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A tablet is a flat, portable computer with a touchscreen interface. Early tablets required a stylus or light pen, but most modern tablets allow you to perform actions by simply tapping or swiping the screen. Some tablets allow you to use either your finger or a stylus as an input device.

For several years, tablets had limited success. Then in 2007, the iPhone came along and popularized touchscreen devices. In 2010, Apple introduced the iPad, which brought tablets to the masses. Since then, other manufacturers have released several Android tablets and Microsoft has released their own "Surface" tablet.

While tablets appear similar to laptops, the software programs are different since they are typically designed for a touchscreen interface. Many tablet programs, called "apps," are more simplistic and lack the advanced functionality of their desktop counterparts. Additionally, most tablet software must be downloaded from an online store such as the App Store (iPad), the Windows Store (Surface), or Google Play (Android).

Important: The name "tablet" comes from the traditional definition of a tablet, which is a flat piece of stone or wood, typically used for inscribing words. To avoid ambiguity, tablets are often called tablet computers or tablet PCs.

First Published: March 6, 2013
Last Updated: March 6, 2013

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Definition from the PC Glossary