Monday, September 19, 2011

Should we keep taking the tablets?

Tablet computing is the current "big thing", with every man and his dog rolling out new tablet PCs to sate the apparent demand.

The iPad is clearly the market leader but there are plenty of challengers to that crown, although none has come even remotely close to delivering the slick, polished, product that Apple has created.

The big question however, must be: Are tablets just a fad?

The answer is "yes and no".

What kind of answer is that?

Well the tablet is a device for "consumers" of information -- which most of us are.

The tablet (of any flavour) is best suited to viewing information created and posted by others -- rather than creating and publishing information of your own.

Yes, the tablet has a nice touch-screen which makes it kids-play to interact with the device but just try to knock out a 2000 word essay on a particular subject or edit some graphics with precision and you'll find that the tablet is far from the best machine for the job.

When you're viewing video, text or other material, you can point, swipe, pinch and gesture to your heart's content and the whole process is silly-simple but I can bet you anything you want, that content wasn't created using the same techniques.

Of course you can dock your tablet and plug in a proper keyboard and a mouse -- but then you've basically got a laptop -- except you've paid more than an actual laptop would have cost -- plus you don't have the almost limitless storage that a hard-drive offers.

Then there's gaming...

Apparently, one of the most popular uses for home computers is playing games -- I wouldn't know, I seldom have enough spare time to even contemplate installing a game.

There are tablet-based games but they can't rival the most popular genre amongst hardcore gamers -- the first-person shooter. Again, you could dock your tablet and plug in a joystick but even then, there just isn't the processor grunt to support those ultra-fast frame-rates and super-fast graphics that games salivate over.

But tablets are portable aren't they, you can't lug around a desktop PC and the average laptop is bulkier than a tablet so surely these are the best option for computing on the go -- aren't they?

Perhaps -- but if you're planning to move around a lot, you might find a decent PDA or mobile phone offers a better compromise between portability and performance. Even a small-screened netbook could be a smarter choice.

So I'm left wondering if, once all the iPad fever dies down, whether we'll see a drift back towards netbooks, laptops, hi-end mobile phones and PDAs.

Perhaps the tablet craze is just that -- a craze.

Or I (and HP) could be totally wrong of course.

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