Tablets are for people who hate computers
By Jason Hiner | July 29, 2011, 4:30am PDT
Tablets are stealing the thunder from PC sales in 2011, but that doesn’t mean tablets are for everyone. For people who are already highly-proficient with a PC, you may be disappointed by a tablet.
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I started using the original Apple iPad the day it launched in 2010. Same for the iPad 2 in 2011. For most of the other high-profile tablets that have arrived during the past year — Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, HP TouchPad — I’ve been fortune enough to get my hands on them even before they were available to the public. For all of these tablets, I’ve been able to experiment with them for weeks, if not months.
This little journey has made the past year pretty exciting with all of these uber-gadgets to work with and write about. But, after working with the iPad and most of these competitor tablets month after month, I’ve come to a bit of a sobering conclusion: If you’re already highly-proficient with a computer then you’re probably going to end up pretty frustrated with most of these tablets.
Photo credit: iStockPhoto/ozgurdonmaz
I’ve come up with a new rule for technophiles who are thinking about which tablet to buy. I’d encourage you to repeat this to yourself. Memorize it. It will either save you money or help set your expectations correctly if you do decide to get a tablet. Here it is…
New rule: Tablets are for people who hate computers
Okay, I know that “hate” is a pretty strong word here, but let’s be honest, there are still a lot of people who are scared, intimidated, or simply averse to using computers. For many of these people, tablets like the iPad are perfect. The interface is self-evident, the user experience is limited and uncomplicated, and there aren’t a lot of buttons and menus to cause confusion (especially with the iPad).
Tablets like the iPad are also great for children. Since most kids are natural touchers, they tend to learn the multitouch interface almost instantly, without any instruction. I’ve seen kids as young as two who have watched their parents use an iPad and quickly learned how to swipe to unlock it and pull up the Photos app and swipe through pictures.
However, if you are a person that is already highly-proficient with a computer and has refined a way of doing things on a PC or Mac that enables you to speed through your most important tasks, then you will probably be impressed with the look-and-feel of a tablet in your hands, but ultimately frustrated that it can’t do a lot of the things you’re used to doing with a computer, or at least can’t do them fast enough.
That’s the same feeling I get with every tablet that I try to use for an extended period in place of a laptop. I continually run into moments where I try to do something and get frustrated because it’s slow, clunky, or impossible to do on a tablet. I always end up just wanting to put the tablet down and pick up a laptop to speed through the task. Examples of normally simple tasks that end up getting really frustrating on a tablet include copying and pasting text from one email message to another, editing a spreadsheet or a presentation, and shortening and URL and then posting it to several different social networks.
As a result, that pretty much relegates a tablet to a companion device. It’s just not going to replace a laptop for people who are already PC-proficient. The best case scenario is that it might replace a second laptop — the old, low-powered laptop you used to leave downstairs in the basement or the den, or maybe on a bedside table. Even then, watch out. There will be times when you’ll get frustrated by the things you can’t do on the tablet. As I’ve said before, tablets are good for two things, reading and Scrabble (or other games).
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of utter coolness with tablets. One time we had some friends over and decided to order Chinese. I grabbed the iPad, pulled up the restaurant’s menu and passed it around for everyone to decide what they wanted. That was cool.
Despite the occasional cool moment like that, I think lots of business professionals and technologists will find that the Amazon Kindle is a lot better for reading books while laptops are better for reading articles since the social tools for sharing and commenting are a lot better. The only real advantage that tablets have is that they are a lot easier to learn how to use and there aren’t as many ways for people to mess them up. That makes them appeal to a lot of people and that’s why Apple will sell 40-50 million of them in 2011. But, I think that techies and professionals who buy tablets will increasingly find that they use them less and less as they reach for their laptops to do stuff that’s simply too frustrating on a tablet.
Exceptions to the rule
Naturally, there are few exceptions to my new rule. Tablets aren’t completely worthless. Here are some of the ways tablets can still be useful for certain people and certain tasks in the business world.
- Field workers - For people who aren’t at a desk all day, but need to go on site and meet with clients, show them photos or illustrations, and get them to simply sign documents, the tablet makes perfect sense and always has. Some of these folks were already on board with Microsoft’s Tablet PC. The biggest advantage of the iPad and the other new multi-touch tablets is that they’re a lot cheaper.
- Single-purpose tasks - The iPad and other tablets can serve as inexpensive systems for doing single tasks like presenting photos (as in a showing for a photographer), serving as a document viewer for large documents, being a survey tool for people to fill out feedback forms, and lots of other functions that you can see if you browse the App Store.
- The meeting machine - For people who are in meetings all day, like project managers and sales professionals, a tablet can be the ideal computer to carry. You can use it to quickly access email, calendar, address book, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. You can take notes with it. You can use it to show off charts. And, there’s also a social aspect to this. There’s just something a little more friendly about having a tablet sitting flat on a table and tapping a few notes on it than putting a laptop between you and the person you’re meeting with.
- Inexpensive kiosks - Another interesting way that businesses can use tablets is to create a low-cost kiosk. The iPad already has a number of apps that can streamline the process. You can set up a video or a presentation on a loop, or create something more interactive. A business could even build its own interactive app and install it as a private app on the iPad or on an Android tablet.
- The truth about iPad: It’s only good for two things
- I discovered a third use for the iPad
- Why iPad popularity is slowing PC sales
This was originally published on TechRepublic.
Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. He is a former IT manager and an award-winning journalist.
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic, an online trade publication and peer-to-peer community for IT leaders. He is an award-winning journalist who examines the latest trends and asks the big questions about the technology industry. He previously worked as an IT manager in the health care industry.
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- A little like the peacock's tail. It's sole purpose is to demonstrate the owner's evolutionary fitness in that they have so much money that they can afford to throw it away on useless but decorative things like iPads.jorwell07/29/2011 04:59 AM
- Reply to
- The Asus is extremely useful in meetings for taking notes, doing presentations and for long trips (long battery life, slim form factor, very light weight). Each have their strengths, they are not mutually exclusive, in fact with proper sync software, they complement each other nicely!.
I was wrong to say the iPad is useless. The peacock's tail is useful for the proliferation of the peacock's genes, but an encumberance for the peacock.
iPads are definitely sexy, while laptops are not.
However you might want to consider, who is in charge, you or your genes?jorwell07/29/2011 05:28 AM
- @jorwell Well peacock tail is not useless and decorative. It earns it sex
Very true... In Apple's case they get money, so it is sex and money which makes the world go round...prof12307/29/2011 07:57 AM
useless to who? you?
there are many areas the ipad is proving it's worth. archaeological digs. geospatial field work. flight manuals for airlines. medicine. the list is long.
but hey, i'm taking up your time. i'm sure you need to get back to that spreadsheet.
- @sportmac .....in what way? For reading or web surfing? I believe you missed the point of the aricle. I have said from day one that these are just toys and not computers. This article said it best, techno phobes are the perfect users.Romas2707/29/2011 08:06 AM
<irony></irony>jorwell(Edited: 07/29/2011 08:50 AM)
- @ Romas27
that you said so.
reading and web surfing eh? i give you a (short) list of how they're being used in the real world and you come back with reading and web surfing? that's the limit of your imagination?
i understand though. since you have said they're toys, and your word being all that, then they can't be used otherwise now can they.sportmac07/29/2011 10:30 AM
- @jorwell waiting for the win 8 to come that will blow the wind out of most tablets including the baby o.s. Ipad. tablets are limited products and android and ipads will remain always children toys. Because they have evolved from phones. Blackberry playbook seems to have an edge over the long run on security and the fact that their platform is entirely new, they did not enlarge their phone o.s.
- @augustus_rome First point no OS stands still today's iOS is far more that the iOS that came with the first iPhone and soon there will be iOS 5. Who know what version of iOS will be out when Windows 8 finally makes its appearance? Nor do we know it's capabilities:)
Second I for one don't think the tablet form factor is a food one for use as a traditional full blown computer. I suppose I could be proven wrong... Still I'm fairly secure in this.
Pagan jimJames Quinn07/29/2011 11:44 AM
This article confirms what I have been saying for months. Read it and see how the "coolest" moments with an iPad for most people are when they pick it up off the coffee table, or shelf where it has been laying on, (or off the floor in front of the door it has been stopping in some cases) and order Chinese food with it. ts cooler then ordering with a PC or laptop because you can actually pass the iPad around with ease, while there are of course ultra simple remedies to that with a PC or laptop, it is not realistic to even talk about passing around a PC, and a laptop would be at least a little clunkier to pass around.
But for Joe Average who spent his $500 on a low end iPad, he may not have understood when he bought the device, but he sure understands now that he has had one for a while, and thats that tablets are awkward, underpowered hobbled devices that are mostly good for ordering delivery.
And looking cool laying on your coffee table, or taking up space on a shelf, ...or stopping a door.
- Both have different as well as intersecting use cases. Computers are better at creating, tablets at digesting it in a portable manner.
- Consider this - Me and my wife are both strong techies... We both develop software and are well versed in both PC and Mac technologies... But when we lie on the couch and want to get some quick information or during the last week when my wife was sick, you know what device came out - iPad2. we would not even think of opening a laptop and surfing when we are lying down on the couch / bed or when we are walking around the house or when we are cooking at the kitchen looking up a recipe. As you have mentioned, the maximum usage of the iPad2, though, is by our 2 year old. She started using the iPod touch and eventually the iPad from when she was 14 months. Anyways, my point is both laptops and iPad2 can currently co-exist, but I see that as time moves on iPad2 gets to be used more.. the PCs would be relegated to development only work
I too am a techie (system administrator, software developer, oracle dba), and I think the problem is that either some people just don't understand the tablets place, and others are perhaps too attached to their desk or lap.
I hear the "a netbook or small laptop would be way more useful then a tablet" argument a lot. Usually from people that have never used a tablet or expect it to be a laptop replacement. But as you say sometimes (many times) your just sitting/laying on the couch, on the bed, sitting at a table, etc... and just dont want to pull out the laptop and have to deal with it. With a tablet you can just pick it up and focus on what you want quickly (check email, fire off a quick email, look something up on the web, youtube, etc..). Not to mention not having to crouch over and stare at a tiny screen on your lap. A few people that have given me the "small laptop" argument have since purchased iPad's after playing around with mine or someone else's for a while.
I have an iPad 1, iPad 2 and an Acer A500. The iPad 1 has become the "house" tablet sitting in the kitchen where anyone can just pick it up and start using it (it gets a ton of use through the day). I use the iPad 2 throughout the day, even when sitting at my desk (even with a mac pro and two displays). The Acer is more of a toy to play with, I have to admit I don't really find much value in it. But I suppose for a techie it can be considered "fun" to install custom roms every few days, just because (and when things go wrong I dont have to worry about fixing them immediately).
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Tablets are for people who hate computers | ZDNet