Slating the slate

I'm bored by the ridiculous hype over Apple's slate already.

Amid the avalanche of articles and blogs gushing over the launch of Apple's tablet computer, isn't it worth asking if all the hype is really justified?

The idea of a tablet or slate PC - a laptop-type device with a touchscreen - is not new. In fact, Microsoft brought it into the mainstream in 2001. So far, tablets have a limited audience: reports indicate two million shipped last year, while 131 million notebooks were sold. This is unsurprising. Compared to conventional laptops, slates are expensive. Touchscreens are slower to use than keyboards, and battery life is usually poor.

But well before the Apple launch, plenty of journalists were hyping it up, predicting the device would revolutionise the software market, the publishing industry, portable gaming and e-reader design.If technology writers are to be believed, it will also be the death of conventional laptops

Kill all laptops? However great Apple's latest creation, this seems unlikely. Keyboards are faster, less fragile and more accurate than touchscreens. And since the iPhone suffers from limited battery life, and its screen is the major power drain, a tablet device is likely to have the same problem. It's easy to forget, among the iPods and iPhones, that Apple has produced some abject failures, such as its TV set-top box, or the Apple Cube, which sank without trace.

I'm bored by the ridiculous hype over Apple's slate already. Which is not to say that it won't sell by the truckload. Some people would shoot themselves in the iFoot if Steve Jobs told them to.

Jason Stamper is NS technology correspondent and editor of Computer Business Review