Opinion Articles

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tablets aren't real computers... and that's why they're so popular

Mark Bridge writes:

As any Star Trek fan knows, Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer. The crew of the Enterprise regularly used handheld devices that looked remarkably like an electronic clipboard... or an iPad. In fact, engineers in the 1960s were working on tablet devices as the original Star Trek series first aired.

Then there were the Microsoft Tablet PCs from around ten years ago. I bought one - an Acer TravelMate - as my main computer and loved it. I even loved the special pen that was needed to write on the screen.

Yet when Apple launched the iPad last year, CEO Steve Jobs said “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices”. A distorted view of reality?  A not-so-subtle dig at the iPad’s predecessors?

Not necessarily.

My current laptop is a great piece of kit. It takes care of my email and my documents, handles audio editing for our podcasts, lets me play with photos and videos and even offers me phone calls.

Contrast that with an iPad, which could also do all those things. Just not necessarily at the same time.

Now, when I’m working at my desk, I want a powerful computer. But when I’m writing a blog post while watching TV, it’s not so important. When I’m watching TV and want to make a few notes, I’d rather have something that switches on quickly. That’s when the so-called ‘media tablet’ is a winner. Without the complexity of a PC operating system to slow it down, it’s on in seconds.

This type of usage was noted in recent research from the Nielsen Company in the USA, which said that 30% of tablet usage is when watching TV and 21% is in bed.

And it’s expected to continue, with iSuppli forecasting media tablet shipments to be ten times larger than PC tablet shipments in the next five years. A total of 888.7 million media tablets will be shipped from 2010 to 2015, compared to 88.8 million PC tablets. PC tablet shipments are expected to grow at a slightly faster rate - but you probably won’t really notice.

One day, all computers will switch on quickly. One day, I’ll be able to choose my preferred interface - whether touch-screen, speech control, eye control, brain control... or mouse. Until then, tablets would seem to have a secure future.

iSuppli tablet device shipment forecast


Author: The Fonecast
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