Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Case for Tablets

Having just returned from CTIA and having had an opportunity to try out all the latest tablets, I can firmly state that while the idea of a tablet computer is very enticing, there are just too many shortcomings to get me to buy one.

Typing

First and foremost is the act of typing. Tablets are not made for typing and every vendor concedes this fact. For this reason, there are plenty of third party companies that can fill the void but that simple addition makes the tablet into a laptop/netpad. I concede there are some tasks better that are better suited to a quick tap on a screen rather than navigating through menus but the productivity apps need to be designed for touch screens to push the pendulum over to the touch screen as the primary means of interaction. It all comes down to the type (pun intended) of work needing to be performed as to whether a keyboard is integral to getting things done.

Screen size

I have looked at screen size and the 10” seems to be the optimal size for real work while the smaller 7” versions are great for media and calendar checking but even writing something as simple as this posting would be painful. I know you can zoom in to see larger text but writing on what appears to be a thin column of paper is not like seeing the full width of the page.

Software

iOS or Android are really the 2 choices today with WebOS in the near future. I like having my native tools within easy reach and sadly, I am an Office user from way back. I really like having all the formatting remain intact as I move from laptop to desktop and back. There really is something to be said for having docs appear exactly the way you left them. Today, that poses a bit of a challenge for the tablets. Viewing is not the same as constructing. Today, I do a lot of constructing.

So are there any positives? Absolutely.

Battery Life

Tablets have great battery life. They ought to. They generally have cell phone processors rather than low-power versions of desktop CPUs. CPUs eat power. Not surprisingly, the ARM world of cell phone CPUs has been focused on battery life for quite some time. Intel? Not so much. Tablets have so much more room to hold large batteries that long life is not too surprising. Let’s be real here, most tablets are really big versions of cell phones. The extra space can pretty much be all battery.

Weight

Tablets weigh next to nothing. That is one of the most attractive aspects of the devices. When you schlep a lot of gear through airports or even around town, a 6 pound laptop gets old very quickly. A tablet with a lightweight Bluetooth keyboard looks very attractive after a few visits to my local Chiro.

Coolness

Tablets are the new cool device to carry around and show off. Apple has once again established what it means to own cool gadgets. It is pretty hard to argue with devices that have the sell rate of the iPad. It is clearly a hit.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for me is the balancing of the positives and negatives. Today, the state of the tablet market has me awaiting a different set of features. When I look at the cost of adding the wireless keyboard and case to the cost of just a WiFi tablet, I can buy a decent, lightweight notebook for the same price. Start adding in 3G and the number make even less sense.

Is a lightweight notebook cool? No. Never will be. But it is more functional and expandable than today’s tablets.

Today, I sync my laptop and desktop via Microsoft’s Live Mesh software. Plenty of storage and FREE. Sync’ing e-mail is another matter as I am not running Exchange in my home office. If you have a solution for this, I am all ears. I also rely on USB ports for a variety of devices. I have yet to see a tablet with a USB port. Can you say “power drain?”

The bottom line is that I know what the ideal device looks like and how it works. As the patent for this idea is issued by the PTO, I will be happy to share it with any and all interested parties. Until then, I guess I am destined to not be cool yet still highly productive.

PS. I still use my 10 year old iPAQ phone and its desktop sync, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, Voice, Data, expansion slot, unlocked GSM, apps a plenty, all under my control features every day. Why the technology advancements in handsets have been so slow to materialize is a topic for another day.

3 comments:

  1. I think it comes down to what you are doing, when and where... I find myself reading the news, checking the weather, looking up sport stats, movies, etc. on my phone (Droid). It is easier than a laptop and I can do simple tasks quickly.

    When we downsized, I purchased a nook in an effort to rid the house of books.

    There are no desktops in the house...using laptops for power use and work while traveling.

    All of these changes occurred in the last 18 months. And I am already thinking about Motorola Xoom and a Droid Bionic as I seek the best combination of devices which contribute to my wired world.

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  2. As usual Mark, you summed it up pretty spot on.

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