Une tablette tactile1, tablette électronique, ardoise électronique3, tablette numérique4, ou tout simplement tablette, est un assistant personnel ou un ordinateur portable ultraplat qui se présente sous la forme d’un écran tactile sans clavier et qui offre à peu près les mêmes fonctionnalités qu’un ordinateur personnel2,1. Elle permet d’accéder à des contenus multimédias tels que la télévision, la navigation sur le web, la consultation et l’envoi de courrier électronique, l’agenda, le calendrier et la bureautique simple. Il est possible d’installer des applications supplémentaires depuis une boutique d’applications en ligne. En quelque sorte, la tablette tactile est un intermédiaire entre l’ordinateur portable et le smartphone.
En France, la Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie a recommandé le terme « tablette » (ou « tablette tactile ») et le synonyme « ardoise », publiés au Journal officiel du 20 février 20111.
Au Québec, le terme « tablette électronique » est proposé par le Grand Dictionnaire terminologique de l’Office québécois de la langue française2.
L’appareil en lui-même peut être désigné sous d’autres termes comme « tablette électronique », « tablette numérique », « ardoise électronique », « ardoise numérique », ou sous les anglicismes « ordinateur tablette », « tablette tactile PC », « tablet PC », « pad ».
In 1984, the Franco-Egyptian brothers Sherif and Adel Danish introduced the Keyport 300 touch tablet (for 300 functions)6 via a company they set up in the United States, Polytel7.
In 1986, the PBB of Micro-Archi, a French company, was unveiled: a kind of tablet, it weighs 500 grams, has a ROM of 128KB expandable to 640KB via individual cartridges of 128KB of RAM, a lithium battery and allows to keep the information stored for two years8.9.
In 1987, Linus Write-Top of Linus Technologies, Inc., an American company, served as a revolution by transforming handwriting into digital characters at a speed of five characters per second10. Weighing 4 kg, it is the first keyboardless terminal and the first touchscreen laptop with a stylus11,10. Approximately 1,500 copies will be sold for approximately $3,00010.
The first “mainstream” touch tablet was made in September 1989. The GRiDPad, designed by Grid Systems Corporation and produced by Samsung, has mostly found a buyer in large institutions such as police and the U.S. military, in part because of its $3,000 price with its software. Running on MS-DOS, it features a monochrome screen of 640-400 pixels and a stylus12.
In March 1993, Pen Pad Amstrad released its first personal touchscreen assistant, PDA 60013. In August 1993, the American firm Apple released the Apple Newton (which had been presented at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in the summer of 1992 and in Las Vegas on January 8, 199314,15), a personal assistant with a touchscreen without a keyboard and equipped with handwriting recognition software. Equipped with a stylus-driven monochrome screen, it works on the NewtonOS operating system.
The term “tablet PC” was made popular by a product announced in 2001 by Microsoft, and defined by the company as a computer pen compatible and compliant with hardware specifications designed by Microsoft for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, an operating system derived from Windows XP. These computers carry an operating system compatible with the X86 standard defined by Intel. Some assemblers offer models with GNU/Linux preinstalled or without an operating system (Linux can be installed on most models). The Windows operating system is enriched with specific features to exploit the stylus. Microsoft has called these versions tablet PC Edition (e.g. “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition”). Microsoft took advantage of technological developments to bring to life a concept that had existed for several years: for example, Atari had unveiled its ST Pad, an uncommercialized project, years earlier (1991).
In 2007, Apple really created a digital mini-tablet with the iPhone16, pioneer of the multi-point touch interface17, sensitive to the user’s fingers. It will be the precursor of the iPad tablet, launched in early 201018,19.
Since then, Google has evolved Android to the Honeycomb version for tablets only, and then Ice Cream Sandwich, which is available on smartphones and tablets. Sony with Sony Tablet, Samsung with the Galaxy Tab, but also Asus with the Pad Transformer, Lenovo, Toshiba and a dozen other manufacturers are developing touch tablets. RIM also released the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The Windows 8 operating system aims to ensure compatibility with touch tablets20. Touch tablets became the spearhead of Microsoft’s 2012 campaign when Windows 8 was released.
In March 2010, shortly after the launch of the iPad, Walter S. Mossberg, the American wall street journal specialist, believed that the tablet “has the potential to profoundly change mobile computing and threaten the laptop.” In November 2011, Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School, said that with the arrival of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones), light and operating around the cloud, “the PC is dead.” In fact, according to an IDC study, in 2013, 191 million tablets will be sold compared to 142 million PC23s. In January 2014, Gartner published a report confirming the sharp decline in PC sales (-10% in 2013 compared to 2012) to tablets24.
In 2018, tablet sales are down overall, although iPad sales are stable