While the entire world (or at least bloggers) seemingly holds its breath for the announcement of a tablet PC from Apple, one might think that touch-screen computing is some kind of shocking new development. In fact, tablet PCs have been around for years, and there are several touch-screen laptops currently on the market that could easily satisfy your finger-tapping needs.
We've always loved tablets conceptually, but in real-world situations their usefulness can be dubious for mainstream computer users--most tablets are actually targeted at hospital, education, or industrial customers. Windows XP's wonky tablet support also didn't help matters (although both Vista and now Windows 7 do a much better job).
The most common type is the convertible tablet laptop, which looks like a normal notebook until you swivel the touch-sensitive screen 180 degrees and fold it down over the keyboard. HP's tx series of "entertainment tablets" is one of the only examples of a convertible tablet aimed squarely at casual consumers (we've profiled two recent versions below).
Netbooks, with their tiny keyboards and buttons, always seemed like prime candidates for the tablet treatment, and the new Asus Eee PC T91is a worthwhile attempt, if you don't mind the small 9-inch screen.
Of course, Apple could easily steal the tablet spotlight with a well-made, easy-to-use device (especially if the company follows the hints in our Apple tablet wish list), or they may announce nothing at all in the near future. And despite the reams of mindless speculation about Apple's tablet plans, one company has already beaten them to the punch, in a way.
The current closest relative to an Apple tablet is the Axiotron ModBook, which takes a stock 13-inch MacBook, and reconstructs it as a tablet, removing the keyboard and trackpad, and replacing the display with a Wacom-enabled LCD and digitizer.… Read more