A tablet computer, or a tablet or just a Tab, is a mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, integrated into a flat touch screen and primarily operated by touching the screen rather than using a physical keyboard. It often uses an onscreen virtual keyboard, a passive stylus pen, or a digital pen.
The term may also apply to a variety of form factors that differ in position of the screen with respect to a keyboard. The standard form is called slate, which does not have an integrated keyboard but may be connected to one with a wirelesslink or a USB port. Convertible notebook computers have an integrated keyboard that can be hidden by a swivel joint orslide joint, exposing only the screen for touch operation. Hybrids have a detachable keyboard so that the touch screen can be used as a stand-alone tablet. Booklets include two touch screens, and can be used as a notebook by displaying a virtual keyboard in one of them.
During the 2000s Microsoft attempted a relatively unsuccessful product line with Microsoft Tablet PC. In 2010 Apple released the iPad based on the technology developed in parallel with their previous iPhone, and reached worldwide commercial success
Traditional tablet PCs
A tablet personal computer (tablet PC) is a portable personal computer equipped with a touchscreen as a primary input device, and running a modified desktop OS designed to be operated and owned by an individual. The term tablet PCs refer to any tablet-sized personal computer regardless of the (desktop) operating system.
Tablet personal computers are mainly based on the x86 IBM-PC architecture and are fully functional personal computers employing a slightly modified personal computer OS (such as Windows or Ubuntu Linux) supporting their touch-screen, instead of a traditional display, mouse and keyboard. A typical tablet personal computer needs to be stylus driven, because operating the typical desktop based OS requires a high precision to select GUI widgets, such as a the close window button.
The new tablet computers have been introduced with mobile operating systems that forgo the Wintel paradigm. They have a different interface instead of the traditional desktop OS, and represent a new type of computing device. These “post-PC” mobile OS tablet computer devices are normally finger driven and most frequently use capacitive touch screens with multi-touch capabilities instead of the simple resistive touchscreens of typical stylus driven systems.
The most successful of these was the Apple iPad using the iOS operating system. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and others followed, continuing the now common trends towards multi-touch and other natural user interface features, as well as flash memory solid-state storage drives and “instant on” warm-boot times; in addition, standard external USB and Bluetooth keyboards can often be used. Most frequently the operating system running a tablet computer that’s not based on the traditional PC architecture is based on a Unix-like OS, such as Darwin, Linux or QNX. Some have 3G mobile telephony capabilities.
In forgoing the x86 precondition (a requisite of Windows compatibility), most tablet computers released since mid-2010 use a version of an ARM architecture-processor for longer battery life versus battery weight, heretofore used in portable equipment such as MP3 players and cell phones. Especially with the introduction of the ARM Cortex family, this architecture is now powerful enough for tasks such as internet browsing, light production work and gaming.
A significant trait of tablet computers not based on the traditional PC architecture is that the main source of 3rd party software for these devices tends to be through online distribution, rather than more traditional methods of boxed software or direct sales from software vendors.
These sources, known as “app stores,” provide centralized catalogues of software from both 1st and 3rd parties, and allow simple “one click” on-device software purchasing, installation, and updates.