One of my PCWorld comrades, Katherine Noyes, recently wrote a story titled "Why Tablets Are Just a Fad." Katherine and I often find ourselves in opposing camps on various issues, and apparently tablets are no different. So, I offer up my counterpoint explaining how Noyes is off base, and describing why tablets are a "fad" like horseless carriages, or that Internet thing were fads.
Fads come and go. Some were born to die--like pet rocks, or "High School Musical." Others run their course, but eventually lose momentum--like the Rubik's Cube, or Sudoku puzzles. The sheer number of tablets hitting the street qualifies the tablet craze as a fad right now, but when the dust settles and the "fad" ends, the tablet itself will still be here.
Let's examine the tablet "fad" in more detail using the points from Noyes' article.
Limited? I think not. Different, perhaps. For example, if I am going to sit down to write and research a 10-page white paper, I would rather do that at my desktop PC with a real keyboard and a 23-inch monitor or two so I can really multitask.
But, does the tablet have functionality that is not already available on a smartphone or notebook? Yes, and no. It is the hybrid evolution of combining the smartphone and the notebook--a device that is mobile, yet still has the power and functionality for actual computing. Try typing an essay on your iPhone. Try reading a Dan Brown novel on your notebook on the train on the way to work. Both tasks are possible--but both can also be done better on a tablet.
It is silly to compare the tablet form factor to the smartphone. I readily concede that the iPad will not fit in my pocket--although the five-inch Dell Streak will. However, saying the tablet is "inconvenient" because it is larger than a smartphone is like saying the smartphone is "inconvenient" because it is thicker and heavier than a Motorola Razr flip-phone. The two devices are similar, yet not, and fill vastly different roles.
Noyes goes on to talk about how the tablet is impractical because you would have to carry it in addition to your smartphone, but then goes on to extoll the virtues of instead lugging around a notebook--a "portable" device that requires its own luggage and generally involves packing extra batteries just so you have enough juice to make it to lunch without recharging.
Next page: Why tablets aren't like PDAs...