Oh tablets – how you have reemerged

When you think about it, the idea for a hand-held device more sophisticated than a notebook and pen is not new.

Consider the Etch A Sketch, with its safely contained aluminum powder and fancy white drawing knobs. What was wrong with a pencil and paper? Well, it doesn’t have knobs and it certainly doesn’t look like television.

Here we are, more than 50 years later, and we’re still looking for hand-held devices, but with quite a bit more functionality and sophistication. Riding the coattails of the iPad’s success, or perhaps leaping ahead (yet to be determined), Blackberry has announced the launch of its foray into tablets, the Blackberry Playbook, introduced Monday by Michael Lazaridis, co-chief executive of Research In Motion (Blackberry’s maker). Mr. Lazaridis called the PlayBook “the world’s first professional tablet” and, according to this article, emphasized that it was fully compatible with the special servers that corporations and governments now use to control and monitor employees’ BlackBerry devices.

A big differentiator is that it will be compatible with flash, and as we all know, the iPad is not (though there’s talk it may be soon.) That means a lot to online retailers who’ve got fancy sites with lots of flash and other sophisticated programming that perhaps they won’t have to compromise.

We still don’t know what the price tag is and when it’s coming – but I’d be interested to know how many of you would buy it. I’m itching to try one out. And for the record, the original Etch-A-Sketch tablet  still holds a special place in my heart.