POSTED: 4:43 a.m. HST, Jan 3, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:02 a.m. HST, Jan 3, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO — Toshiba Corp. is hoping to lure consumers to its new tablet computer by including a screen that is slightly larger than the iPad and offering a version of Google Inc.'s Android mobile operating software geared toward such devices.
Tentatively called the Toshiba Tablet, the device will include a touch screen that measures 10.1 inches diagonally — compared with 9.7 inches on Apple Inc.'s iPad. Toshiba's device will also have the forthcoming version of Android, called Honeycomb.
It will be more optimized for tablets than current, smart-phone-focused versions of Android, by letting applications adjust to take advantage of the tablet's larger screen.
The Japanese computer and flat-screen TV maker is set to unveil the tablet at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. It won't be the only one: A handful of tablets were released in 2010, but many more are expected to be shown off at CES and hit store shelves later this year.
Since Apple unveiled its iPad last January, consumers have been clamoring for the sleek computing device, and manufacturers have started churning out competing products in an effort to capitalize on the iPad's popularity.
Toshiba's Tablet won't be the company's first, nor its first Android tablet, but it will be the first time Toshiba is releasing such a product in the U.S.
Toshiba expects to roll out the tablet by the end of June. A price has not yet been set, but the company believes it will be competitive with the iPad, which costs $499 to $829, depending on its memory capacity and wireless capabilities.
Showing off a nonworking prototype of the tablet to The Associated Press in December, Phil Osako, Toshiba's director of product marketing, said the device will be the first in a family of tablets the company plans to release. That device has a black, glossy face and rubberized back.
The Tablet's screen will be able to show high-definition videos in 1080p resolution, the highest offered on current TVs, and it includes an HDMI port to connect it to a high-definition television. It will also play Flash videos — something Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy Tab can do as well, but the iPad cannot.
Although details of Honeycomb have not yet been announced by Google, Google's mobile head, Andy Rubin, said at a December conference that Honeycomb will enable applications to have multiple views and present information differently depending on whether they're running on a phone or a tablet.
The Tablet will have an Nvidia Tegra 2 mobile processor and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting and a 5-megapixel rear camera.
Osako said it will include Wi-Fi for getting online but won't initially have the ability to access wireless carriers' data networks, as the Galaxy Tab and the more expensive version of the iPad can. Toshiba may eventually work with carriers to add their wireless service to the device, he said.
The Tablet will have GPS and Bluetooth technologies and include a USB port, mini USB port and SD memory card slot.
Besides supporting Google's Android Marketplace for downloading apps, the Tablet will include access to Toshiba's own online market, Toshiba Places, for downloading content such as games, movies and music. It will have the Toshiba BookPlace e-reader and BookPlace marketplace for buying e-books.
Toshiba expects the tablet to be slightly more than half an inch thick and weigh less than 1.7 pounds. This would be a hair chubbier than the iPad, which is half an inch thick and weighs slightly less at 1.5 pounds or 1.6 pounds, depending on the model.
Osako said the company is looking to include a battery that provides seven hours of video playback. The iPad, by comparison, promises as much as 10 hours of Web surfing over Wi-Fi or video watching.
Over the past few years, Toshiba has been a player in the market for netbooks — small, low-cost, portable laptops with less computing power than standard laptops — and Osako doesn't believe the Toshiba Tablet signals the demise of that category.
He said tablets are a quick, easy way to access entertainment content. But tablets have on-screen keyboards, and the regular keyboard on a netbook makes it better suited for more text-intensive things such as writing lots of e-mails and instant messages, he said.
"I think this is going to grow the market for mobile devices rather than taking away from it," he said.