Are Tablets the Next, Best Thing?

27 Mar 2010|Leigh Marinner

I’m not sure I buy all the hype about the tablet. The reason smartphones have taken off is that you can carry them anywhere easily and have internet access. Laptops took off because they make your office portable. Tablets certainly won’t replace smartphones – they’re just too big. Tablets could take share from laptops, depending on what features are included.

But right now tablets are being touted as having the ability to do everything you can do on your iPhone but with a bigger screen, and especially to offer ebooks. I don’t find that persuasive. A Kindle is a better ebook. And I don’t want a bigger smartphone.

The real advantages of a tablet seem to be the touch screen interface, including the ability to draw on the screen, and a better form factor and lighter than an opened laptop. Being able to draw diagrams and share with people in remote locations is the one basic group collaboration tool that is still difficult, and tablets offer that.

But it is ironic that Microsoft’s Smart Surface platform didn’t end up in this place. It was out first, and offered many of the advantages that a tablet offers. As Wired Magazine and James Fallows said: “Engineers and architects might like to see a variety of data combined in one place as they stand outside a building site. People in a teleconferenced meeting might sketch a design on a touchscreen tablet and have it appear on their colleagues’ devices around the world. Journalists at a congressional hearing might have live-feed windows showing what is being said in other rooms.” These were all things the Smart Surface offered, just with the wrong form factor – a big table.

If tablets do much of what laptops do, and aren’t too much more expensive, then they will start to replace laptops. But what’s so exciting about that?

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