Last week, Apple announced it had sold 4.19 million iPads around the world in the last quarter and while it was some ways short of the five million Wall Street had expected, it’s still a big number.

Truth be told, it’s still early days for the Tablet 2.0, but the competition for the iPad is already building up. We’ve seen a flurry of announcements from various companies promising Android tablets by the end of the year. Research In Motion (RIM) announced its Playbook tablet, though previews of it have yet been made available. Last weekend, Hewlett Packard rolled out the business-centric Slate 500, running Windows 7.

Let’s face it, the tablets are coming in thick and fast.

In Malaysia, the first salvos have been fired. Amid speculation that the iPad would be the first to official arrive, the two tablets that have actually made it to our shores first are of the Android-flavour.

First to launch – and credit must go to them – was our very own Malaysian-made CSL Spice DroidPad Mi700. Sporting a 7-inch screen, two cameras, and the latest Android release (Froyo), the DroidPad feels like it’s the little “pad that could”. Retailing at RM1,699, it’s cheaper than an imported iPad (which goes for more than RM2,000).

The second tablet to launch officially in Malaysia (last week, in fact), was the much-vaunted Samsung Galaxy Tab, which sports similar specifications to the DroidPad but has a faster processor, a more appealing design (in my opinion) and some optimised Samsung software.

But this isn’t a column for reviews; and it wouldn’t be fair either as I’ve only had limited time with both Android tablets. The question I’m trying to answer is – is this tablet “revolution” really something? Or is it just hype?

Like everything tech, it comes down to how you use it. Geeks sometimes tend to over-emphasise specifications over usability. The best advice anyone can give you when buying something new – especially if it is a piece of technology – is to think first about how you are going to use it.

When I bought the iPad, I knew what I wanted to do with the tablet. Mainly, I’d like to read on it – magazines, the news, books, even the Bible. Secondly, I wanted something to take notes on and do some simple word-processing while I’m on the go. I also wanted to play games on it.

Beneath the bells and whistles, there are two underlying factors that make the tablet such a compelling gadget for carrying out these tasks.

There’s the “instant-on” capability. Imagine this scenario if you will: You have 10 minutes of waiting time and you’re seated at a restaurant waiting for your friends to arrive. You could pull out your laptop, but you’d waste five minutes waiting for it to boot, and then another five minutes fumbling around to shut it down when your friends arrive.

You could play around with your phone, but really, between the fiddly on-screen keyboard and the small screen size, you’re not going to be very productive.

In a scenario like this, the tablet becomes ideal. Ten minutes is enough time for reading a short article, drafting that blogpost you’ve got in your head, or just browsing the web.

The second big thing about tablets is the form-factor. The touchscreen in and of itself is nice, but the killer feature is really the form-factor it enables – you can hold it like a book or magazine. Losing the keyboard that a netbook would traditionally have brings many new use-cases to the fore. Reading becomes a pleasant experience, and the loss of some heft in your backpack is equally welcome.

In fact, I’ve started leaving my laptop at home in the weekends, relying entirely on my tablet to do word-processing and reading while on the go. The flat form-factor and soft keys aren’t going to make prolonged usage enjoyable, but for short spurts of productivity, you can’t go wrong with the tablet.

Tablets – if my four-week experience is anything to go by – are here to stay. I was skeptical at first as I thought the lack of a keyboard would surely hamper productivity. But as I’ve found these past weeks, the tablet actually fits in nicely into a specific use-case that we’ve always needed for computing on the go. It’s sort of like the device category we never knew was missing until it appeared. And now that it’s here, I don’t think anyone will ever go back.

David Lian spends too much time booting up PCs that his iPad has probably saved him a couple of hours of waiting already. Follow him on Twitter at

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