The dirty little secret about tablets

The dirty little secret about tablets

Summary: Tablets are the hottest thing currently in the mobile sector, but there is a dirty little secret that Apple and other companies don't want you to know about them.

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Updated: There are a lot of pixels devoted to tablets on web sites like this one that cover mobile technology, as the thin slates are the apple of everyone's eye. The coverage and resulting discussion about them often deal with which tablet is better than the others, and which platform is preferable for this type of device. Tablets are fun and I admit I am a sucker for them, having owned more of them than I care to admit. All of the tablets on the market today have one dirty little secret that the manufacturers hope you never discover. Nobody really needs one.

Tablets are cool devices that make users feel good when using them. This is by design because gadgets used in the hands evoke a very personal response from the owner. There is something almost mystical  about having a powerful computer in hand that can tap into the vast Internet as well as any computer on a desk. The ability to watch videos that range from kitty videos on YouTube to blockbuster movies from Hollywood is heady indeed. These are feel good activities, and the tablet excels at performing these and other fun activities for the owner's enjoyment.

The truth is that no one really needs a tablet. They don't replace any one piece of technology already in place. They can't fully replace a laptop, although one of the first things new tablet owners attempt is leaving the laptop at home. They usually don't do that for long before they return to throwing the laptop in the bag. They probably toss the tablet in there too, after all it is so darn cool, but they need the laptop for many work things.

Tablets don't replace the smartphone either, in fact most of the things you can do on a tablet you can do on most phones available today. Of course the tablet has that nice, big shiny screen, and that is why we prefer them over smartphones. And rightly so, as tablets are so much cooler.

Tablets are great gadgets to use while sitting on the couch at home in front of the TV. Surveys show that's usually where they are used by most who own them. Not on the plane, or at the beach, or some other exotic location, but on the couch at home. They are great fun to use this way, I do it all the time. But if I am honest with myself I don't need it for this. I do enjoy this, and as long as we tablet buyers aren't depriving our families of necessities there is nothing wrong with that.

Don't get me wrong, it's great to use a tablet in all of those exotic places and on the couch. I enjoy my tablets (yes I have several) a great deal and can usually be spotted with one of them in my hands. But do I absolutely need a tablet? Not at all. That is the dirty little secret Apple, Google, Samsung, Motorola, Acer, and ASUS (among others) don't want you to know. They have too many of these magical slates to sell.

Update: While most users don't need a tablet as stated in this article, there are good uses for them in healthcare. Many medical providers are now using tablets in therapy for autistic children, stroke victims and other patients. These uses are becoming more commonplace, and proof that in this area tablets are serving a great need.

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Image credit: Flickr user takomabibelot

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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204 comments
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  • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

    Sure I could do without my iPad, but I use my iPad (it was my iPod touch before) MORE than my Tablet PC & Android phone COMBINED!
    tom@...
    • It's called stating the obvious...

      @tho@... but when it comes down to it the dirty little secret is that no one "needs" a laptop or a cellphone or a TV or a car.. or any of our modern conveniences.. but they are sure nice..<br><br>Lots of faulty logic in the article too.. does a microwave oven replace a conventional oven.. nope.. does it need to to provide utility and for people to buy it? Nope! probaly 90% of people have both because there are nice things about both that one does better than the other..
      doctorSpoc
      • Truth is no one NEEDS technology

        @doctorSpoc You don't need your cellphone, smartphone, TV, computer, digital watch, etc.

        But people enjoy the CONVENIENCE that this devices provide. Being either to improve efficiency or for personal entertainment, it is more for the convenience and not for the need.
        wackoae
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @doctorSpoc <br><br>Well said!! Not sure why one needs to cancel out the other first to succeed. Like you've said we still have both stoves and microwave in our homes, performing specific tasks. The microwave did not cancel out the traditional stove, it just created a whole new category for itself with new use cases. Same thing the iPad is doing.<br><br>Jobs introduced the iPad as a third category in a space snuggled between the laptop and our smart phones. He were betting that there's room for a <b>third category</b> of modern tablet devices in the middle, not necessarily as a replacement. But in order for it to succeed, the iPad needs to 'perform a list of specific tasks better than the PC, otherwise it has no reason for being' (Apple's internal goal). Browsing the web, email, photos, video, music, games, eBooks. These are all activities I found myself enjoying more and more on the iPhone (and iPod Touch) even before the iPad came along. And was hoping Apple would finally release that long rumored large screen tablet, running the same light, fast and intuitive OS. I fund myself reaching for the iPhone or iPod Touch to quickly check emails, browse the web on the couch, play casual games, social apps etc. The iPad made the experience even better.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxWEpp206lg
        dave95.
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @doctorSpoc..i totally agree with you..awesome response!!
        primerochoice@...
      • Short sighted.

        @doctorSpoc

        OK. Lets see if I follow your argument before it goes down in flames.

        It sounds like your saying that there is a relatively tight comparison to the need for a microwave as compared to the need for a tablet. A microwave does oven like things, but yet it does not replace the oven, yet most people consider a microwave to be a very important device in their homes. A tablet does computer like things, yet it does not replace a computer, still, like the microwave, people should consider a tablet to be a very important device in their home.

        A slightly compelling argument, but massively flawed, almost due to one major difference.

        Price.

        To purchase a decent microwave oven, you can get one for well under $100, and for about $200 you can get a very good one. If you spend as much as $500 on a microwave it can practically replace an oven, at least in some cases. The major point being that for $100 you can get a microwave that will do pretty much what people want a microwave to do.

        To get into a iPad its going to cost you $500+, and no, it doesn't come close to replacing any computer. Thats just way way too much money for what it does. Its unreasonable; not to say the cost isn't supported to the degree that tablets are not cheap to make, but the end results don't justify the costs.

        If an iPad was $125 for the cheap model, I would buy one. I'm sure it could come in handy from time to time. Not ever for $500.

        Secondly, while a microwave does "oven like" things, it does do some very very handy things in the kitchen that would be so impractical, or difficult for a standard conventional oven to do that a microwave oven can truly stake a claim to bringing significant brand new capabilities to the table.

        Microwaves are great at heating up or reheating liquids so its the fastest and smartest move to use one for reheating a cup of coffee or tea, perhaps a cup of soup. A standard oven just doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing at all. defrosting foods is a microwave specialty, with a bit of practice it can be done quickly and almost perfectly. Defrosting in a conventional oven is a completely different proposition entirely, and its not really a good proposition. The fact is that a microwave can boast a number of abilities that due to its completely different way of heating then a regular oven, makes it an often significantly different device then a conventional stove. And that is likely why people think of the microwave as an important part of their kitchen, even though they already have a stove.

        Tablets on the other hand really only have one thing they can do thats completely impractical to do on a desktop. Thats mobility. Given. Admitted. But not enough on its own, particularly when there are these things called netbooks which are just about as portable as a tablet and can usually do more. For less money.

        The problem with a tablet, as compared to the microwave issue, is that a tablet really is doing the exact sort of thing that can be done pretty much exactly the same way on just about any computing device (absent the mobility in a desktop of course). Its not really bringing anything particularly new to the table. In fact, what it is brings is actually LESS of what we have come to rely on for our computing purposes.

        The entire attraction to tablets seems to be very largely based on the "sexyness" of the form factor, which again, oddly enough in many circumstances actually can make a tablet more awkward to work on at times then a laptop for example.

        The fact is that a tablet is not like a microwave at all. A microwave is different enough then a conventional oven and does some things a conventional oven would be either horrible at or not be able to do right at all.

        The current crop of tablets truly are more like a toaster oven. And recognizing that can properly lead one to understand why many people have no idea why the average person would own one. Thats not to say, nobody should want to own a toaster oven, toaster ovens have an additional feature that tablets do not; the under $100 price tag for a really good one.

        If you went to an appliance store and said "show me all about these here toaster ovens, I'm thinking of buying one", then they said, well, they cook just about the same way as an oven does, but they are smaller, they will run into problems cooking larger things without really taking care, they can get very messy without frequent cleaning if you use them much, but they can make pretty good toast, and your going to find they just are not going to be very practical at all, if not impossible for cooking truly big meals. And by the way, the cheap one starts at $500.

        Your response (unless your rich) would be, I already have a toaster for toast, I have a conventional oven, a microwave, gee, I cant fathom spending $500 on something that replicates pretty much what I can do already, and it cant do much of what I can do already. Call me when the price goes below $100.

        And that my friend is the tablet conundrum.
        Cayble
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @Cayble: As Apple has sold over 25 million iPads, and their iOS business is outselling Dell and HP's PC businesses combined, I don't think Apple has a tablet conundrum at all. The conundrum exists within the minds of incredulous tech-minded onlookers who don't understand why the vast majority of the market doesn't think the way they do, and who don't understand the appeal of tablets (or, more specifically, the iPad). But fortunately, you don't have to buy one! Problem solved.
        paferg
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        Well, my OLD cell phone lead to my new TREO 650, WOW! what a difference, lead to my G1, lead to my 2.3.4 Android device. SO, if history repeats itself, having "cool" things drives the market to "Build it and they will come" kind of flow that lead to Smartphone. I see the Tab as a step, as "cool" items gain traction, towards the Laptop/Workstation moving towards the CMP, WANG, 64K PC's, etc., (if anyone still remembers these) replacements. Next year Quadcore Tabs, Raw power with Memory just like history, evolution or die....
        davidhere
      • A couple flies in the ointment

        @Cayble ...<br><br>I see your concerns over the cost of an iPad, but cost is subjective. You consider $500 for a tablet "too expensive", but others may have no such concern. A $100 (or cheaper) microwave can make popcorn and heat water and do microwave-y things, but it lacks all the higher-end bells and whistles. What you've described is a Nook or a Kindle or one of the plethora of other eReaders and baby tablets ... which DO sell for less. But they typically haven't had enough functionality, nor have they functioned in a similar-enough manner to the iPad, to become popular (40 million units per year popular, that is).<br><br>To me, the flaw in your logic is exemplified if you consider comparing a moped to a Chevy Cruze: By your logic, the moped should be perfectly suitable for getting you to work -- after all, it's efficient mechanized transportation. That is ... unless it's raining ... and you might show up with dead bugs on your clothing ... and they have no cargo space to speak of, and they're slow, and no capacity for allowing passengers to share the ride with you, and no heater or a/c ... and no radio, etc.. But, hey, they're both motorized vehicles, right? So why should I pay $18,000 for a Cruze when I can just spend $250 on a used moped off Craigslist and $20 bucks on rain gear at Walmart?<br><br>But folks don't rush out to buy mopeds for their daily transportation needs, because they WANT the conveniences that the Cruze (or any other car) offers. They've already made that leap that they need to show up to work clean and dry.<br><br>Tablets are kinda like that.<br><br>People who don't use email constantly probably don't need one. Same goes for folks who don't use Facebook fanatically, or web browsers, or whatever other tech affliction tablet-receptive people have. If you don't use your laptop or desktop much, you probably won't need a tablet much either. Just like if you don't need to drive to work each day, you might not need a car.<br><br>Folks who do use computers or smartphones a lot for email, browsing, etc. are inherently candidates for a tablet.<br><br>And when they get their first peek at a tablet, it's portability is obvious. And that means they innately "get" that they can use it on the couch, on a park bench, on a mountain top, or wherever -- which is no doubt one of the things that already bugs them about their current laptop or desktop. The tablet just looks so much more convenient -- kinda like not getting wet in the rain.<br><br>But that alone wasn't enough to make tablets popular. After all, netbooks do all that stuff, too. This is where the tablet's touch screen comes in: You don't need a lot of training to use a tablet. Almost anyone can use one instantly, right after picking one up for the very first time, because it's easy: you just touch stuff that you want to interact with. They don't need to be told "this mouse thing moves that cursor thing ... and you put it on things called icons ... then when you want to do something, you have to do something called 'clicking' on an icon ... or a button ... or sometimes you need to 'double-click' ... and there's something called a 'right-click' ... and you only click on buttons, but you double-click icons ..." You've usually lost people by the time you get to "cursor". A tablet does away with all that: just reach out and touch it.<br><br>From there, I think you start splitting hairs and picking nits about which tablet to get and why -- all the stuff that Apple fanbois and fAndroids love to quibble over.<br><br>Price does obviously enter into the equation for buyers ... but more from a "can I afford it or not?" standpoint, instead of a "this should really cost less for this functionality" standpoint. Folks with that latter point of view more than likely don't have a strong need for mobile computing, so they'd need a compelling excuse -- or a screamin' deal -- to justify getting one.<br><br>And while they probably don't ride a moped to work, their choice in vehicles is probably closer to the Hyundai end of the spectrum than BMW, for the same sort of reasons. You either see the point in having one (and can afford it) or you don't.
        jscott69
      • RE: It's called stating the obvious...

        @doctorSpoc: I agree with you, "somewhat." But, unless you live, and or work under a rock; this day and age you definitely need some way of accessing the internet.
        Tronn@...
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @Cayble

        Yes, but you pay for that microwave convenience. It's called cancerous radiation.

        But ultimately, I agree that this article (The dirty little secrets of tablets) is quite pointless and not at all revelatory. The only tablet buyers who aren't aware of the fact that they DON'T need one are seriously delusional or brain washed by marketing. Most people know they don't need it, but they like it, and can probably find a use for it, and have the money, so they buy it. Kendrick (author) is certainly no philosopher. Companies like Apple don't depend on people thinking they absolutely NEED it, they depend on peoples DESIRES (and money, of course) to have cool, trendy gadgets that are aesthetically and technically appealing. Marketers aren't idiots.
        xamountofwords
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @doctorSpoc
        "does a microwave oven replace a conventional oven"
        YES, it certainly can and does in many of today's busy househols, outs included. With all the programmability and various automatic functons, a microwave and cook the meal at a certain time and keep it warm until you get home. Your ability to create analogs is sorely lacking; along with your intent of using them; you made apples/oranges out of each one.
        tom@...
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @Cayble Your primary issue with tablets seems to be price but you don't getting to make the judgment call for everyone else what is a justifiable cost for a tablet. Your price comparison with the microwave doesn't work well either. Sure, right now you can purchase a good microwave for $100 but guess what, when they first came out (like tablets today) they were a whole lot more expensive. At some point $100 might seem expensive for a tablet but right now the going rate for a quality tablet is $500 and no matter what you think about that price that's what it is.

        @tom@... You are correct, there are households that have all but replaced their ovens (at least use wise) with a microwave but that is just their use. You can do more and get more quality out of an oven just as you can do more and get more quality (depending on the task) out of a full blown computer versus a tablet. doctorSpoc's comparison with the microwave does stand as some could replace their full blow computer with a tablet. That doesn't mean that everyone can and that was his point, microwaves didn't replace ovens for most though they can for some just as tablets won't replace the full blown computer for most while it can for some.
        non-biased
    • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

      @tho@... and for an elderly person that has trouble balancing a laptop (and not covering the vent holes) or not getting burned from the hot spots ... tablets are WONDERFUL. A device that can be handled with ONE HAND, is light, and uses no fans.
      BrentRBrian
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @BrentRBrian
        I also TEACH a class on the iPad for Seniors. They LOVE it.
        HandbellRingr
    • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

      @tho@...
      I'm happy for you, but I'll stick with my much more effective laptop computer. I'm still trying to understand why anyone wants to surf by smartphone or tablet rather than opening up their laptop.
      shanedr
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @shanedr The second "dirty little secret" posed by this article but not discussed is that too many of these posters have too much money and idle time. I'm a retired engineer.. and I use CAD still a bit for declining work. "Pads", "Tablets", and even "smart phones" are for people with large amounts of disposable income. It's still a recession out there for the rest of us.
        robertcape@...
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @shanedr
        Because it take less than a second for the iPad 2 to start with the smart cover.
        ser182
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @shanedr
        @Cayble
        Totally agree with both of you, Cayble a bit long winded but an wxcellent comparison
        panelshop
      • RE: The dirty little secret about tablets

        @robertcape
        the US economy may be at the bottom of the world's deepest septic tank right now, but not everyone on this site is from the USA.
        believe it or not, there is a global market out there beyond your borders.
        krzyst0ff