It's time for tablet makers to stop telling us about their fabulous devices, and start making them available.
I hope I'm not giving away too many trade secrets when I reveal that not all of PC Advisor's news coverage is the result of highly trained, undercover hacks trawling through the waste bins of major tech companies. Sometimes the manufacturers and vendors we write about help us out by sending us information, neatly packaged in a press release (which allows us to give the investigative journalists their statutory hour in the pub each day - union rules, etc).
This is how HP informed us it was intending to release the TouchPad in the UK in, er, 'mid-July'. It was also the medium via which, in retaliation, BlackBerry released launch details of the PlayBook.
I'll quote the release in full:
"Research In Motion (RIM) (NASDAQ: RIMM; TSX: RIM) today announced plans to launch the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet in an additional 16 markets around the world over the next 30 days.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is scheduled to launch in:
• Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
• Hong Kong
The BlackBerry PlayBook is the world’s first professional-grade tablet, delivering industry leading performance, uncompromised web browsing, true multitasking, HD multimedia, advanced security features, out-of-the-box enterprise support and a robust development environment."
Right. Thanks. Thanks for that.
So, to recap. The two tablets from major manufacturers that will bring important new platforms to market will definitely (probably) launch in the next month or thereabouts. As soon as possible, basically. But we don't know exactly when.
Update, 13/6/11: Of course, RIM had previously announced the UK launch date of the PlayBook and, er, we had reported it. Serve me right for being clever. Well, attempting to be clever...
It's an odd thing, but the ludicrous success of the Apple iPad seems to have sent previously sensible, successful organisations into something more than a mild panic. Every PC or smartphone manufacturer has to be seen to have a tablet, even if they're not currently dealing with the messy business of delivering a product to market.
At least the TouchPad and the PlayBook actually exist. In the past 18 months I've lost count of the number of rebadged, me-too tablets I've seen at shows and demonstrations. I can count the number that are actually available to buy on my fingers (and toes).
Special mention goes here to those companies who have 'showed' journalists tablet PCs behind glass cases, with colourful descriptions of the marvellous things they can do (but no launch date or hands-on time). You know who you are. You're fooling no-one.
And still there isn't a tablet that, pound for pound, can match up to the Apple iPad.
All of which serves to illustrate just what a phenomenon Apple's device is. Tablet PCs have been around for aeons, but until the iPad came along it was largely a moribund vertical market. Steve Jobs sprinkles a little stardust and every tech company in the world is scrabbling around to gather some of the reflective glory.
Which is a shame: the PlayBook and the TouchPad are important devices. They bring with them new platforms, with different strengths. BlackBerry could, for instance, take a chunk out of Windows dominance of the enterprise. And with its multimedia chops HP's webOS could ultimately become the tablet brand of 'cool', an Apple alternative that people who wear belts in their jeans can like.
But they have to be here first. And I for one would like to see more, and hear less about, forthcoming tablet PCs (just for a little while).
Remember, you can read all about it here first...
See also: Group test: what's the best tablet PC?