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by JB Burke

Q. I've been looking for a new laptop, but I see a lot about the new tablet computers. Which should I invest in?

A. There are fundamental differences between laptops and tablet computers. How you plan to use it will determine which is right for you. One definition is as follows – laptops (and desktop/towers) are for content creation, whereas tablets are for content consumption. Laptops and towers have keyboards and mice, sometimes scanners and other input devices that aid in creating images, documents, presentations, etc. The tablet computer generally has none of these, though some of them can be added. The keyboard for a tablet computer is on the screen, which makes typing beyond a search query or a brief note a chore. A keyboard can be added to a tablet, via Bluetooth, but now you are taking away some of the tablet size and weight advantage.

The premier tablet today is the Apple iPad, running on Apple's iOS operating system. Introduced in April, 2010, the iPad quickly created a whole new computer market segment. Today the iPad is in its third iteration, and is among the best (and most expensive) tablets available. Now there are a plethora of competitors, largely running on the Google Android operating system. They are from such manufactures as Samsung, ASUS, Google (the Nexus 7), Amazon (the newly announced Kindle Fire HD), Lenovo and others.

The iPad has the lion's share of the market, and consequently there are more apps (programs) that run under iOS than under Android. However, there are hundreds of thousands of apps for both platforms. Just keep in mind that they are not interchangeable. Many apps are free, and many cost from $.99 to $2.99 each, much less than for typical laptop software.

So – tablets are small and light, easy to carry and use, with convenient touch screens. You can watch movies, listen to music, read books (there are Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook apps for Android tablets), surf the web, and search using Google and Bing. But creating content isn't the tablet's forte.

Published: Courier 9/16/12 - Page 4C