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CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

CES is all about the tablets this year, and with good reason. There's money in them thar hills! But I think I'll pass.
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I'm a gadget junkie. I admit it. My wife knows it (and hates it), my wallet knows it, even the PR folks who pitch me stories know it. So I follow CES and the gadget lust grows day by day. Suddenly, my Droid Incredible is looking decidedly not incredible. My perfectly nice 42" flat panel TV? Well, it doesn't have have a 21:9 aspect ratio. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it's only 720p.

Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs make the sad little Core i5 in my MacBook Pro get performance anxiety and let's not even talk about the little Panasonic camcorder I got on the cheap when Circuit City went out of business.

The only devices that fail to inspire any real must-have-it-who-really-needs-a-401k desire, however, are the ones that I'm following the closest, both for the Google and Education blogs. I'm talking about tablets and they just aren't doing it for me.

Maybe I'm just old. Maybe I just spend too much of my day typing to think about something that lacks a keyboard. I don't think it's the former. I'm pretty firmly Gen-X and can run circles around more than a few Millennials and their digital nativeness. I don't think it's the latter either. When I'm not banging away in a keyboard, I'm Swyping away on my smartphone.

So what's my problem with tablets? Everyone else on the planet is buying iPads as fast as Apple can manufacture them, even with a new model right around the corner. News out of CES is utterly dominated by tablety goodness and I'll be the first to give serious thought to their implications in schools and places where content consumption trumps content creation.

However, I can't get my head around having both a smartphone and a tablet (and a netbook and a notebook and a desktop, for that matter). 10" tablets will fit in my eVest, but remain too bulky to carry everywhere. 7" tablets are a great size to carry everywhere, especially as we see models emerge that are thinner than Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Yet I'm never without my phone and find it really hard to justify a phone with a 4" screen and a tablet with a 7" screen. It just feels redundant.

If the tablet isn't going to come with me and sit on my desk at home in favor of my eminently portable phone (on which I can watch videos, play games, read books, listen to music, and surf the web until the cows come home), then how can I shell out $500 for something that can't even make phone calls.

My ideal device, actually, would be a 5" widescreen, high-definition phone. Big enough to allow for more satisfying consumption, small enough to Swype and thumb-type efficiently, and a fine size to fit in a loose pants pocket or one of the smaller pockets on said eVest.

But a tablet? And a phone? And most likely a notebook of some sort in my messenger bag? It's not going to happen. I need a more compelling phone or perhaps something more along the lines of Samsung's sliding PC (only fast-forwarded 18 months to a point when tiny processors and system boards can meet all of my content creation needs).

I'll check back on CES in 2012. Maybe they'll have something that does the trick. Until then, I'll keep looking for cool ways to use tablets in classrooms and the enterprise. But for now, if I'm buying gadgets and slick bits of electronic kit, it's going to be cameras and TVs and tools that do things better or differently than either my phone or my computers can.

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