Monday, 26 November 2012

Laptops poised to be the new tablets

Apparently the days of laptops are numbered, if consumer purchasing habits are to be believed. Or rather if you're looking for a story, or flogging a tablet, you can mis-represent facts to show that the days of laptops are numbered. Tablets are out-selling laptops... and PCs combined, probably.

Because they are awesome new technology?  Because they unleash heretofore unprecedented productivity and/or entertainment?  Or because everyone already has a laptop/PC and thinks this touchscreen stuff seems pretty nifty?  It works on your smartphone, right? So why not a bigger screen for browsing/reading while watching TV on the sofa, or in bed at home?

The sole benefit of tablets is convenient media consumption.  They are not about productivity, unless you mean text email (even attachments are a bit arduous on a tablet).  Yes, you can do productive things on them, but ask yourself: more productively than on your laptop?  Equivalent, maybe, but not more, unless you're a finger-painter.

So why are tablets more convenient? No boot time is clearly a factor, but the overwhelming factor is touch. You don't need to position yourself to use it. You just tap it on, tap here, swipe there and there's the info you need: the appointment, the photo, the book you read. No keyboard to squint at, no mouse to grapple.

But only one app at a time. Sure, you can switch apps, but that's not really multi-tasking, that's switch-tasking. Try IM chatting while watching a movie, or comparing 2 spreadsheets side-by-side. Never mind watching a YouTube vid while your app compiles - who would use a tablet to compile an app? Well... Why not? Are we agreeing that serious work cannot be done on a tablet?

So why would laptops' days be numbered?

The magic of tablets is touch. Not iOS or Android, or apps. Put a touchscreen on a slim, light, endless battery laptop. Perhaps with a detachable keyboard for balance. Ensure it has a proper multi-tasking OS, with the convenience of touch. And tablets will start to look again like the toys they are.

Apple made a comeback. Who's to say Microsoft are not as capable? With Kinect and Surface they have some great potential. They just need to avoid their perennial temptation to over-engineer. Consumer technology is not about what you put in, it's about what you leave out.

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