The recent introduction of the Apple iPad has raised the bar on tablet computers, which have been around in some shape/form for a number of years. As tablet computers are not “mainstream” your reaction could be any of the following:

  • What is a tablet?
  • They are a waste of technology — there is no practical use for them.
  • They are amazing devices and I see countless possibilities.

So lets examine what a tablet is and if they might make sense for you.

Disclaimer — This blog isn’t about what to buy, rather it talks about the possibilities of tablet devices and things to consider so you can make an informed buying decision.

Tablets 101 — what the heck are they.

For readers not familiar with tablets, this section focuses on some history and tablet basics (so if you are comfortable with the technology, feel free to skip this section).

As is normal for many, let’s first reference the Wikipedia entry for tablets:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablet_PC

There are a few things to add to the wiki definition though:

  • Not all tablets implement a stylus, some are touch only (they react to finger heat).
  • There is no common “form factor” (sophisticated way of saying they are not the same size).
  • There is no common or “standard” Operating System (Windows, Apple OS, Android, etc.).
  • Features can vary between models/vendors (USB, Camera, Memory, etc.).

And here are a few examples of tablets that are being sold today:

And some interesting links of what is coming!

The HP and Lenovo offerings are dual purpose machines. They can be used as a normal laptop computer and converted to a tablet by twisting the screen (which covers the keyboard).

Entering the Neutral Zone Captain.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, some people may already have opinions about tablet technology. Regardless of what your current opinion is, consider the following:

Section 1 — Pop Quiz

Yep, a quiz in a blog! Don’t worry — you don’t have to prepare:

Q: What do all of the following have in common?

  • The personal computer.
  • The internet.
  • The cell phone.

———————– Answer immediately below ————————–

A: When each technology was first introduce, one or more of the following questions were asked:

  • What is the business value?
  • What would I possibly use this for?
  • I would never have a need to use that?

Yet over time each of these devices became ubiquitous. This demonstrates that just because the value of a technology isn’t immediately obvious doesn’t mean that the technology is bad or useless.

Section 2 — It’s exactly the same, but different.

For our next example, assume you need to hammer a nail into a wall. You go to your tool chest and you see the following hammers:

  • Claw hammer.
  • Ball peen hammer.
  • Sledge hammer.

While in theoryall of these hammers could do the job, one of them is best suited for the task at hand. As we go through an examination of tablets you should keep this idea in the back of your head. The value of any device is more a function of what your need is and the tool that best meets those needs.

Section 3 — What’s in your wallet?

With the large number of electronic devices, there are a number of devices in universe of electronics that you could own:

  • Cell phone / Smart Phone.
  • Blackberry device (in some instances work provided and in addition to the cell phone).
  • Laptop.
  • Portable music player.
  • Kindle — an electronic device that displays electronic books (Click Here for More Information).
  • Portable DVD players.
  • Portable game devices.
  • GPS device.

Notice that each device provides a very specific function, has its own unique size and configuration (they usually have their own power cords as well!)

So what are the possible uses for a Tablet — depends on what you are trying to do.

If you consider the items in the list above (or if you carry one or more of them around in real life), wouldn’t it be nice to have a single device that combined most (if not all) of these features and was relatively light weight? In short, that is what the latest breed of tablets (read iPad) is trying to accomplish (minus the cell phone functionality).

So while the functionality of the device can be described, it’s a bit harder to describe the ways a tablet can be used. Some will be natural/obvious and other uses may evolve over time. So in the spirit of dreaming, let’s dream a bit!

Possible Uses In a Family Setting

  • Allow the kids to play movies in the back seat (Netflix will steam stream to devices like the iPad, but you would need the 3G version of the iPad).
  • As a personal gaming device.
  • As an interactive display to share family photos during family gatherings.
  • As a tool to quickly access in the kitchen for fast access to your home internet.
  • As an Amazon Kindle replacement (a device that displays electronic books). (Editor’s Note: the iPad does have a Kindle Application allowing it to be used to read these electronic books).

Possible Uses In Educational Settings

Most college students will need a computer (or access to it) when going to college. In this setting, a tablet is an interesting option because:

  • It can be used to read electronic books (potentially eliminating the physical book).
  • It would be useful for taking class notes.

And to show you this concept isn’t that far from reality:

College Offers Freshmen a Choice of iPad or Macbook.

As a Professional tool

  • Giving presentations at a client location and/or impromptu locations
  • Taking meeting notes and/or diagramming
  • Calendaring / todo / Email

Specific to note taking, wouldn’t it be nice to have a device where all of your notes were kept, eliminating a paper mess at your desk?

For personal use

At a minimum, the tablet will serve as a viable entertainment device (Music, games and video). Some may find it to be useful as an everyday tool, and it is likely applications will come out to encourage that behavior.

So is it worth it? The Final Analysis — Deal or no Deal ?

Clearly, those that buy a tablet today can be considered “early adopters”. While the iPad is clearly a “sexy” device, some of the other products mentioned about have their own appeal. Considering other devices are slated for released later in 2010 it might make sense to take a “wait and see approach”—if for no other reason the competition may help drive pricing lower.

So unless money is burning a hole in your pocket, a wait and see strategy would consist of the following:

  • Read the Wikipedia entry on tablets (the link was provided earlier)
  • Read industry blogs (I hear there is a really good one at www.keep-pace.com)
  • Go to the Apple store and play with the Apple iPad.
  • Look for the announcements for the HP Slate and/or gPad device.

And as part of your buying decision, consider the following pro’s/con’s of the device

Reasons to buy:

  • You have to have it.
  • You have less devices to carry.
  • You have a device with significantly more functionality.
  • You have a device that should be easy to use.
  • It’s more convenient than a traditional laptop.
  • You have less power adapters to deal with.
  • Your usage of the keyboard should be reduced.

Reasons not to buy:

  • You don’t see the need/value (at least not at this time).
  • You consider it expensive (at least for now).
  • You think the device is to large to carry around.
  • The device isn’t easily expandable (its not designed to be user serviceable).

I hope you enjoyed this entry.   Feel free to become a Facebook fan at Keep Pace Technology