Tablets are not a fad, and I’ve finally decided I want one

Sections: Features, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials

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PCWorld’s Nick Mediati observes that at the CTIA tradeshow in Orlando, FL, it seems like everyone and their mother is announcing a tablet. While it may be easy to dismiss tablets as a fad, given the widespread appeal of tablets like the iPad and the Motorola Xoom, Mediati thinks it’s safe to say the tablet is just getting started, and while the PC isn’t going away anytime soon, tablets have a place in the world.

In a blog last week entitled “Why Tablets Are Just a Fad,” by Mediati’s PCWorld colleague Katherine Noyes said, “As far as I can tell, tablets do not offer any significant functionality that’s not already available on a smartphone or notebook computer, yet they lack critical components like keyboards.” Noyes also criticizes tablets for being too bulky to fit in a pocket or purse, while still not offering anywhere near the functionality of only slightly larger devices netbooks, subnotebooks and the smaller laptop computers.

Commenting, Nick Mediati observes that while both of Noyes’s observations are factually true, she’s missing the point, since tablets in their current iteration are not designed to replace either laptops or smartphones, but are rather a new category of personal computing. He notes that not everyone needs a physical keyboard or wants to lug around a 4.5 pound (or, for that matter, even a 3 pound) laptop, and that for many users who want a portable computing device primarily for reading, browsing the Web, checking e-mail, and watching video, a tablet makes a lot more sense than packing a laptop or netbook with you. The tablet is more compact, lighter, and more comfortable to use for the aforementioned purposes than any laptop or even the smallest netbooks. As Mediati puts it, “… browsing the Web and reading is simply more enjoyable on a tablet than on a notebook.”

Likewise, smartphones and tablets cater to different tasks—handy and convenient when you’re on the move, but with a small screen that makes it less than ideal for longer spells of use, especially for older users. My twenty-something daughter is finding these days that her iPhone has displaced her desktop for most of her computer screen time. On the other side of the coin, my nearly 60-year-old eyes don’t find the iPhone’s minuscule display congenial for Web surfing, or for email, let alone longer-form composition; the on-screen virtual keyboard is just too small for my taste, even though I have relatively slim fingers.

The epiphany at which I’ve finally arrived after a year of “will-I-or-won’t-I?” tablet equivocation is that I really do want a tablet, but as long as I remained stuck in a rut of comparing the tablet’s functionality and versatility to my laptops, the tablet always came up eating the laptops’ dust by a wide margin, leaving me wondering how I could rationalize the expenditure. It was only after I stopped making point-by-point and feature-for-feature comparisons between the two classes of devices, and looked at them from a bigger-picture perspective, that it finally dawned on me that I do want a tablet. It’s not as a substitute or replacement for the work-related stuff I do on my laptops, but as a more convenient, relaxed, and comfortable device for reading, surfing, email, and video watching.

The tablet is limited in many aspects, but it’s just better for that sort of stuff. A large proportion of the “better” is that the tablet dispenses with the relative cumbersomeness of the laptop form factor, which really demands sitting somewhat formally at a desk or tabletop, preferably with an external keyboard and the laptop on a stand, for efficient keyboard manipulation. The ergonomics of using a laptop actually on your lap are dreadful for more than short sessions. There is also the matter of opening and closing the lid, with the consonant fragility and wear issues characteristic of hinged components.

I had been equivocating about whether to buy a remaindered or refurbished iPad 1 at a more friendly price, or go with a new Pad 2. However, Apple settled that by dropping the Canadian price for the entry-level WiFi iPad 2 by CAN$30 less than the corresponding iPad 1 had sold for. That’s still nearly $31 more than Apple’s stateside customers pay at current exchange rates, since the Canadian dollar has pretty consistently closed higher than the greenback for over a month now, but it does tip the value for money balance far enough in the new model’s favor to convince me…and I want a white one.

Now, I just have to wait until the Canadian online Apple Store gets some stock—the delivery wait currently being quoted at 3-4 weeks.

Read Appletell’s iPad 2 review.

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  • mhikl

    Noyes is noise. Pure, simple and stupid. I had fun with my response to her blithering article. A shame to her sex, her species and the universal laws of physics, Noyes is a waste of chemistry.

    Funny that the stupid can write such ridiculous articles, publish them and yet not expect the odds to come back and underline, reinforce, embolden in colour, add exclamations, stars and moons to her silly rhetoric.

    Whom is silly Kate trying to impress. Maybe her bf thinks this way so she figures she has to be supportive. Oh well. I guess women have as much right to be stupid in public as men do.