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Keeping Tabs on the Tablets

by Damon Brown | October 8, 2011October 8, 2011 6:00 am PDT

How many tablets do you own? I have one, an iPad 2, though, technically, I own two, with my preordered Kindle Fire coming in a few weeks. And what if the rumored iPad 3 was announced last Tuesday? Well, then I would technically own three, I guess. Most of my iPad-loyal tech friends have ordered a Fire, too,

I suspect having polytablet relationships is our future. This will become the norm.

What’s interesting to me is how we got here, which, if you think about it, is a situation unique to tablets. Most people don’t own more than one music player, as they probably have a primary iPod, Zune (RIP), or, more than likely, a smartphone. It’s doubtful that you have multiple PCs — well, more than one that you use regularly. Granted, I have a friend who has four fully-functional computers in his office, but he runs a tech startup, which is kind of like someone being surprised that I own more than one dictionary.

But aren’t tablets just portable PCs or, more crudely, giant smartphones? Remember last year, when people accused the iPad of just being a giant iPod? Somewhere along the lines our paradigm shifted. Tablets became this “other” category where it was OK to have separate, but equal devices.

I think we’ll start to own multiple tablets because they are cheap enough to purchase (thanks, Amazon!) and yet diverse enough to justify the purchase itself. For instance, the cult-favorite Microsoft Zune got a following because it allowed you to share music, albeit in a limited way. I argue that the Zune got its popularity because it actually did something different – anything different – than the average music player. Music players play music. Why do you need multiple ones?

Tablets, on the other hand, could become as diverse as smartphones. You have your Wi-Fi only low-end viewer (Kindle Fire), your app-fueled popular device (iPad 2), your super-cheap experiment (HP TouchPad), and so on. The iPad might have started the market, but I have no doubt that it will lose the reigning champ status. There are just too many other things we want to do with a tablet that the iPad isn’t letting us do. Heck, there are things we don’t even know we want to do until a device allows us, too.

It seemed totally logical for me to plunk $199 on a Kindle Fire moments after it was available. I was traveling when it was announced, so I bought it using Safari on my iPad 2. I’m sure I created some type of space-time loophole. But that doesn’t make me an addict, right? Right?

Photo courtesy of adamwilson

Damon Brown

Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...