CES: Touch and tablets are not for the student market

Summary:Tablet and touch devices will not strike the hearts and minds of the student market, though hybrid part-netbook part-tablet devices could act as a compromise for now.

CES 2011

With tablets featuring as a prominent focus at CES this year, the dust needs to settle before tablet, touch and slate devices can be taken seriously enough by the younger consumer market.

There are three central key points as to why tablets and touch technology, in the form of slate devices, including the iPad, are not designed for the student market yet.

1. Tablets are too expensive. Though the Generation Y have one of the highest levels of expendable income, students and the like are still conscientious consumers and find it difficult to part their cash with devices without a killer feature. Why trade in a MacBook for an iPad when they offer vastly the same function, with if anything a more limited hardware capacity? 

Functional tablets, and not the $99 cheap and nasty ones you get from Walgreens need to drop in price before they appear attractive to buy.

2. Not around long enough for a decent judgement call. These devices are still new, and the younger generation appreciate new technology and still want to get their hands on these trendsetting devices. Yet physically parting with hard earned (or parent-pushed) money on devices that have yet been tried and tested in industry will be too risky for younger consumers.

Again, the dust needs to settle in the market to allow the weak tablets to fail and thus filtering the better devices to the top.

3. Operating system purgatory. With Google Android for the Galaxy Tab versus Apple's iOS for the iPad, Windows 7 for slate devices and Nokia's Maemo operating system for the smaller-tablet larger-smartphone type device, there is a clear lack of consistency and almost too much choice for consumers.

People feel confident with iOS on their iPhone and iPad devices, but that is only because Apple proved it could work. Windows 7 on a slate device may not offer the same experience as a desktop or a laptop. Not only this, James Kendrick questions whether Windows slate devices will even take off in the first instance.

Hybrid devices, however, which merge the laptop and the tablet experience like the Lenovo LePad which combines Windows 7 as the netbook and Android as the tablet, seen at last year's CES show, could offer an interesting compromise instead. Students still need a keyboard. It is an inevitability for productivity for writing and researching for essays and dissertations

Tablets are not devices for productivity. My tx2 multi-touch laptop has a keyboard, used extensively over the touch-screen functions, whereas when using an iPad, the browsing functionality is perfect with an interface designed with touch in mind.

But browsing only offers a fraction of the overall story. The iPad for all it is worth, just to take a more popular example of tablet devices on the market, still punches above its weight with a starting price for $499. The productive student won't even break the $300 mark if they cannot use a device for actual work, instead of the fun features that tablets and slates offers. A netbook, therefore, is still the more tempting option, even if they are lumbered with an operating system they do not prefer.

Would a hybrid device tempt you over a netbook or a tablet?

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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