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Who Wants a Tablet Anyway?

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picture-1A few arguments are developing over the upcoming generation of entertainment-focused tablet devices: Are these niche products?   Should we even refer to them as Tablets?   The folks over at Unplggd are asking readers whether an Apple tablet device has mass appeal and true functionality.   The post is summed up with this quote,

“But is such a device enough of a necessity? As popular as netbooks are as a topic online, only a couple of friends use them, with the majority depending upon smart phones and laptops for everyday duty. We’re beginning to suspect a tablet device will follow suit, with plenty of hype, but possibly another Kindle-type niche product with a moderate user base. Even a techophile such as ourselves wonder whether such a device will really add to our lives, or are we just getting caught up in the hype of adding another redundant tech tool into the household, Apple branded or not.”

There is a poll where you can vote, lending your opinion to the new debate.   Life seems pretty good right now without these tablets, but can the iPad and CrunchPad show us how much we’ve been missing?   See their voter turnout here.

As an educator and school counselor, Matthew is an advocate for using technology in the classroom and passionate about exposing students to technologies that will empower them in their future careers. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

5 Comments

  1. marcelo estrada

    08/05/2009 at 8:09 pm

    Even just the capability of being able to sign a digital document will make a tablet worth it for me; that would be a lot of hours saved (printing, signing, scanning, faxing or attaching docu to an email, etc.). A definite plus for me! But if all you is basic stuff, you probably don’t need it.

  2. seamonkey420

    08/06/2009 at 10:47 am

    imo as a current and previous tablet user. its a niche feature that you may use only the first 30 days and then later never use again.

    typing is just more efficient and faster than writing; sure its nice to be able to do hand notes and diagrams and sketches but is it worth the extra money? not for i atleast.

  3. Chad

    08/06/2009 at 9:34 pm

    A tablet is not “device for home and away that falls inbetween a full fledged laptop and a smart phone.” that is a MID/UMPC.

    I love my Tablet (lenovo X200) I use it constantly for taking notes, reading content, gaming, office work, and simulating environments with Virtual PC. I need an option in the poll that said I have a tablet and love it but I will not be getting a new one in 12 months because my current one is kick ass with a 64GB SSD; core 2 duo 1.8 GHz; 4GB RAM; 2GB turbo memory (for temp files right now;) with built in 3G; and active and passive digitizers running Windows 7 RC, all the while getting 6-7 hrs of battery life.

    I don’t think I will need a new system in the next 12 months.

  4. LeMel

    08/08/2009 at 5:30 pm

    I love that quote:

    “As popular as netbooks are as a topic online, only a couple of friends use them, with the majority depending upon smart phones”

    The irony is that exact same argument was at one time made against fully-capable smartphones themselves – ‘why would anyone want to do all this on a phone? It’s too small/weak/clumsy/expensive/etc…’

    And the company who flipped that perception, Apple, is poised to do so again.

    As for tablet use, I equate it with pen & paper – those haven’t been obsoleted by any technology yet, and for the same reasons I use my tablet – to sketch and write ink. Microsoft’s ink is so great, I don’t bother to recognize text unless I’m searching. With the LE1600 tablet, my notepad is functionally infinite and searchable.

    I just need the same capabilities in a smaller, lighter, faster device. The idea of Microsoft’s digital ink and OneNote implemented in Apple-designed hardware…that would be the end-all be-all for me and a lot of others. Sadly, I sort of expect Apple won’t even bother to implement any kind of inking, producing a big media device instead.

  5. Nameless

    08/20/2009 at 12:59 pm

    I want a Tablet PC, and finally have that HP TC1100 I’ve wanted for a few months now-under the cost of most netbooks initially, and around the same price when spruced up with 2 GB of RAM and a 160 GB HDD. However, I can write on the screen with a Wacom pen, and this makes all the difference.

    For me, the whole point of the Tablet PC initiative is to GO PAPERLESS. I personally hate working with paper; I’m just too clumsy at handling the stuff, and it’s not easy to search or edit, either.

    At the same time, the pen DOES NOT REPLACE the keyboard and mouse. The pen COMPLEMENTS AND AUGMENTS them. I say this because, as a touch-typist who has hit 90+ WPM before, you just cannot beat a conventional keyboard for fast input of plain text.

    The problem is, NOT ALL INFORMATION IS PLAIN TEXT.

    I’m a college student, and I have math classes rife with complex equations and formulas that you just cannot enter efficiently with a keyboard and mouse. Most people with laptops just break out the pen and paper for that. I have a Tablet PC because, as I mentioned earlier, I want to avoid pen and paper as much as possible.

    Other classes may also have diagrams that would require a bit of fiddling to input with a keyboard and mouse, provided the software even supports it, but with a Tablet PC, you just draw the diagram and write in it. Simple as that.

    Basically, anyone serious about note-taking on a computer uses a Tablet PC, usually with Microsoft Office OneNote. OneNote is a pretty capable app on standard laptops, but it can fully leverage the Tablet PC for a pen-and-paper experience with all the advantages of digital. You don’t even need to have your text recognized just to search it.

    Also, what about the artists? SketchBook Pro? Photoshop? GIMP? Corel Painter? ArtRage? Illustrator? CorelDRAW? Need I go on? Tablet PCs with built-in Wacom pen functionality are a must for this group.

    The problem boils down to two things: price, and lack of software built specifically with a pen interface.

    New Tablet PCs have a price premium for the specs you get when buying new. Even the tablet netbooks with mere resistive digitizers instead of proper Wacom or N-Trig digitizers sell for at least 500 US$. Most people aren’t going to be aware of older models like the HP TC1100, Motion M1400, and others that can be had cheaply; they’re just going to look at the new ones and get sticker shock soon after.

    The bigger issue, however, is the lack of pen-optimized software. InkSeine is a good example of a pen-driven interface. OneNote, as mentioned earlier, also has a fairly good Tablet PC implementation. However, beyond those and artist apps like SketchBook Pro, most software is still designed to be controlled with a keyboard and mouse. Even Windows 7, for all its Tablet PC enhancements, is still an OS designed for keyboard and mouse at the core.

    The best pen-driven OS is, sad to say, Newton 2.0 as found on the MessagePad 2000/2100. The entire OS is designed with the pen/stylus in mind, and it shows (just look up a YouTube demonstration of the MessagePad 2100). You write something in, and it’s recorded. (No, you don’t always have to have your text recognized immediately-kind of like OneNote on a Tablet PC.) It’s sad that it hasn’t been surpassed by now, and the Newton division was axed in 1997! That’s 12 years!

    Notice a pattern here? My uses for a Tablet PC revolve around the PEN, NOT the finger. If Apple releases a tablet but fails to offer the pen, I’ll pass.

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