In 1888, the first patent for an electronic device that could capture handwriting was introduced — a precursor to modern day tablet. Since then, there have been a myriad of attempts to capture the marketplace with tablet-style computers. While innovative, the efforts so far have been commercial failures. Yet Apple, Microsoft, and others intend on stirring up this market. You'd think they were out to replace laptops. Are they?
As we all know, all our gizmos are becoming getting smaller in size. Especially computers. A quick glance at Apple's Macbook Air or Dell's Adamo XPS offers testament to that. Eventually, we will have a laptop that is as thick as a few sheets of paper. How can you possibly improve upon that?
There's Apple. While not being the first company to attempt a tablet computer, Apple has revived the idea that you could chop off the keyboard and add a touch-friendly interface to arrive with a thing we call the tablet (or slate).
We all know how it goes. Once Apple does something, everyone else wants to get in on the action: Dell, Asus, Lenovo, HP, Sony, and others are all scraping together ideas and resources to put together tablet computers, without any proof that they will sell (yet documentation of failure is aplenty). Of course, Apple has a large consumer base that will purchase anything the company puts to market, so this time is different.
Unlike the iPhone, however, the competition is already close on Apple's heels. And there are quite a few noteworthy tablets coming out this year:
The Apple iPad, while not the first tablet, is the reason why this article even exists. This is the hype machine. This is the leader of the pack. The iPad will be the one that is going to be the benchmark for comparison (as fair or unfair as that is) for a long time.
Microsoft's attempt at tablet computing seems to be far more unique and specialized than the other products with the Microsoft Courier. This tablet appears to be aimed at students and professionals who need to take notes, conceptualize ideas, and be productive.
Dell's foray into tablet computing results in the Streak (aka Dell Mini 5). It's intriguing because of the Android operating system and close relationship with Amazon. We are also hoping it will be on the affordable side.
Finally, the Lenovo Ideapad U1 Hybrid is not only a tablet — it is a laptop as well. It is two computers in one. The best of both worlds; the crème de la crème. It should appeal primarily to those consumers who are in the market for both laptop and tablet.
If tablet computers are going to succeed this time around, those are the products you will want to keep your eyes on, after their release, to gauge the interest levels of tablet computing.
Why the Tablet Makes Sense
There are a few reasons why a tablet makes sense in most people's homes. Let's say you are sitting on your couch, wanting to look something up on the Web. Do you really need a full fledged laptop to accomplish this? Not really. For one, you have to go grab the laptop, open it up, turn it on, open the browser, get to the page, and so on. Okay, so it isn't really that bad, but you get the idea.
However, with a tablet, you can just grab the thing, boot it up, fire up the browser, and find what you need. Not only will it take up less space and be less distracting, but it is simply more convenient.
Also, if you have ever sat your laptop on the edge of a couch only to witness it fall to the floor by the gentle nudge of a pet, you'll understand why a laptop for casual use can be a pain.
So the tablet could easily serve as a device for casual use. But what about for serious computing?
Why the Laptop Won't Be Replaced
There are also reasons why a tablet can't, in their current forms, replace laptops.
One issue is that there is no way on Earth that I (or most other human beings) would be able to type out an article like this on a tablet (or any touch screen for that matter). The input, while touch-friendly, isn't typist-friendly. The technology that will allow users to type as easily on a screen as a keyboard has not been developed, and until it is, the laptop will reign supreme.
Also — and maybe this is just me — I don't know if would want to take a tablet out to the local Starbucks to do work on it. It does not seem like a device I would want to take out of the home. I don't know why this is exactly, but that's my feeling towards tablets. Maybe someone else has a different view on the matter, but not others seem to disagree.
I also question the durability of these devices. I've known so many people who have said that they have broken up to four iPod Touch devices, iPhones, and other touch-screen devices. You just have to believe that there are going to be people complaining of cracked iPads. I can already envision someone sitting down on the couch and hearing the crunch of $500+ down the drain. It's enough to make a grown man cry.
But today's newest gadgets are being created to solve specific problems: like eReaders, smartphones, and netbooks. The iPad tablet, along with other competition in the tablet arena, is aimed at being that device that you could (and possibly should) casually use around the home. Perhaps these tablets will set the standard of casual usage in the future (and I don't think many would mind that). However, when it comes to business and text-intensive activities, the laptop is (and will be) king — for now.