of internal memory and a monochrome touchscreen display. He was allowed to control the device with a stylus, and had the handwriting recognition feature to enter text.

Rating: best tablets of 2019, according to the “Profile”

In 1992, Samsung has released a Pen Master 386SL/20. This is one of the first devices with touch control, for which Microsoft has adapted its operating system calling it Windows for Pen Edition (“the Version of handwriting”).

The tablets of the 1990‑ies there were a number of disadvantages. They could not completely replace the desktop PC, because the electronics in those years was weaker and compactness of the device has significant limitations in its performance. While working on the Windows model was not truly portable, as it weighed more than a kilogram (the Apple MessagePad is not the case: he weighed 410 grams against 680 grams the iPad model 2010). Finally, those devices were quite expensive: MessagePad was priced at $1000, a Samsung tablet — from $4000. At current prices, their cost would have amounted to twice as much.

In the end, tablets on Windows never gained much success. Apple has worked more successfully for six years, selling about 50,000 units: the unit was in demand in the American business environment. However, Steve jobs returned to Apple in 1998 stopped production of these devices, focusing on computers of different types: desktop workstations, desktop, laptops. Microsoft, in turn, threw the tablet direction, and in the early 2000s, the partners of the company were available in Windows XP version for touch devices (Tablet PC Edition).

On this operating system worked computers HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000 and TC1100. They are already more like modern tablets: touch screen and stylus support for handwriting and drawing, the ability to “fasten” the physical keyboard, the wireless interfaces to connect to the Network. But the initiative in the electronics market intercepted a PDA or “handhelds” portable computers with mobile operating system (mostly Windows Mobile). It seemed that the tablet has no future, while in 2010, Steve jobs explained why do we need this device and how they should look.

Tile for a pleasant leisure

To the device, positioning itself between a smartphone and a laptop, I have a right to life, they must much better to perform some tasks, jobs said at the presentation of Apple iPad in January 2010. And called the following scenarios: web surfing, email, viewing photos and videos, listening to music, playing games and reading e-books. The design of the device resembled an enlarged iPhone: rectangle with rounded corners and minimal buttons.

For the first year Apple sold over 7 million iPads, that is a valid proof of correctness jobs. As it turned out, the tablets should not replace the computer as the tool for the job. Their element of fun, leisure and communication. And of course, the tablets should be minimalistic: as the iPhone changed the face of mobile phones, so the iPad has transformed the cumbersome, even absurd devices the nineties and zero in elegant “tile” with no extra keys and connectors.

Until the mid-2010s, the tablet market is actively growing, but still not getting to the desktop PCs and smartphones. The most popular tablets, according to StatCounter, came in the August 2014 of 6.78% of the market of personal computers against the of 28.57% of smartphones and 64,65% for desktops and laptops.

The peak of the popularity of the devices provided by Apple and other companies. Interestingly, in the third quarter of 2014 iPads showed the worst result for all time of sales to 22.1% of the market, according to Statista. Apple approached Samsung with a share of 17.4%, other vendors also showed strong growth. The fact that Google has released a convenient and fast working tablet version of its Android OS, and manufacturers began to produce inexpensive, but quite workable device.

Was and unusual hybrids. Since 2011, the company ASUS has experimented with tablets with “hook” the keyboard (so did the laptop), smartphones with a docking station (was tablet). They have gained some popularity, but eventually disappeared from the market because of the limited functionality of the mobile OS Android. But the experiment with Microsoft, launched in 2012, was more successful: the range of the Surface from the “desktop” Windows (read: the tablet that replaces a full PC) exists to this day. According to the report of the company for the three fiscal quarter of 2019, the sales of Surface brought in $1.33 billion, which is 21% higher than in 2018.

Apple, meanwhile, again started to change course. The vision of Tim cook, who became the head of the company after the death of Steve jobs in 2011, it was radically different. For a start, under his leadership, the company in 2012, has released a compact version of the iPad Mini. In 2015, debuted the iPad Pro, is declared as a device for operation in the field of photo and video, design, computer graphics. Thus, the tablets again rushed into the field of professional IT-tools.

The beginning two-thousand tablets were bulky and intended for professional tasks. Today’s flagship models like them in everything except the physical buttons

Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP / East News

New quest

Today the tablet market is dominated by three companies: Apple (38.1% of the market in the second quarter of 2019), Samsung (15.2%) and growing Chinese Huawei (10.3 per cent). Everyone else, though, and is in the amount of one-third of sales, far behind.

The flagship line of Apple is the iPad Pro. The device supports stylus Apple Pencil, have an interface for connection keyboards, cameras, memory cards and other peripherals, as well as are available in two sizes — with a display 11 and 12.9 inches. In addition, the company in 2019 updated iPad Mini, and the autumn presentation has released a new iPad in a classic design with a larger display. Note: all of these variations in life criticized in the Bud nipped Steve jobs, which has provided popularity to modern tablets.

Huawei is trying to emulate the strategy of Apple releasing the MediaPad tablet with a similar model fragmentation. Chinese devices have similar functions, but are much cheaper. The price of the flagship Huawei MediaPad M5 starts from 25 thousand rubles, whereas the minimum cost of the iPad Pro — 67 thousand.

But they fall in price to the Apple tablet or Samsung model. The Koreans also offer several devices in different categories — “for work and study” and “for entertainment”. While the flagship Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has an interesting DeX mode, in which the apparatus can be connected to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse and turn it into a full-fledged computer. Apple here’s another strategy: iPad Pro connects to the “Macs” and could serve for them an auxiliary screen.

What happened to those scripts, which Steve jobs said: surfing the net, music, videos and so on? It turned out, enough smartphones. At first they were not too comfortable because of the “close” displays, but from year to year, the manufacturers increased the diagonal from 3.5 inches (the first iPhone) devices grew to 6.5 inches and even more.

It is not surprising that in 2014 the share of tablets in the world fleet of gadgets almost halved, amounting to 3,65% in September 2019. Moreover, the increased versatility of smartphones even allowed them a year ago to around desktop computers: today a smartphone is 51,78% of the electronics market, PC — 44,57%.

A further increase in smartphone finally abolished the difference between them and tablets. But then the smartphone will lose their main advantage — compactness (today flagship model hard to fit in hand or pocket). Related to this is the desire of brands to develop the production of folding gadgets. Samsung this year released Galaxy Fold cost of $2000, which is of relatively compact “tube” is folded into a small square tablet. Sale Huawei Mate X, also with a folding display, is expected in November.

Recently, these projects were added to the prototype device DragonHinge from TCL, which is not twice, but three times, and in the disclosed form is a 10‑inch tablet. Even Microsoft stayed away from the trend and announced its own fold-out smartphone. However, he has not one display, but two, connected by a hinge. To some extent, can be considered these devices a new incarnation of the tablet. However, they are unlikely to take significant market share: too expensive and complicated to manufacture, too cumbersome and unreliable. Tablets for professionals is also unlikely to be massive: the majority of the users of their impressive features is simply useless.

Thus, the current situation on the market of gadgets reminiscent of the numerous, and not very successful experiments of the turn of the century. But then it was natural, because the producers created a new market, paving the way blind. Today, the anxieties of the developers Shine through confusion and misunderstanding, even to please the average user, and so hung with electronics from head to toe. Obviously, the industry lacks a visionary like Steve jobs, who would come out on stage and clearly said, what else device we don’t have enough to complete happiness.

Russian trace in the first tablet

The main feature of the Apple MessagePad in 1992 was the ability to recognize handwriting text. This software development was purchased from the Russian company, Paragraph, founded in 1988 by brothers Steve and George Pocekovina and Anton Chizhov. The contract for the use of Russian software on the Apple computer was signed in 1991.

Despite the origin, the system Apple MessagePad could not recognize the Russian text in English only. Recognition accuracy left much to be desired, which is not surprising: with such a task more or less well can only be used by the neural network. But they have begun to use mobile devices only in 2017. In 2008, Stepan Pachikov has presented its new development, which will become world famous, is a cloud service for creating, storing, and sharing notes, Evernote. Today, they are 225 million people worldwide.

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