tablet (tablet PC)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to enterprise mobile app development and SOA

A tablet is a wireless, portable personal computer with a touch screeninterface. The tablet form factor is typically smaller than a notebook computer but larger than a smartphone.

The idea of tablet computing is generally credited to Alan Kay of Xerox, who sketched out the idea in 1971. The first widely-sold tablet computer was Apple Computer's Newton, which was not a commercial success. Technological advances in battery life, display resolution, handwriting recognition software, memory, and wireless Internet access have since made tablets a viable computing option.

Today, the most common type of tablet is the slate style, like Apple's iPad, Microsoft's Surface or Amazon's Kindle Fire. External keyboards are available for most slate-style tablets and some keyboards also function as docking stations for the devices.

Other styles of tablets include:

  • Convertible tablets - typically have a display that rotates 180 degrees and can be folded to close, screen up, over an integrated hardware keyboard. Convertible models may allow user input through a variety of methods in addition to the hardware keyboard, including natural handwriting with a stylus or digital pen and typing through a screen-based software keyboard.
  • Hybrid tablets - sometimes referred to as convertible or hybrid notebooks. A hybrid is like a regular notebook but has a removable display that functions independently as a slate.
  • Rugged tablets - a slate-like model that is designed to withstand rough handling and extreme conditions. Rugged tablets are usually encased in a thick protective shell and have shock-protected hard drives.



This was last updated in July 2014

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