Why we’re not ready for mainstream Tablet computing…yet

Posted in Gadgets, Issues, Microsoft, Technology by The Editor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recently I discussed (albeit somewhat crudely) the mass flood of E-Reader devices that made their debut at the recent CES exhibition and what the future holds for Joe Average. I’d like to take this opportunity to reveal that yesterday I, yes me, despite the very best restraint I could muster, purchased an Amazon Kindle 2 which I will be collecting during my visit to Miami this coming weekend.

I expect buyer’s remorse to take effect by February 1.

Amid the guff surrounding the release of a new E-Reader device every 14.27 seconds during CES one player that kept it’s cards firmly pressed against it’s chest was Apple.

Until now.

If you’ve paid any attention to industry headlines over the past 87 years or so you would be more than aware that Apple has often been rumoured to be working on a tablet computer. Today miniscule information was released inviting the world to view it’s latest ‘creation’. Many insiders, speculators and ‘guff mongerers’ (as I like to call them) strongly insist that this will be the moment Apple unleashes a much awaited tablet computer. Said insiders, speculators and ‘guff mongerers’ also believe that this will be the killer, game-changing device that the world has been waiting for.

Maybe, but I believe it could be a case of premature gadget ejaculation. Here’s why.

The market for tablet devices is not currently in it’s infancy. It’s not even in it’s fetal stages yet. The tablet device has been around for a number of years now, it failed on a grand scale then, it’ll fail on a grand scale now. The Apple tablet, bare in mind we’re currently talking about vaporware mixed with my own pure speculation here, may well be destined for the same fate. I won’t eat my shoes if I am wrong, but I really cannot see how the immediate future of mainstream computing is tablet based.

For starters, if the guff mongerers are to be believed then the Apple tablet device is going to resemble or function like an iPhone just on a larger scale. The first time you hear that you may very well let a little wee slip uncontrollably from your bladder. Upon later reflection though it all seems to fall a little flat. If next week Mr. Jobs decides to unveil an Apple tablet device that does indeed turn out to be essentially a super-sized iPhone, and currently I cannot see how they can or indeed will release anything other than this no matter how many layers of groovy they mask it in, then the device really will be doomed for certain failure. The Apple iPhone is, like the iPod, one of the most successful niche devices of the last decade. The iPhone being superior due to being not only a music playing device but a smart phone stapled on to form one soft, cuddly and very popular little package. An Apple tablet will likely offer very little more than that.

Now for the really negative stuff. Not so many moons ago Apple released the Macbook Air, a wonderful device that was marketed as being the future of notebook computing. Sleek, super sexy and thinner than Karen Carpenter. All this technological anorexia (sorry Karen) appeared very wonderful at first. Then Steve Jobs told everyone how much it was going to cost.

The Apple tablet, bare in mind we’re currently talking about vaporware mixed with my own pure speculation here, may well be destined for the same fate. I won’t eat my shoes if I am wrong, but I really cannot see how the immediate future of mainstream computing is tablet based.

And there lyeth my point. Who is going to want to buy a device that is essentially a super-sized iPhone that will probably weigh in around the $1000+ mark when it’s smaller,far more portable but equally capable sibling the iPhone already has a massive global user base and is more importantly available for a fraction of the cost? Nobody. Well, except maybe the kind of gadget and/or Apple fanatics that appear in line outside their nearest Apple store 13 minutes after the product is announced to the world and a good 984 decades before the store opens it’s doors with welcome arms to the faithful early adopters.

Heaping further negativity on to this vaporous device, I believe the average customer is not ready to make the switch to full-time, 24/7 tablet computing. Nor do I believe they are ready for full-time, 24/7 portable tablet computing. The devices and prices being waved in the face of the market right now are still sky high. Additionally for what tasks you can accomplish with a tablet device you can accomplish with a netbook, notebook or smart phone for a fraction of the cost. Not only is cost a swaying factor but these devices are already established and ingrained in to mainstream computing culture. I can see tablet devices becoming popular within enterprise over the next 5 or so years, but in the home I don’t think penetration will be as quick.

Many are touting the rumoured Apple tablet device to be something of a ‘Kindle-killer’ too. I cannot see this happening in the foreseeable either. The Kindle, along with the Sony Reader (and even the Barnes & Noble Nook) devices have all had a truly massive head start over Apple. Factoring cost alone, those wanting a device purely for reading will face a choice between a circa $200 dedicated reader with wifi trimmings and a $1000+ ‘iPhone XL’ with integrated reader app. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is the better choice.

Apple has disposable clout available to it by the truckload but entering an already swamped market so late in the day could suffocate any chance it has in the bustling reader market. Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble all already have huge publisher deals done and dusted. What Apple has awaits to be seen, let’s hope it’s not the scraps leftover from a furious bidding war. One article declares Apple has secured a deal with the New York Times for subscription based content.

Who cares? There are plenty of other sources for free news.

I appear to have made Apple the focal point of this article but it’s not just Apple who (as yet to be confirmed remember!) are putting their chips on the tablet roulette table. Microsoft and HP amongst the larger names are also banking on tablets and touch to be the next big thing. Perhaps their mindsets will change considerably by next weekend.

Essentially, when it comes to tablet computing I feel the bottom line is thus. I honestly just don’t think we are ready yet to detach ourselves from a physical keyboard. Sure gestures, swipes and pinches feel like second nature on a smart phone or an ATM or a museum exhibition for example. But when it comes to home computing, and I’m not really talking about gaming here, I think we still feel the need to have that sense of attachment to our beloved computer. It gives the user a sense of comfort, a sense of connection and ultimately a sense of control over their computer. Detaching ourselves in this way, is, ultimately, something that I feel we are still (and at the very least) a good 10 to 15 years away from and that is why I feel that certainly in the immediate future, tablet devices will be a failure (again).

Note: Images used in this article without permission.

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One Comment to “Why we’re not ready for mainstream Tablet computing…yet”

  • Aye, I agree, Tablets have been around for donkeys yonks, and, like the explosion of mini netbooks, any revitalisation of said technology will be a great boom for about 5-6 months, whilst all the techno junkies get their fix, but then go the way of the dodo.

    Like current touchscreen PC’s that you can get. Great stuff, I find myself abusing them in Dixons or Currys or any other shop that doesn’t secure them correctly, and that, is about all the use I can see for them.

    For Myself, Apple can launch a Tablet PC, and with much hype, and much gusto, I’m sure it’ll be given as much media hype as any others of their products. Me, a die hard Windows fan through and through (Yes, I have tried everything, my fav is still NT4) I’ll be plodding along with my shite Windows Mobile 6 phone, and my Windows 7 Laptop, and my behemoth PC(s) at work. Why? It works, it does what i want, and no, I don’t need an App to tell me when to take a number 2.

    Your Friendly Angry Local Scottish IT Systems Engineer.

    As Al Pacino says…Spaghetti Hoo-Haar! (John Sessions)

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