Last year Apple launched the IPad, and it was more successful than anyone thought. This year will be the tablet explosion as Apple’s IPad 2, and plenty of Android versions, will be available. I think the ultimate thought is that tablets will eventually take over laptops, but since this has not happened, why should I invest in one?
It seems as though the tablet has become the new $500 “coffee table book.” Recently, AdMob did a survey on tablet use, and they found that 82% of tablet owners use it only at home. The tablet has become the new casual computer at home for doing some web surfing, reading the news, or playing some games. My laptop can do all of these things and a lot more.
I also understand that a laptop is a little bulky and sometimes you want to do some casual Google searches, tweeting, and facebooking while sitting on the couch, but what is wrong with my Droid X? The only advantage a tablet has over my phone is size. There is no question that 10 inches would be better than 4.3 inches, and yes we are still on the subject of tablets. Is an extra 6 inches worth $500+ for casual internet experiences? Some people will attempt to argue that Honeycomb is an added user experience that you cannot get on your phone. This is true, but only temporarily because we all know Google is going to merge the phone and tablet software. I am perfectly fine pulling out my Droid X to read news, tweet, conduct searches, or check the weather. If I need to do something more sophisticated I can grab my laptop.
If I could replace my laptop then maybe I could justify a tablet, but I can’t, and 75% of tablet owners agree with me. According to a survey conducted by Sybase this past September, 75% of tablet owners do not feel their tablet is a laptop replacement. Apparently they are willing to pay $500+ for a device that they feel does not replace their laptop, but at the same time desperately need 6 extra inches for their casual internet experiences. These people see no problem using their phone away from home for their casual internet experiences, but when they are home they feel the need for a bigger screen. If you are in the 25%, then by all means, get rid of your laptop and enjoy your tablet. I am not.
To me, the best reason to buy a tablet would be because it is more suited for reading books than a smartphone or laptop. If it is books that you are interested in, wouldn’t it make more sense to buy a Nook or Kindle for 1/3 of the price? The concept of the tablet came from digital books.
Lets go back to the late 90’s when the Personal Data Assistants (PDA) grew. Eventually the PDA merged with the phone to make it convenient so you did not have to carry two items. Then the smartphone evolved to add in a camera and camcorder so you did not have to carry those items. Now all of a sudden, I am being told I need to buy a phone and a tablet which are in a sense the same thing except for size. Do I need to carry both devices? Going back to the AdMob survey, the answer is no, since most people leave their tablet in the house. This brings me back to the tablet being the new $500 “coffee table book.” Well, at least for 75% of the owners.
Did the smartphone replace the camera or camcorder? The answer is yes for a lot of users, but not for someone who needs more. A standalone camera or camcorder gives you better quality if you feel you need it. I own a separate camera and camcorder because I have a 2 year old son and I want the best quality pictures and video I can get. If you spend $500+ for a camcorder or digital camera you get a huge leap in quality and usability over what you get with a smartphone. The same holds for a laptop, if I spend $500+ on a laptop, I get the same upgrade in quality and performance. If I buy a tablet for $500+ am I getting the same upgrade in quality over my smartphone for casual internet needs?
So for 2011 we have tablets, smartphones, and laptops. The laptop and smartphone were already around for years. The tablet has crashed the party. Can it continue to grow as the third wheel? Something has to give. It is either going to replace the laptop or somehow the tablet and smartphone will merge much like the PDA, camera, and camcorder merged with the smartphone.
I think the Kyocera Echo and Motorola Atrix could represent where we are heading in the future. The Echo is considered a joke by many, and I would agree, but couldn’t this type of hardware evolve? It is possible that in the future a device could be made that is similar, but have a much better design where you would not see the split between the 2 screens. I have always said that if I could buy a 10-inch phone that would fit in my pocket, I would buy it in a heartbeat. My Droid X is 4.3 inches. If that doubled with a second slide out screen that would be a total of 8.6 inches. That is doable and when I feel like having a bigger screen I could do so easily and yet fit in my pocket.
How about the Atrix? I think it represents a more likely future in that the smartphone is getting more powerful and eventually it will be as powerful as today’s computer. I think eventually we could be docking our phones into tablets. If I could plug my phone into a 10-inch dummy tablet that would make sense. Of course that dummy tablet has to be priced reasonably. The Atrix laptop dock is way too expensive, but I believe the prices will drop considerably over the next few years. With this scenario I could have a dummy 10-inch screen sitting on my coffee table that maybe costs $200, and when I come home from work, I can dock my phone to the larger screen and enjoy my casual internet experiences. I could maybe justify spending $200 for the 6 extra inches.
This may seem crazy to some of you, but 10 years ago did you expect the smartphone to evolve to what it is today? Quad core processors will be out by next year. What do we need quad core processors for? These processors will enable the smartphone to be the central powerhouse for all of our computing needs and they will be available for both phones and tablets, so for the foreseeable future, tablets will continue to have screen size as its only edge.
I am not trying to say that tablets should go away. The funny thing is that I will end up buying a tablet, but not because I need one. It is because I am a gadget freak. I am just not feeling the “techie high” that you get when you run out to buy something new in technology. It is hard to get excited about a third wheel, but as things change, I am sure I will be more excited about it. For now, I am happy with my laptop and smartphone.