The most common type of tablet is the slate style, like Apple's iPad or Microsoft's Surface. These devices -- which are what that most people mean when they refer to a tablet -- have electronics integrated into the touch screen unit and lack a hardware keyboard. However, external keyboards are available for slate-style tablets. Some keyboards also function as docks for the devices.
Other styles of tablets:
- A convertible tablet typically has a display that rotates 180 degrees and can be folded to close, screen up, over the integrated 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.
- A hybrid tablet, sometimes referred to as a convertible or hybrid notebook, is like a regular notebook but with a removable display that functions independently as a slate.
- A rugged tablet is a slate-like model that is designed to withstand rough handling and extreme conditions. Rugged tablets are usually encased in a protective shell and have shock-protected hard drives.
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, larger memory, and wireless Internet access have since made tablets a viable computing option.