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A Reactionary Crank Explains Why Tablets Aren't The Future (Part One and a Half)

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Posted 09-29-2011 at 05:39 PM by commodorejohn
Tags future , tablet , trendy

(Split due to character limit rather than any particular logical separation.)

Stuck In The Middle With You

So here's how it is: the tablet is not as good at being a smartphone as a smartphone. It's also not as good at being a laptop as a laptop. In fact, it basically offers the worst of both worlds: the phone's limited software selection, limited and more expensive hardware, lack of a keyboard, and cut-down UI, plus the laptop's increased size and need for a separate carrying case. It's not as convenient as a smartphone because you can't hold it in the palm of your hand, and it's not as convenient for lap use as a laptop, unless you get a case that props it up and folds out a a laptop. It is, in its very nature, a compromised design that can't figure out what the hell it wants to be; both the hardware and the software reflect that.

And yet they're the trend of 2010-2011. The entire industry is rushing all-hogs-to-the-trough to get in on this fantastic new market, yet the product they're pushing can't even decide what its market is. Is it a phone? Is it a laptop? No, it's a thoughtless compromise between the two, and less useful than either. It's a shiny piece of plastic and glass that people will smilingly demonstrate to you can be used (sort of) for everyday tasks (that are already done better by something else.) It is the Abdomenizer of the 2010s, a technically-useful but practically-useless invention that can be yours now, for only $499! Order now!

The tablet computer is another in the long line of hype-driven electronics fads based on a sort-of-interesting-sounding but ill-considered idea that nobody seems to have questioned during the journey from concept to finished product, like the 3Com Audrey if it had had the full force of the Apple marketing machine behind it. There's basically just no reason to have one when the tag-team of laptop and smartphone fills all of its functions better than it does. Enthusiasts talk about the convenience of having only one device, but how many of them do? They still have cell phones, I guarantee it, and that leaves the tablet as simply a poor man's laptop. Why not just have a laptop to go with the phone, then?

Anybody with a tablet either tried to decide between a laptop and a smartphone and got confused, or buys things because they like having flashy new trendy fashion accessories. Either way, in twenty-five years the iPad and its ilk will be sharing attic space with the Abdomenizer.
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  1. Old Comment
    tone007's Avatar
    Sorry, commodorejohn, but I think the tablet is here to stay.

    Once the tykes grow out of the kiddie version, they're going to move on to the real thing.

    -typed while sitting at bar on my $99 HP TouchPad that's been hacked to run webOS, Android and Ubuntu
    Posted 11-10-2011 at 03:50 PM by tone007 tone007 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    commodorejohn's Avatar
    VTech couldn't make a worthwhile product when they were producing $30 kiddie computers with 3K pixels. Their influence on the industry is exactly zero. And who's gonna spring $80 to buy their kid a useless piece like that when they could get them either a Gameboy or a low-end netbook for $70 more? It's too expensive for an educational toy and no good as an introductory computer, and it'll be occupying the same landfill space as "real" tablets in twenty years.
    Posted 11-12-2011 at 06:42 PM by commodorejohn commodorejohn is offline
  3. Old Comment
    tone007's Avatar

    During Microsoft's last earnings report, executives admitted that sales of Windows were sluggish thanks to a dying netbook market. Later, Microsoft Gavriella Schuster, general manager for Windows product management, came right out and admitted that tablets were to blame.

    One tablet in particular is the culprit. Apple sold 11.1 million iPads during the calendar third quarter – a record for the tablet, and the holiday season hadn't even started yet.
    Whether or not they stick around long term, tablets are definitely making a market, and I'm seeing way more accompanying people out and about than I ever saw of netbooks. I hear tales daily of children and parents fighting over the iPad so much that second tablets are being purchased. As media consumption, light internet and gaming devices (don't underestimate the fun of multitouch and a g-sensor,) they definitely appeal to people who'd be doing the same sort of thing on a smartphone but want a bigger screen.
    Posted 12-18-2011 at 05:29 AM by tone007 tone007 is offline
  4. Old Comment
    commodorejohn's Avatar
    Of course they're selling in the short term, everybody and their dog in the tech industry is trying to sell them. It's when the hype has died down and people are left looking at this compromised piece of tripe that they're going to realize that what they wanted all along was a laptop. That's why they'll be forgotten in the long term.
    Posted 12-20-2011 at 11:30 AM by commodorejohn commodorejohn is offline