This year has been dubbed "The Year of the Tablet" for good reason. In addition the much-hyped April 3rd release of the Apple iPad, the company responsible for the design of many of these devices believes fifty other products will be introduced in 2010. While most people aren't familiar with ARM, this company licenses the right to its processor design to the majority of smart phone and tablet computer makers. Many of these devices will use mobile operating systems similar to those used by smartphones today. A few tablets will be be based on the Windows OS and some will use the Intel Atom processor which is at the heart of most netbooks.
While tablets have been around for twenty years and Microsoft introduced their mobile OS in 2001, these early models have been primarily used in specialized fields such as healthcare where they could replace a chart, clipboard or PC at the bedside. It's possible to get confused at this point since "tablet" also refers to totally unrelated drawing devices used with a "pen" by graphic designers - a "graphic tablet".
While some people couldn't imagine using anything less than a full operating system like Windows or MacOS, differences in mobile and desktop computing are forcing a second look at OS technology. Desktop (and laptop) computers are based on keyboard input and mouse control. For most people they also involve a small number of very complicated programs; the latest version of MS Word has 1,500 commands and Excel has a similar number. In contrast smartphones and their new cousins, tablets, use touch screens for the user interface (UI) and a large number of simple programs (apps). In addition smartphones and many tablets will incorporate GPS, music, video and game applications that are very different from the desktop PC model.