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Will Tablets Replace Laptops and Computers?

Can they do it?

I think most people agree that smartphones in their current state, while extremely popular and possibly even overshadowing PCs in internet usage one day soon, will not replace them outright. If you’ve ever tried to type a quarterly report on your iPhone you’ll understand why. They are perfect devices for the consumption side of content and media, but not so great for the creation side.

But now there’s a new debate raging. Will tablets replace laptops…or possibly even PCs as a whole?

The answer is…sorta.

Sorta?! What kind of answer is that?!

Well, in all likelihood the correct answer. When you look at tech history you’ll find that one technology replacing another outright as actually the minority of situations. What usually happens is that each side of the battle absorb the better qualities of the other until the lines between them start to blur.

So what does that mean? It means that the most probable answer is that tablets will change personal computers, and in the process they will be changed themselves.

Microsoft Surface: the first blur

Microsoft’s new-to-come tablet, the Surface, is a great example of the first round of blurring beginning. Now, to be honest, I have no idea if it will actually be worth a crap. But I can tell you that even if it isn’t, some other company will take the concepts and turn them into a similar device that actually is worth a crap.

Notice that when you read all the fanboy comments (pro and against) on every article about the up and coming Surface, one topic always comes up: “It’s not even a tablet, it’s basically a laptop!

There’s truth in that statement, even though as a whole it’s wrong. It’s a touch screen device the size of any other tablet that operates just like any other tablet. It definitely has the qualities that one would describe as a tablet. But…it also has it’s full keyboard. This is a laptop driven addition that seeks to give the product some content creation ability in addition to the amazing on-the-go content consumption ability that tablets give us.

What do we have to look forward to?

Tablets engineers are going to more and more seek to overcome the content creation flaws in tablets. We’ll see more and more attempts at integrating laptop or PC type input devices (especially keyboards, but possibly even some mouse-like methods that can be used secondary to touch input). And while small and light tablets definitely won’t go away, we’ll eventually see additions of bulkier heavy duty tablets with much more processing capability closer akin to desktops and laptops.

Laptop engineers are going to seek to create more and more mobile experiences with their laptops while sacrificing as little as possible in content creating power that laptops are great for. In the past many of these methods were actually already attempted, but the stage just wasn’t set for it yet: such as touch screen input secondary to the mouse/trackpad input. Keyboards that flip around to the back so that laptop can be used while standing and walking, etc. Also large pushes will be made to add more battery life to match tablet longevity.

Even PC’s will be affected. While the big and bulky desktop unit may very well always have it’s place (after all, even if we do make powerful 3 inch devices…a 3 foot one is still able to pack that much more power…someone always has a use for more power!). But we may start to see bigger selections of desktops that are designed to be easily relocated, such as the box/monitor combos that already exist, or new great ideas that make it simple to pack up the PC and take it on vacation with you.

What do you think?

Any more observations on how the lines between these different technologies may start to blur? I’d love to hear them in the comments!


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