Tablets are not designed to do any one thing. They are supposed to be multimedia, multi-task devices that can take your regular computing tasks on the road. Some devices do a better job at certain tasks than others, but for the most part the major brands offer a large number of options for just about any situation.
Right now, there is a big focus on hardware in the tablet market. The market is new, manufacturers are still getting into the action and while ecosystem generation is important, the hardware underneath it all is playing a major role in most comparisons. But, as hardware stabilizes and consumers get comfortable with one or another ecosystem, the focus will shift to how each of these tablets performs common tasks we need out of a computer.
First on the list has to be web browsing. I’ll wager a guess that the majority of tablet users spend a lot of time viewing web sites. There is something magical and easy about the touch screen interface and the Internet – it just makes sense.
But, what about the current offerings for web browsers. Safari recently got a nice speed boost with the 4.3 firmware while the Xoom is set to get the Flash upgrade promised for Honeycomb. Internet Explorer 9 just launched for Windows tablet users and it looks good. But, what makes a browser truly effective for a tablet PC?
To me it’s a combination of speed and common features. Tabbed browsing, 100% access to all web content (regardless of the impact on battery) and easy access to history and bookmarks are a must. I don’t want to feel like anything I do on the Internet takes longer than it would on my PC.
For those of us who use our tablets for work, document editing is a must. No tablet PC comes out of the box with document editing tools but the software available on the platform can greatly affect how well each device performs in this arena. Windows tablets can run Microsoft Office, albeit without the added touch controls that would make it so ideal for a tablet. Android has Documents to Go. The iPad has iWork and Quick Office.
The options are out there, but are they ideal yet? I’m hoping that in the months to come we’ll see the development of a smooth transition between desktop and tablet editing. It’s good to be able to open a file from my desktop on a tablet via Dropbox, but what if I actually need to make significant changes to it?
Email and Chat
For casual users, a tablet is a great hub for communication with your friends and family. With most major brands having a front facing camera for video chat and email interfaces being intuitive and simple, communication on a tablet couldn’t be easier.
For heavy business users, the lack of in-depth tools like touch-optimized Outlook, scheduling, and direct integration of calendars to your email is less than ideal, but overall email support within a tablet ecosystem is far better than many other common tasks.
Recently our email server (Exchange box) died and I was able to migrate to Google Apps and yet still have my favorite email client, Outlook, host all my emails on my Tablet. I learned a great deal about the power of cloud and was even more convinced that we should remain knowledgeable enough to utilize the best of all the tools available to us.
How do you use your tablet and how would you use it in the future if certain key upgrades or Apps were released for your ecosystem of choice? Is anything “perfect” yet or do you see multiple areas for improvement?