Are Tablets and Ultraslim Laptops Just Fads?

Ant farms, Pac-Man, the Pet Rock...and now the iPad and MacBook Air?

Acer founder Stan Shih has reportedly called the consumer craze for tablets and ultrabooks (super-slim laptops popularized by Apple's svelte MacBook Air) merely short-term fads, according to Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes.

Digitimes' brief news item doesn't say when, where, or to whom Shih made his alleged remarks. A U.S. spokesperson for Acer, contacted by PCWorld Friday afternoon, was unable to reach company headquarters in Taiwan (where it was Saturday) to confirm or deny the report.

Shih, who retired from Acer in 2004, also praised Apple for its "outside-the-box thinking," a feat of managerial creativity other tech manufacturers should strive to emulate. He also urged laptop makers to be more innovative and develop more value-added products, Digitimes reports.

Stan Shih
But to the point: Are tablets and slim laptops merely a short-term fad? Tablets, possibly. Ultrabooks, certainly not.

The tablet occupies a useful niche somewhere the smartphone and laptop, but its capabilities as a work machine are limited, of course. It's possible that even slimmer laptops with slick touchscreen capabilities could replace the tablet as we know it today. The cost savings to consumers, who'd rather not buy two devices when one would suffice, would prove very appealing.

Slim laptops? Not a fad. As superthin portable PCs fall below $1000--remember, the 11-inch MacBook Air is already $999--and yet grow faster and more capable, they're likely to supplant larger, heavier machines as the mainstream laptop of choice. Nobody wants to lug a big fatty through an airport, or to and from Starbucks.

Then again, the iPad-style tablet probably isn't going to fade away anytime soon. It's fun, relatively cheap, and easier to carry than even the lightest ultrabook. Plus it's the gift that keeps on giving. When's the last time you picked up your Rubik's Cube?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com and follow Today @ PCWorld on Twitter.

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