But a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and this side of the pond the Kindle Fire has become an accepted standard bearer for the tablet computing brigade. There's been a few iterations on the way, partly so that Amazon can firm up its control over the heavily cloaked Android OS, partly to make sure that they deliver a market beating product.
And what a market that is turning out to be. Google, owners of the Android system, have set themselves up as an almost premium retailer of tablets with the Nexus range. I'd wholeheartedly support their position if it wasn't for the fragility of the screen and the cost of repairing it. I'm not going to go into this here - I've written plenty of blog postings for you to read through about my experience of the Nexus 7 if you want to read about it - but just to warn potential users that the screen does break and replacements are more expensive than the whole device.
Then there's the Samsung Galaxy range of tablets - pricey compared to many but very popular. They appear to be well made and robust. I haven't heard of anyone needing to have the screen changed but have seen quotes and they are a fraction of the Nexus prices. Let's not forget that Apple make a few tablets, too. In fact Apple can claim to be the disruptor of the industry, effectively changing the course of computing with the introduction of the iPad. While the iPad didn't - and still doesn't - replace real computers for real computing tasks (most tablets don't), it has managed to crush PC sales year on year. Part of that is because a PC that was adequate five years ago is still adequate, whereas historically after five years it should have been a candidate for recycling.
Of course Microsoft have been dragged into the tablet world, seemingly a little reluctantly, but are poised to either claim the tablet world for themselves or die in a ball of flames. The jury is out at the moment but having used a Surface RT for about six months now I'm pretty impressed with the combination of tablet convenience coupled with access to real world computing software such as Microsoft Office. Although the RT is as expensive as an iPad it is way more functional. This blog has been typed on it as have about 50,000 words towards the two novels I'm working on. So far there is no sign of wear or malfunction in the keyboard and my work-in-progress novels are nicely stored in the Microsoft cloud. The main drawback for me, using RT, is the lack of third party apps - all software has to come via Microsoft and for the RT version it is still limited. I've also tried the full fat version of the Surface, the Pro. That is more flexible than the RT in terms of software but you have to buy the Office suite as an extra, it costs nearly twice as much as the RT anyway and is significantly heavier than the machine I'm using. Bring down the cost and weight and slip Office on as a freebie and Microsoft might just tip the scales...
On top of all this is a plethora of cheap, no-name Android tablets that are probably worth considering if you don't want to pay a premium price to see what the fuss is all about, or if you want to get the kids a tablet that won't cause you sleepless nights because of the cost.
However the real tablet war is not based on productivity, it's based on convenience. Which is why so many tablets are seven inches - it's such a perfect size for slipping in your jacket, bag or rucksack ready for whipping out and surfing the net or reading a book at a moments notice. And that is one area Amazon have focussed on - with increasingly better versions of the Kindle Fire culminating in the release a little while ago of the new Kindle Fire HDX - better, clearer, faster than ever before. Or so Amazon say. However anyone buying the predecessor Kindle Fire HD a few weeks ago wouldn't have been too disappointed - it's a well specified machine that has just been superseded. A tad irritating if you've just bought one, I guess, but then again such is life.
But my view is that the HD version wasn't a bad device - in fact it was a very good device - and it seems that Amazon have a few left on their hands. If you mosey on down to the Amazon website in the next few days you will find that they are selling the 'old' HD model for just £99 dead, £60 less than a few days ago. No catch, no tricks, just a good promo. You'll have to pay £10 more if you don't want the ads popping up, but from what I've seen most people don't even register them. I don't know if Amazon are putting similar offers in their other regions, it may well be worth checking their local website.
Of course, if you were one of those who paid £160 a couple of weeks ago for a HD, the price drop will just rub salt in your wounds. I sympathise, but that's the problem with technology and the pace of change. On top of all that the Christmas tablet war hasn't even started! It's become an annual mantra that this is going to be the year of the tablet, I think we're to the right of that point now.
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