Tablets: A no intimidation zone

Tablets: A no intimidation zone

Summary: The average person uses a computer mostly at work, and finds them to be somewhat intimidating. Tablets feel familiar from the first time they are picked up, however.

TOPICS: Mobility, Tablets
Mom with iPad
In loving memory of Leta Faye Kendrick, November 5, 1922 -- December 16, 2013

This article originally appeared on ZDNet in April 2012. It is republished here with updated information.

The definition of a tablet may vary depending who you ask, but no one can question how popular the genre has become with mainstream consumers. The iPad kick-started a computing style that has resonated with millions of buyers over a short period. There are many reasons why tablets have taken the mainstream by storm, but none as pertinent as the fact most folks are less intimidated by tablets compared to computers.

Power users and those more tech-savvy than the average person on the street laugh at the thought that computers are intimidating. They are just sophisticated tools that can be used to do whatever needs to be done, and easily. Those folks are not the ones this article is referring to, and often are the ones who believe tablets belong in the hands of others, being mere toys.

Mainstream consumers see the computer in a totally different light. They are those complicated things that are used at work, and are approached with trepidation. God forbid the work computer should have problems, as that overwhelms many users. Calls to the IT department are downright nerve-wracking for many.

The tablet isn't viewed that way based on countless conversations I've had with many regular consumers. They aren't viewed as computers at all, even though tablets today can do many of the same things. Tablets are things they simply pick up and do stuff, without worry.

If prospective buyers view Windows tablets as computers, they will have to overcome the intimidation factor to consider them at all.

I see this mental distinction exposed in interesting ways by regular folk. When asked if they use the computer much at home, a common (and telling) response is often "no, just the iPad". More and more you can substitute Kindle Fire (or other tablet) in place of iPad in that statement, but the meaning is the same. Tablets are not viewed as even fitting in the same category as a computer, hence "just" the tablet.

That's a good thing for these people, because it's due to the lack of intimidation felt by using the tablet. They aren't viewed as computers or complicated, they are just tablets. Many tablet owners end up discovering through experience that the tablet can do a lot of the things those complicated computers can do, but without the fear.

This fear of computers is what Microsoft is facing with the consumer reception of Windows 8 tablets. Microsoft has done a good job with Windows 8 and the Metro interface to make them less intimidating. Metro apps will be bought on the tablet right from the app store, just like the competition.

Even with all the right moves being done for these new tablets-to-be, the Windows sticker may adversely affect the way the average person views them. Windows is one of the factors of intimidation that people have with computers, and Microsoft needs to deal with that. If prospective buyers view Windows tablets as computers, they will have to overcome the intimidation factor to consider them at all.

Power users are looking forward to Windows 8 tablets because they are computers, but that will be the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of prospective buyers will want to just pick them up and do stuff, and not computer stuff. If Microsoft and partners decide to market Windows 8 tablets as real computers, that will be a tragic mistake.

I can find no better example of the intimidation factor than my elderly mother. She has actively shunned computers and gadgets her entire life, as they scare her. When the iPad was first introduced, I handed one to her without saying a word (image above). She immediately began touching the screen, and with no prompting was looking at photos of her grandchildren in a few minutes. It was the very first time she had touched a computer of any kind, and only because it felt right.

Based on her immediate comfort with the iPad, I offered to buy her one of her own. That fear of computers raised its ugly head as she was afraid she'd not know how to use it on her own. It was one of those complicated computers, after all. Even so, almost every time I visited her after the initial "iPad visit", she'd ask me if I brought "that iPad thing" for her to try. The pleasant memory of that first time never left her.

In loving memory of Leta Faye Kendrick, who left us on December 16, 2013.

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Topics: Mobility, Tablets

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  • Your mom and ipad

    Thank you for sharing the experience. My 93 year old mom had a similar reaction. It will always be a pleasant memory. Very sorry for your loss.
  • Your Mom

    Truly sorry for your loss.
  • Offered to buy her one?

    Why didn't you actually buy her one and leave it at her house?
    • Because I know her too well

      She would never have used it without me being there.
      • Just a thought

        When you offered to buy an iPad for her, you said "That fear of computers raised its ugly head as she was afraid she'd not know how to use it on her own"

        Could it have been the fear of the iPad? Since in the past you had not brought a desktop with you for her to use, could it be she only felt comfortable using any tech with someone of experience around?

        Would she have typed away on a laptop had you brought one? My mom does when we bring the laptop down her house, but it's not something she wants to own.
        • And condolences on the passing of your mother

          especially at this time of year.
  • We are a nation of adult toddlers

    union K12 cranks out illiterate adults at a rate of 50%
  • Sorry for your loss

    the only thing I can think to say. :(
  • Sorry for your loss

    Sounds like she was lucky to has such a supportive, caring son.
  • Thanks for the memory

    Truly sorry for your loss. I remember when this article was originally published. My mother might have had a similar reaction were she still with us. May your mom rest in peace.
  • Tablets: A no intimidation zone

    Sorry for your loss. Its great that she was willing to give the technology a try and you could share your pictures with her.
  • Sorry for your loss.

    Hope you get past through that.
    Ram U
  • excellent points...... condolences

    It's difficult time losing those close to us....... we all have to go through it unfortunately. Sorry for your loss, and for those of every reader, etc... who is remembering their own lost loved ones........ or looking ahead to them.
    I find "Windows Arrogance" that I read in various tablet comments silly and unrealistic. The idea that not liking or being comfortable with Windows somehow equates to illiteracy or stupidity if offensive in the extreme....... It's also stupid! Computing devices are used in many ways by many people, and unfortunately MS seems to want to perpetuate the idea that somehow MS Orifice is the be all and end all of computing and of productivity. I've been using computers since the days of CPM, used every version of DOS and all the consumer versions of Windows except 8, and many different MacOs versions, and Linux has been my primary OS for about 15 years now. The ONLY reason I'm writing this on my Linux desktop instead of my Ipad or my Android tablet is the full size keyboard. Data input is the single roadblock to using the tablet for nearly everything. By the time I set my Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard up........ which is comfortably large (14") and well configured and on which I can type at a decent rate, I'm sitting at my desk with the Ipad propped up in front of me...... so why not use the desktop with the 27" monitor? Both of my tablet devices are completely capable of generating text well, doing spreadsheets, graphics, photo editing, etc...... I don't use Powerpoint..... that's for office dinks........ and the functions I use in Office (Open Office) that I use are virtually all available on both tablets. I've never owned a copy of MSOffice....... though I've used it extensively in the past. I don't expect to ever own a copy!
    Rather than dwelling on the things tablets supposedly can't do....... perhaps some of these folks should look as James has rather well...... at what they CAN do. They CAN do a great deal. There apps available for countless tasks........ I have well over a hundred apps on my Ipad to do anything from measuring the square footage of a piece of property or building from a sat view to giving me a weather report to working out an electronic circuit or identifying a resistor or capacitor by codes, to editing photos............ etc..... They provide an excellent browsing environment, handle Email well, take audio notes on the go, take good photos which I can then view and edit right on the device, and send out or upload. To ridicule these devices as not being real computers is laughable......... as is complaining that they can't run Windows programs, or expecting them to function as a Windows laptop as well as a tablet. They've changed the world of a positive way. The desktop is NOT dying........ they'll never replace it, but in the future it will be a computing niche, not the dominant platform.............. again DATA INPUT IS THE MAIN ROADBLOCK......... the next billionaire will be the guy that comes up with the new way to input data that everybody adopts............. Underline those last two words!!
  • Windows Intimidating to Most Users, on Desktops, Notebooks, and Tablets

    This article hits the nail on the head when siting that most computer users view a PC as being intimidating, while an iPad is easy. That's one big reason why PC sales are experiencing a sales slow-down, and why mobile sales -- those being tablets and smart phones that resemble small tablets -- have exploded.

    But this article misses the mark big time when it says "Microsoft has done a good job with Windows 8 and the Metro interface to make them less intimidating." Absolutely not! The typical consumer's response to Windows 8 is that it's confusing (difficult to figure out, not intuitive). It's not easy and straight forward, like an iPad, nor is it at least familiar, a "Devil You Know," like Windows XP or Windows 7. This is a big reason why Windows 8 is a colossal failure on tablets, and is more reviled than the poison-named Vista on desktops and notebooks.

    (PS: James, my heart goes out to you at the loss of your dear mother)
    • Win8....... a start if not a good one

      Windows is a start in the right direction if poorly executed. The concept is right, product has not been a run away success. Unifying to some extent both their portable OS and desktop OS at least in terms of how tasks are accomplished, and allowing touch input, etc.......... is a matter of survival. Corporate inertia has made this into a fiasco.
    • I think that mostly depends

      If they're using windows 8 on a tablet, or more traditional computing device. On a tablet it's dead simple to use and basically only stay on metro. On a laptop it's a different story. With that said no one I've recommend a touch laptop to has had any problems with it either. It's certainly different, but not hard to use or get used to. Hopefully some of the recent rumors are true. A somewhat metrofied start button and the ability to windows metro apps will help a lot for the more traditional users on now touch enables devices.
      Sam Wagner
    • The typical consumer's response to Windows 8

      is that it's confusing (difficult to figure out, not intuitive)?

      Don't tell that to the people here at work that use it. They don't appear to realize that they're having a hard time using it, and I don't want them to catch on.
      • I assume that you live in a fairy land

        Because everyone in real work environments are Fedcup to the eye teeth with Win8. Either that, or your are straight out lying.
  • I think chromebooks are even more simple

    James - I'm sorry to hear about your mother's passing. My condolences.
  • Condolences - Sorry for Your Loss James

    The holidays are a difficult time to lose loved ones, so our hearts and prayers go out to you James. You were/are a great son, and thank you for sharing your mother with all of us.