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Rescuing tablets from the abyss: Can education and field applications save them?

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Video: Hands-on with Apple's new 9.7-inch iPad for education

Tablets may have been introduced as minimalist laptop alternatives that specialized in a few broad tasks, but those days are long in their past.

Rather, there's been a wide range of efforts to play up their value, as they've been assaulted from the low-end by ever-encroaching smartphones. As I noted in reviewing the portable computing announcements at CES, many of the Windows players emphasized convertible laptops[1] instead of detachable tablets.

Read also: How Apple, Google, and Microsoft stack up in education[2]

But that may say more about Windows than tablets. More recently, four major companies introduced new tablets not based on Windows. Of these, only the Huawei Android models[3] -- which will be tricky to come by in the US -- were brought to market with little more than the traditional value proposition for a broad offering. Their main takeaway, borne out by other announcements, is that 8-inch and 10-inch tablets now represent the sweet spot of the tablet market. The former represents the upper practical limit of one-handed use, while the latter provides a balance of portability and screen real estate that somewhat shields tablets from laptop competition.

Review: Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro: A decent Android tablet, but it's no iPad[4]

acer-tablet2.jpgAcer says the Chromebook Tab 10 is designed specifically for education.

Indeed, the other three tablets that were announced last month have also adhered to those screen size ranges. Let's start with Acer Chromebook Tab 10[5], the first Chrome-based slate, coming in at an iPad-sized 9.7-inch.[6] With Chrome OS first gaining support for touchscreens and then support for Android, the operating system has

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