Tablets are for people who hate computers

Tablets are for people who hate computers

Summary: Tablets are stealing the thunder from PC sales in 2011, but that doesn't mean tablets are for everyone. For people who are already highly-proficient with a PC, you may be disappointed by a tablet.

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I started using the original Apple iPad the day it launched in 2010. Same for the iPad 2 in 2011. For most of the other high-profile tablets that have arrived during the past year -- Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, HP TouchPad -- I've been fortune enough to get my hands on them even before they were available to the public. For all of these tablets, I've been able to experiment with them for weeks, if not months.

This little journey has made the past year pretty exciting with all of these uber-gadgets to work with and write about. But, after working with the iPad and most of these competitor tablets month after month, I've come to a bit of a sobering conclusion: If you're already highly-proficient with a computer then you're probably going to end up pretty frustrated with most of these tablets.

Photo credit: iStockPhoto/ozgurdonmaz

I've come up with a new rule for technophiles who are thinking about which tablet to buy. I'd encourage you to repeat this to yourself. Memorize it. It will either save you money or help set your expectations correctly if you do decide to get a tablet. Here it is...

New rule: Tablets are for people who hate computers

Okay, I know that "hate" is a pretty strong word here, but let's be honest, there are still a lot of people who are scared, intimidated, or simply averse to using computers. For many of these people, tablets like the iPad are perfect. The interface is self-evident, the user experience is limited and uncomplicated, and there aren't a lot of buttons and menus to cause confusion (especially with the iPad).

Tablets like the iPad are also great for children. Since most kids are natural touchers, they tend to learn the multitouch interface almost instantly, without any instruction. I've seen kids as young as two who have watched their parents use an iPad and quickly learned how to swipe to unlock it and pull up the Photos app and swipe through pictures.

However, if you are a person that is already highly-proficient with a computer and has refined a way of doing things on a PC or Mac that enables you to speed through your most important tasks, then you will probably be impressed with the look-and-feel of a tablet in your hands, but ultimately frustrated that it can't do a lot of the things you're used to doing with a computer, or at least can't do them fast enough.

That's the same feeling I get with every tablet that I try to use for an extended period in place of a laptop. I continually run into moments where I try to do something and get frustrated because it's slow, clunky, or impossible to do on a tablet. I always end up just wanting to put the tablet down and pick up a laptop to speed through the task. Examples of normally simple tasks that end up getting really frustrating on a tablet include copying and pasting text from one email message to another, editing a spreadsheet or a presentation, and shortening and URL and then posting it to several different social networks.

As a result, that pretty much relegates a tablet to a companion device. It's just not going to replace a laptop for people who are already PC-proficient. The best case scenario is that it might replace a second laptop -- the old, low-powered laptop you used to leave downstairs in the basement or the den, or maybe on a bedside table. Even then, watch out. There will be times when you'll get frustrated by the things you can't do on the tablet. As I've said before, tablets are good for two things, reading and Scrabble (or other games).

Don't get me wrong, there are moments of utter coolness with tablets. One time we had some friends over and decided to order Chinese. I grabbed the iPad, pulled up the restaurant's menu and passed it around for everyone to decide what they wanted. That was cool.

Despite the occasional cool moment like that, I think lots of business professionals and technologists will find that the Amazon Kindle is a lot better for reading books while laptops are better for reading articles since the social tools for sharing and commenting are a lot better. The only real advantage that tablets have is that they are a lot easier to learn how to use and there aren't as many ways for people to mess them up. That makes them appeal to a lot of people and that's why Apple will sell 40-50 million of them in 2011. But, I think that techies and professionals who buy tablets will increasingly find that they use them less and less as they reach for their laptops to do stuff that's simply too frustrating on a tablet.

Exceptions to the rule

Naturally, there are few exceptions to my new rule. Tablets aren't completely worthless. Here are some of the ways tablets can still be useful for certain people and certain tasks in the business world.

  • Field workers - For people who aren't at a desk all day, but need to go on site and meet with clients, show them photos or illustrations, and get them to simply sign documents, the tablet makes perfect sense and always has. Some of these folks were already on board with Microsoft's Tablet PC. The biggest advantage of the iPad and the other new multi-touch tablets is that they're a lot cheaper.
  • Single-purpose tasks - The iPad and other tablets can serve as inexpensive systems for doing single tasks like presenting photos (as in a showing for a photographer), serving as a document viewer for large documents, being a survey tool for people to fill out feedback forms, and lots of other functions that you can see if you browse the App Store.
  • The meeting machine - For people who are in meetings all day, like project managers and sales professionals, a tablet can be the ideal computer to carry. You can use it to quickly access email, calendar, address book, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. You can take notes with it. You can use it to show off charts. And, there's also a social aspect to this. There's just something a little more friendly about having a tablet sitting flat on a table and tapping a few notes on it than putting a laptop between you and the person you're meeting with.
  • Inexpensive kiosks - Another interesting way that businesses can use tablets is to create a low-cost kiosk. The iPad already has a number of apps that can streamline the process. You can set up a video or a presentation on a loop, or create something more interactive. A business could even build its own interactive app and install it as a private app on the iPad or on an Android tablet.

Also read

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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166 comments
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  • The iPad is a display only device

    A little like the peacock's tail. It's sole purpose is to demonstrate the owner's evolutionary fitness in that they have so much money that they can afford to throw it away on useless but decorative things like iPads.
    jorwell
    • The complement each other

      The Asus is extremely useful in meetings for taking notes, doing presentations and for long trips (long battery life, slim form factor, very light weight). Each have their strengths, they are not mutually exclusive, in fact with proper sync software, they complement each other nicely!.
      Uralbas
      • Message has been deleted.

        jorwell
      • Asus

        @Uralbas Agreed. Although Polaris Office is goofy, the keyboard actually works. I ditched the netbook for this tablet and don't regret it.
        Chris Blessing
      • Agreed. Love my Transformer

        @Uralbas I've got some 30 years as an IT pro. I'm an engineer that designs server clusters now, but my degree is in programming. And I absolutely adore my Android tablet - it's almost never out of arm's reach. Not frustrating at all - quite the opposite.

        Don't know what Jason's going on about here, but most of the tech geeks I know cherish their iPads and Android tablets. It's an apps platform like a phone, that's actually big enough to use well.
        symbolset
    • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

      @jorwell Well peacock tail is not useless and decorative. It earns it sex
      browser.
      • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

        @browser.
        Very true... In Apple's case they get money, so it is sex and money which makes the world go round...
        prof123
    • really

      @jorwell
      useless to who? you?
      there are many areas the ipad is proving it's worth. archaeological digs. geospatial field work. flight manuals for airlines. medicine. the list is long.
      but hey, i'm taking up your time. i'm sure you need to get back to that spreadsheet.
      sportmac
      • huh?

        @sportmac .....in what way? For reading or web surfing? I believe you missed the point of the aricle. I have said from day one that these are just toys and not computers. This article said it best, techno phobes are the perfect users.
        Romas27
      • I keep forgetting those tags

        @sportmac

        <irony></irony>
        jorwell
      • gee, that's fine

        @ Romas27
        that you said so.
        reading and web surfing eh? i give you a (short) list of how they're being used in the real world and you come back with reading and web surfing? that's the limit of your imagination?
        i understand though. since you have said they're toys, and your word being all that, then they can't be used otherwise now can they.
        sportmac
      • Message has been deleted.

        Cayble
      • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

        @sportmac http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-26/apple-ipads-shunned-by-japanese-salarymen-hanging-on-to-laptops.html
        check out this article people are realizing slowly for what the ipad is worth, just a toy.
        augustus_rome
      • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

        @Cayble You do realize don't you that when you insist on wearing blinders and only seeing what is in your narrow view, pretending the rest of the world exists within that narrow view, you only present yourself as an idiot. I would assume you are actually not an idiot because your post was fairly well written but it does make you sound like an idiot. Now you?re supposed friend that was disappointed on day one with his purchase of an iPad actually does sound like an idiot.

        What you need to realize is that there is a VAST world out there and the VAST majority don't live within the narrow view of how you think things should be. You are correct that the majority of iPads were purchased by the general public but you are wrong to make the assumption that they needed/wanted them for work. The simple fact that you are to narrow minded to find a use case don't not mean that everyone else is as well. I bought an iPad for my wife for Christmas last year and it has served its purpose very well. I bought it for her to check email, surf the web, play games, read books, watch movies and so on. It has served this purpose very well and continues to do so yet at the same time has crept into both her and my work needs. It was not purchased for work related tasks but guess what, it has served some of those purposes very well. Maybe it?s just a matter of our openness to try new things or not having small minded hatred for things we don?t either understand or like that allows us to try new things. The tablet was a new thing to us and has been a great investment. Yes, I called it an investment. If in my opinion I have gotten more out of something that I spent on it then I consider that an investment and the iPad has provided far more value in less than a year than I spent on it.
        non-biased
    • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

      @jorwell waiting for the win 8 to come that will blow the wind out of most tablets including the baby o.s. Ipad. tablets are limited products and android and ipads will remain always children toys. Because they have evolved from phones. Blackberry playbook seems to have an edge over the long run on security and the fact that their platform is entirely new, they did not enlarge their phone o.s.
      augustus_rome
      • A couple things about tech you might have missed:)

        @augustus_rome First point no OS stands still today's iOS is far more that the iOS that came with the first iPhone and soon there will be iOS 5. Who know what version of iOS will be out when Windows 8 finally makes its appearance? Nor do we know it's capabilities:)<br><br>Second I for one don't think the tablet form factor is a good one for use as a traditional full blown computer. I suppose I could be proven wrong... Still I'm fairly secure in this.<br><br>Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • Apps platform like a phone, only better

        @augustus_rome You're right about that at least. Windows 8 will finally quell the 15-year sales drought of Windows Tablets? I don't think so. Windows Tablets are the product you sell to the obnoxious customer you don't want to ever see again. One hit of Microsoft Tablet goodness and they'll darken your door nevermore.

        The blackberry tablet is widely regarded as a clean miss - a whiff. It's not going anywhere either. I don't know where you're going with this - trying to get the bar low enough for your precious Windows 8 tablet to crawl over it?
        symbolset
      • RE: Are tablets are for people who hate computers?

        @augustus_rome
        I have an <a href="http://www.dealingway.com/Wholesale-tablet-pc_c253">android tablet</a>. It is very wonderful.
        gavin.chan
    • The nail has been hit on the head.

      @jorwell

      This article confirms what I have been saying for months. Read it and see how the "coolest" moments with an iPad for most people are when they pick it up off the coffee table, or shelf where it has been laying on, (or off the floor in front of the door it has been stopping in some cases) and order Chinese food with it. ts cooler then ordering with a PC or laptop because you can actually pass the iPad around with ease, while there are of course ultra simple remedies to that with a PC or laptop, it is not realistic to even talk about passing around a PC, and a laptop would be at least a little clunkier to pass around.

      But for Joe Average who spent his $500 on a low end iPad, he may not have understood when he bought the device, but he sure understands now that he has had one for a while, and thats that tablets are awkward, underpowered hobbled devices that are mostly good for ordering delivery.

      And looking cool laying on your coffee table, or taking up space on a shelf, ...or stopping a door.
      Cayble
      • Yeah except that is not what I hear from actual users:)

        @Cayble Granted you can find people who purchased a smart phone who never use it for anything but a phone. You can find tons of people over the years who bought exercise equipment only to end up using said equipment as a place to drape clothing on or sell at lawn sales. People have bought full blown computer systems that today only gather dust. To this I'm certain that some people do not make good use of their tablets. Like that is news:). However what I find strange is all the examples given in countless articles of people and businesses making good use of their tablets that you simply ignore. That is just weird!

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn