Google takes on Apple

Google's Nexus One phone and Apple's (alleged) iSlate tablet are merely the beginning of a long battle for world domination. May the more innovative company win

If anything has become clear over the last six months it's that people are chomping at the bit for a new kind of device, one that brings the Web to them wherever they are but without the compromises currently required by cell phones (too small), netbooks (require a table or desk) or Kindle/Nook style e-readers (too limited and goofy looking).

Hence the near delirium that strikes whenever word of a new "Web tablet" arises -- starting with the "CrunchPad/JooJoo," the Microsoft Courier, various alleged Google Android devices, and the Apple "iSlate" (or iGuide, iTablet, or whatever else Apple is supposedly calling it this week). It's the new holy grail of computing: a clipboard-sized keyboard-free device that delivers Web sites, magazine articles, textbooks, TV shows, and anything else you can imagine. Major print publishers are already gearing up for this device, whatever it turns out to be, and the news this month ought to be particularly interesting.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it -- so check out the 10 dumbest tech moves of 2009 according to Cringely first | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Tomorrow Google will apparently unveil not a tablet but its own made-to-order cell phone: the Nexus One. From what I can gather from Web previews, it looks like a really cool phone. But that's all -- not a tablet or a world-changing device, but just a really cool phone. Still, anything you can do on a 4-inch Android-driven touch screen you can port pretty easily to an 8- or 10- or 12-inch tablet.

Today comes news that at CES Freescale Semiconductor plans to unveil its own "dead simple Web tablet for under $200," to quote the CrunchPad's erstwhile daddy, Michael Arrington. Of course, it's just a concept device; announcing something at CES and actually getting a) manufacturers to build it, and b) consumers to buy it are two very different things. (You can ask Arrington about that.) But it's an interesting development nonetheless, if hardware vendors decide to do something about it.

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