In 1987 Apple Computer began its tablet project, which considered release of devices of three sizes, with the one eventually released in 1993, Apple Newton, being the smallest (yet it was quite substantial device with 6" screen and 800 grams of weight).
One early device of a Linux tablet type was the ProGear by FrontPath. The ProGear implemented a Transmeta chip and a resistive digitizer. At the beginning the ProGear came with a version of Slackware Linux, but could later be bought with Windows 98.
Microsoft Tablet PC
In 1999, Microsoft attempted to re-institute the by-then decades-old tablet concept by assigning a couple well-known experts in the field, from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, to the project.
In 2000 Microsoft coined the term Microsoft Tablet PC for tablet PCs built to Microsoft's specification, and running a licensed specific tablet enhanced type of its Microsoft Windows OS. Microsoft Tablet PCs were focused to address business needs mainly as note-taking devices, and as rugged devices for field work. In the health care sector, tablet computers were intended for data capture – such as capturing feedback on the patient experience at the bedside.
Tablet PCs failed to gain market value in the consumer space because of unresolved problems.
The tablet computer market was rejuvenated by Apple through the introduction of the iPad device in 2010. While the iPad places restrictions on the owner to install software thus breaking off from the PC tradition, its attention to detail for the touch interface is considered a milestone in the history of the development of the tablet computer that defined the tablet computer as a new class of portable device, different from a laptop PC or netbook. A WiFi-only unit of the tablet was released in April 2010, and a WiFi+3G model was introduced about a month later, using a no-contract data plan from AT&T. Since then, the iPad 2 has been released, bringing 3G support from both AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The iPad has been characterized by some as a tablet computer that mainly focuses on media consumption such as web browsing, email, photos, videos, and e-reading, even though full-featured, Microsoft Office-compatible software for word processing (Pages), spreadsheets (Numbers), and presentations (Keynote) were released alongside the initial unit. One month after the iPad's launch Apple subsidiary FileMaker Inc. launched a version of the Bento database software for it. With the introduction of the iPad 2 Apple also launched full-featured first party software for multi-track music composition (GarageBand) and video editing (iMovie). As of the release of iOS 5 in October 2011 iPads no longer require being plugged in to a separate personal computer for initial activation and backups, eliminating one of the setbacks of using a non-PC architecture-based tablet computer.
On May 20, 2010, IDC released a press release defining the term media tablet as personal devices with screens from 7 to 12 inches, lightweight operating systems "currently based on ARM processors" which "provide a broad range of applications and connectivity, differentiating them from primarily single-function devices such as ereaders". IDC also predicted a market growth for tablets from 7.6 million models in 2010 to more than 46 million models in 2014. More recent reports show predictions from various analysts in the range from 26 to 64 million models in 2013. On March 2, 2011 Apple announced that 15 million iPads had been purchased in three fiscal quarters of 2010, double the number that IDC had predicted.
Non-Apple post-PC tablet computers
Early competitors to Apple's iPad in the market for tablet computers not based on the traditional PC architecture were the 5" Dell Streak, launched in June 2010, and the original 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab, launched in September 2010.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011, more than 80 new tablets were announced to compete with the iPad. Companies who announced tablets included: Motorola with its Xoom tablet (Android 3.0), Samsung with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab (Android 2.2), Research in Motion demonstrating their BlackBerry Playbook, Vizio with the Via Tablet, Toshiba with the Android 3.0 – run Toshiba Thrive, and others including Asus, and the startup business Notion Ink. Many of these tablets are designed to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Google's mobile operating system for tablets, while others run older types of Android like 2.3, or a completely different OS such as the BlackBerry Playbook's QNX. Other than the Motorola Xoom, by the time most competitors managed to get devices of comparable size and price to the original iPad on the market, though, Apple in March 2011 had already launched their second generation iPad 2.
Hewlett-Packard announced its TouchPad dependant on the WebOS system in June 2011. HP launched it a month later in July, only to discontinue it after less than 49 days of sales, becoming the first casualty in the post-PC tablet computer market. The fire sale on TouchPad tablets when its price was lowered from U.S. $499 to as low as $99 after it was discontinued resulted in a surge of interest. This dramatic increase in its popularity potentially raised its market share above all other non-Apple tablets, at least on a temporary basis.
In September 2011 Amazon.com announced the Kindle Fire, a 7" tablet deeply comingled into their Kindle ebook service, Amazon Appstore, and other Amazon services for digital music, video, and other content. The Kindle Fire runs on Amazon's own custom fork of v2.3 of the Android operating system, and with its use of Amazon's cloud services for accelerated web browsing and remote storage Amazon has set it up to have very little other connection back to Google, aside from supporting Gmail as one of the several webmail services it can get to. At a cost of only U.S. $199 for the Kindle Fire it has been suggested that Amazon's business strategy is to make their money on selling content through it, as well as the device acting as a storefront for physical goods marketed through Amazon.