Ten failings that will check the tablet's rise

Ten failings that will check the tablet's rise

Summary: The Apple iPad may be in the ascendant, but fundamental limitations in the tablet concept need serious attention, says Jack Wallen


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  • Tablet

    I really want to love my Android Motorola Xoom. I'd like to be able to say I use it all the time, but in reality its use is mainly confined to my bed where a laptop would be too heavy and hot. So what is it about tablets that stops more people buying and using them? I think it's down to a number of shortcomings that are having a serious impact on adoption.

    1. Better integration with PCs
    Better integration in this context means better docking stations that would allow users to use their tablets more easily with existing peripherals. To be fully effective, these docking stations need to be capable of accommodating the usual collection of hardware, including keyboards, mice, speakers and external drives.

  • Keyboard

    1. Better keyboards
    For anyone who has to write a lot, the virtual keyboards on every tablet I have tried are inadequate. I realise that onscreen keyboards are probably fine for those who can text at the speed of light. But for those who have to do a serious amount of writing — authors, students or simply anyone who writes more than a single page of information — a real keyboard is a necessity. Unless you want a bad case of numb fingers, sore wrists or worse, a physical keyboard is a must.

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones

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  • I think a lot of the things you want in a tablet would actually make it a laptop or netbook!
    Apple came up with something different from Microsoft's idea of a tablet PC, and succeeded where MS failed. As soon as you include a keyboard, hard drive etc then it's something different.
    I don't have a tablet yet, but I intend to get one soon as I simply want something I can pick up and use without any bother. If I need anything more, I'll use my laptop or PC.
    I agree about price, although there are some cheap (and poor) tablets around. But Amazon's new Fire should address that.
  • Hooray, a sensible article about tablets.
    Call me a luddite if you wish, but I have never been able to see the point of them. Since the days when Bill Gates was saying they were the future. That died in the same way as the predictions of laptops killing the desktop PC. Along with 'this is the year of Linux on the desktop' and 'Ubuntu will kill Windows'. Microsoft seem to preparing to do that themselves with Windows 8.
    Back on topic, as the previous post says, if you address the tablet's shortcomings you end up with a laptop.
    Tablets are a fashion, like everything beginning with i. They are trying to fill a gap that doesn't really exist. Smartphone to laptop to desktop PC. There isn't a missing link between the three.
    When the fashionistas and air-head advertising, Apple obsessed, "media" types lose interest in them for next big thing, tablets will fade into tach/gadget limbo. Along with "3D" TV and all the other "this is the future" failures.
  • To me, the future is a small device with lots of interfaces.

    Take something with the formfactor of an existing smartphone, with its compromise UI and low bandwidth connectivity.
    Then add a range of optional UI devices: a dumb, tablet sized touch screen; a keyboard;a pair of iVues; headphones; video camera; graphic tablet; joystick; a projector; cuddly toy; extra storage device; blu-ray read/writer;printer; minority report gloves; extra processors; big fat datapipe. You get the idea.

    The device can be carted around, and you can access it via the most suitable interface device you have available.

    In an ideal world, you won't have to worry about drivers, or cables, or slots, but we don't live in an ideal world, and as for batteries...
  • and Jamie Watson can have a trackball
  • Except for price you described my Asus EP121 or the Samsung tablet.
  • Sounds like you described the (my) EP121
  • Have you bought a Tablet yet? Are they a necessity for business or enjoying a fuller media experience...or a just wastful of earth's resources and a fad that will fade soon enough?
  • I suppose: though I was thinking of something more like the Motorola Atrix 4G.
    A 12" touchscreen being an (expensive) extra.

    Your EP121's pen sounds a pretty stupendous accessory though!
  • The issue is not a docking station; it's an OS with drivers for all the peripherals you want to use, which is a point Microsoft keeps making about the advantage of Windows ;-) On the pen side, it looks like Android will get active pens, but not with the most useful feature - palm rejection: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/500-words-into-the-future-10014052/windows-isnt-the-only-os-that-cares-about-pens-10024581/
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • Tablets are already being used as menus in some restaurants. Expect to see door knockers, foremen, airport attendants etc with a tablet under arm....far from a fad. I do think laptops are an ideal form factor and they won't be going anywhere in a hurry.
    roger andre
  • I would seriously suggest looking at the Asus transformer which is the solution to half your issues:
    Docked keyboard
    Be tablet or a notepad
    Decent usb drivers for mouse etc
    Easy acess slot for SD card in tablet and dock.
    Will accept usb sticks and other mass storage devices including cameras and phones.
  • Try the Dolphin Browser on Android. Found it to be faster and flash-capable
  • This would be a pretty good list, if people were using tablets as PCs and if there wasn't a reliable wireless Internet covering more and more of the globe (apparently outside the US, alas).

    When your data is stored remotely and accessed via reliable networks, the whole way you think about data — as a user and as a developer — changes completely.

    I will agree on keyboards — but I can count on one RSI-crippled hand the number of keyboards I've used in the last decade that didn't just make things worse. Cheap keyboards suck with perfect vacuum. IBM understands this. The HP-that-is-no-more understood this. Logitech understood this before they decided they really needed to be in the race to the bottom with the rest of the commodity-PC industry.

    My last on-site client had "Dhell" systems with bundled generic keyboards. I could type on those for about an hour, tops, before my hand locked up tight. I'm typing this on a keyboard that's seen an average 10 hours a day, six days a week for two years — with no RSI problems. (See it at http://j.mp/ucISg8)

    The best way to win the race to the bottom is not to join it. (It would be nice if ZDNet figured that out, and got rid of the crippled comment editor they're using now…)
    Jeff Dickey
  • Agree about keyboards, but even worse with mice! The Lenovo mouse I have to use at work is cack!
  • I'd hope to god you don't work as a strategist for any company. "That died in the same way as the predictions of laptops killing the desktop PC" they are dead apart from in the work place, so that prediction was correct. And there is a need to link the smartphone, laptop and tablet so they're all able to interact in a seamless way. Tablets are the future, but not the ones which are around at the moment, with windows 8 and the functionality to do anything a pc is capable of doing then they will be useful, but until then tablets like the ipad are just an expensive web browser/games playing device.
  • Find an iPad is excellent for: informal surfing and reading articles, mail, news, Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, controlling my DVR and music system, travel guides and maps, calendar, weather information.... all done from the couch in the living room while relaxing or doing other stuff. Nothing a proper laptop or PC can't do but then again I can also watch normal TV on those, yet for some reason I still watch TV on my big flatscreen still. Somehow IT often falls short when analysing why a given user exerience is a success when it is a combination of hardware, software, and the surrounding environment.