CES 2011: A Tale of an Android Onslaught
Tablets and Phones Everywhere
The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show was an invasion of Linux and FOSS in the form of a feast of Androids in all shapes and sizes.
While it seems every Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in recent memory has some theme that never really panned out (see 3-D TV), you might want to rethink the trend when it comes to Android. Google's Android attack was in full force at this year's edition with a vengeance. From smart phones to tablet devices of all sizes to Google TV, you couldn't travel the exhibit floor very far without bumping into something Android. For some companies, like Motorola, Android has fueled impressive comebacks. For others, like Sony, it's new territory.
The success of the Apple iPad has lured untold numbers of vendors to produce competitive products. Samsung was the first to make a big splash with their Galaxy 7-inch tablet. Motorola has thrown their hat into the tablet ring with the Xoom and a hybrid phone / laptop device called the Atrix. Many other recognizable names announced tablet products at CES including Asus, Acer, Dell, LG, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Toshiba and Vizio. The key linking many of these devices is Google's Android 3.0 release named Honeycomb. Honeycomb has enhanced user interface and usability features specifically targeted at tablet devices.
When you look at the wide range of tablets announced at CES, you have to try to break it down by differentiators. The first category is existing tablets running Android 2.2. This would include the Samsung Galaxy, which will soon have both a WiFi-only and a 4G-LTE model available. Then there is a group of devices that will release in the near future with Android 3.0. On the low end of the scale are any number of low-cost devices aimed at the price conscious consumer.
Entourage was at last year's CES with a unique dual-screen tablet product sporting e-ink on one side and a color display on the other. This year they showed off a new 7-inch version of the same concept named the Pocket eDGe. Currently shipping with Android 2.1 but due for an update to 2.2 shortly, the device hides a Marvell XPA-168 800 MHz processor and 4 GB of flash storage. The e-ink display uses a Wacom digitizer, making possible things like note writing and text highlighting. It also includes a micro-SD card storage slot along with both full-size and micro USB connectors. Battery life is around five hours for full usage and up to eleven hours of e-ink only operation.
The biggest news from CES has to be the Motorola Xoom. While it was shown at a recent event by Google's Andy Rubin, details had been sketchy. Motorola had plenty of devices at the show for the public to handle. This may be one of the few devices with a legitimate chance of giving the iPad a real challenge. It will be released with Android 3.0 and sports a number of features the current iPad can't match. Motorola's Atrix Android phone, also announced at CES, is not a tablet, but it will connect to an HDMI monitor, USB keyboard and mouse through a docking stand providing virtually the same user experience you would expect sitting in front of a desktop computer. You can also add a portable dock that looks a lot like a laptop with keyboard and display attached.