A Boston-based technology and design firm called Tap ‘n Tap is partnering with undisclosed OEMs to develop a customized interface for Android-powered tablets. Dubbed “home Internet devices,” they should be available in the second half of 2010. One device will have a seven-inch LCD touch screen and will cost about $299. Some versions will have 3G and GPS, while others will have just Wi-Fi, according to Tap ‘n Tap founder Javier Segovia who demonstrated the seven-inch prototype for Technology Review.
Rather than a blank screen with a list of icons, Tap ‘n Tap’s prototype has a home page with “portlets”–customizable areas that can showed weather, news and pictures. “A mobile phone spends most of the time in your pocket, but these devices are on the kitchen wall or a table in your bedroom, so we want the screen to be useful other than just being a launcher,” says Segovia.
The prototype has a web camera, can play Flash, and can run more than one program at once. The user interface is smooth and intuitive. A bar at the bottom of the screen can be used to launch applications: web browser, calendar, contact book and a Facebook app. “Tap ‘n Tap’s bet is similar to Apple’s in that we also believe in the power of the third-party app developer ecosystem and the consumer dynamic of downloading apps,” says Segovia.
Yankee Group’s Howe says the issue for all these touch-screen devices will be how much consumer demand there is. “The real questions are, what is the consumer use for these devices, and what essential need do they fulfill,” says Howe.
Developers and analysts agree that this new class of device will most likely be used around the home, and primarily for entertainment rather than work or communications. “We expect there will be around four million devices shipped this year,” says Orr. About 100,000 media tablets were shipped from vendors last year. In comparison, four million e-readers and 35 million netbooks were shipped.