Two years ago, I would have told you that tablets were never going to take off, because the form factor wasn't conducive for work or heavy usage. Little did I know how far tablets would come in such a short time. But here we are — tablet usage has exploded, and I've come around to seeing the beauty, simplicity, and ease of use of the tablet form factor. Plus, tablet performance, usability, and reliability have made some fairly significant leaps forward. Here are some tablet highlights from 2011:iPad/Android battle for supremacy: This has been great to watch. I'm an Android fan, but the battle between iOS and Android has done one tremendous favor to the tablet industry — it pitted two giants against one another. This battle for supremacy bought serious improvements to both platforms. Of course, each camp will happily tell you that they're winning the battle of the tablet wars, but from my perspective, the clear winner here is the consumer! Hardware: The whole of the tablet landscape has become an incredible power play. We are enjoying tablets with dual-core CPUs, large amounts of RAM and storage, and screens that will knock your socks off. Within the last year alone, tablets have become nearly as powerful as laptop PCs. Networking: 2011 saw the spread of 4G. If you haven't experienced it yet, 4G actually makes a HUGE difference on a tablet. In fact, 4G is just shy of wireless networking for performance. With this network advantage, tablets are a mobile users dream come true. These unprecedented speeds allow users to remain connected no matter where they are (that is, where cell signals are available). Android: The Android platform took giant steps in 2011. Gingerbread went from a somewhat stable, usable platform, to an amazingly reliable and flexible system that allows users to do pretty much whatever they want. The tablet form of Android actually leapfrogged the smartphone form in performance and reliability. That's impressive, considering how much lead time the smartphone version had over the tablet release. Competition: Take a look around you. How many Android-based tablets do you see? Yes, there can be only one iPad, but Android tablets are now everywhere. In fact, many of those tablets are solid entries in the market — the Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Xoom, Toshiba Thrive, LG Optimus, Acer Iconia Tab A500, and many more. This explosion rocked the tablet world in 2011 and will only continue to grow in years to come. Adoption: Many industries adopted tablets in 2011 for various reasons. The medical industry saw a huge growth in the use of tablets. High end fashion and eateries also took the plunge to make the experience all the better for their clients. Consultants of all colors and natures, real estate, auditors, you name it — industries from every cross-section are adopting tablets as their go-to mobile hardware. Applications: Prior to 2011, the majority of apps in the Android Market were geared toward fun or social networking. There were lots of games, but not many productivity apps. Then, around Q3 of 2011, the market grew serious about its apps and business. Now, there's a wealth of solid applications for just about any business or need. Browser improvement: Not one single application improved more in 2011 than the tablet-based browser. Safari, Android Browser, Firefox, you name it — even all those obscure browsers that few have hear of. The browsers on the tablet market made incredible strides in 2011, not only in reliability, but also incredible new features and much-improved performance. Accessorize that tablet: Some of the accessories that hit the market in 2011 made tablets even more accessible. From keyboards, to cradles, to mice, to cases — the tablet accessory market really found itself flooded with outstanding products in 2011. These should be early signs of what's to come to help make the tablet a must-have piece of equipment.
What do you think? What was the biggest improvement in the tablet market in 2011?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.