IFA 2011: war of the small tablets


A Kindle 3G electronic book reader, by Amazon.com Inc., stands between a row of books in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Thursday, March 24, 2011. Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is using the Kindle, unveiled in 2007, to expand into hardware and fuel digital book demand. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg (Chris Ratcliffe/BLOOMBERG)
September 6, 2011

Tablet makers are thinking small, as more companies worldwide look to jump into the 7-inch and smaller market — one that Apple has left wide open.

There are already several competitors, such as the BlackBerry PlayBook, the HTC Flyer, the Dell Streak 7 and the 7-inch version of the Galaxy Tab. But the field may be getting more crowded as companies unveil new partnerships and products at this week’s IFA conference and as more speculation about tiny tabs grows.

Samsung had to pull its new 7.7-inch tablet from its booth display after a German court’s injunction against the device, an order similar to one against the Galaxy Tab’s 10.1-inch version. Apple and Samsung are locked in a legal tussle over claims that the Korean company’s tablets and smartphones copy Apple products. FOSS Patents reported that the company had been showing off the tablet with a sticker saying it was “not for sale in Germany,” but it pulled the device from its display after the latest court order. The company has also introduced the Galaxy Note, a 5.3-inch combination tablet and smartphone with a stylus that Samsung is hoping will be the business community’s new best friend.

The Sony P, the funny, folding-screen tablet that has two 5.5-inch screens, is also making its foray into the smaller tablet market. The screens can be used together or independently, though making them one screen also means accepting a large, black bar in the middle of your display.

Another entry on the international scene could come from Dell and Chinese search engine Baidu. The companies have announced a partnership, Reuters reported, and plan to make Dell tablets and smartphones running Baidu’s flavor of Android. Dell already has the 7-inch Streak, and this may be an opportunity for it to resume the Dell Streak 5.

The most exciting possibility for smaller tablets, however, could be from Amazon.

After much speculation over what, exactly, an Amazon tablet would be like, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler has an answer: It looks like a BlackBerry PlayBook and is a back-lit, full-color version of the Kindle.

According to a Friday report from Siegler, the tablet will cost $250, half the price of the iPad and competitively priced with the Barnes and Noble Nook Color. The WiFi Amazon tablet is running Android, but a custom version of the system that Siegler said is nothing like the Android is out on devices right now. The tablet won’t have a camera, but will be deeply integrated with Amazon services such as the company’s video, app marketplace and, of course, its e-Book store.

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Sony’s new Tablet S: A handsome device with software issues

IFA 2011: Samsung Note wants to be your one and only

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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