The future of mobile computing: a phone, a mini tablet, and a super tablet

Someday very soon, you'll carry three computing/communications devices: a phone, a mini tablet, and a super tablet. Each has its purpose and a form factor that's just right for the job.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor


Your future triple threat computing combo

When my oldest son and I get together, we discuss some crazy topics but our discussions of technology grow less crazy with each new encounter. I've told you before that my son has a Microsoft Surface RT, which he got last Christmas before the Surface Pro hit the market. He loves it. In fact, he uses it more than he uses his laptop. Why? Because it's mobile. It's light weight and small size make it portable enough to carry around with ease—to class, to the dorm desk, to his girlfriend's place, and to his home sweet home. His praise of it made us think that perhaps the technologically bound would carry a Surface or Surface-type "super" tablet and a phone. My wife chimed in with her love of the iPad mini. My son's girlfriend agreed that the mini is an excellent device for light tasks. It was near the end of this discussion that I had my vision of the future and the devices we'll carry to meet our needs.

"That's it", I exclaimed, "that's it"! Yes, much to everyone's embarrassment, I really did exclaim it and a little too enthusiastically I'm guessing from the number of stares from the other patrons in the awesome gelato joint* we were in at the time.


The Phone

We all agreed that phones won't go away nor will you ever be able to do any real computing on one. Texting, calling, light Internet browsing, email reading, video shooting, photo taking, and music listening, are what phones will be doing from now on. Phones, or rather smartphones, are toys/telecommunications devices that we love. They're lightweight and powerful but their small size limits their usefulness for higher level jobs.

The Small Tablet

When my family thinks of small tablet, we automatically think iPad mini—which, if you've kept up with my Consumerization:BYOD blog, you know I opposed in the beginning. After using the mini, I have to admit that I like it better than the full-sized iPad. The primary reason is convenience. It feels better in my hands. The full-sized iPad is a little awkward and I still have no cover for it after almost a year. I just don't like it enough I guess. 

The small form factor tablet is small enough to fit in a purse, a jacket pocket, a backpack, or even inside your laptop case. Sure, the regular iPad is small enough for a backpack or a laptop case but its larger size and awkward handling make it a less likely constant companion.

The small tablet is large enough for some light tasks such as composing email messages, watching videos, composing short documents, reading books, and so on. But it's small enough to be pleasant to use over a longer period of time.

Read this


The Super Tablet

I call the Microsoft Surface a super tablet because it's more than an iPad-type device but less than a full-sized laptop. Laptops are bulky, often heavy, short on battery life—so you always need to be aware and in search of an electric outlet for power. The Surface has a keyboard, a prop, a USB connector for an external disk, and real applications that you can use for a prolonged period of time. My son wrote a four-page document on his while manning the dorm desk. He said it was much easier than messing with his laptop, which stays in his dorm room like a desktop computer.

The super tablet is portable enough to go anywhere but robust enough to do anything that you can do on a standard laptop or ultrabook computer. If you recall, I was also opposed to the Surface when it first came out too.

Some technologies require shills** to make them more appealing. My family often acts as shills for technology that I'm not so interested in exploring for myself.

I like technology that's intriguing, clever, and innovative. If I feel like I've seen it before, it's not so interesting to me. After seeing other people happily use what I've cast off as rubbish, I come around. Hey, I'm only human.

For BYOD, I see this combination as a triple threat (read, triple bonus) to both users and companies. What's better than a worker who has devices that enable her to work from anywhere and at anytime when needed? Devices that are not only enjoyable to use but also able to perform a variety of functions: voice and text communications, office automation, video conferencing, email, office connectivity via VPN, and high-level computing such as database maintenance.

And best of all, one can acquire all three of these devices for under $1,000—even if you choose the brands I've mentioned. Compare that combined cost to the price of a single higher end laptop computer.

How many of you use these three devices or similar ones already to do your work? Talk back and let me know.

*OK, in my defense, it totally beats what I was going to do prior to that divinely intervened technology exchange. You see, there was a little stage setup in the place. There was a stool and a perfect setting for me to go up and begin entertaining with my analysis of 'W'. It goes something like this: "Wuh, double u, vay, vay frage, who, what, where, when, why. We say double U but it should be double V. The rest of the world pronounces it vee. Why don't we? Vy don't vee?" And so on like that. My wife was opposed to my performance, though she'd never heard it***, so I relented, sat down, ate my gelato, and remained sequestered, punished, and rejected. Alas, I proposed to myself, "The world still isn't ready for a full-on Ken Hess performance art piece." Thank goodness the gelato was good and the conversation led to this post. All is not lost.

**A shill is someone who uses a product to make others more interested. My most famous example of using shills comes from, of all places, right here in Oklahoma. The guy who invented shopping carts, Sylvan Goldman (OKC, circa 1937), hired shills to use the carts since people just looked at them in awe. Basically his invention was two baskets on a rack with wheels. People had always used baskets for shopping. Once his customers watched the shills using the carts, the idea caught on.

***She's my harshest critic. My sons, however, encourage me. Someday when it's just us men...

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