Tablets Replacing Laptops?

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A while ago, Steve Jobs said when introducing the iPad, “The transformation of the PC to new form factors like the tablet is going to make some people uneasy because the PC has taken us a long ways”. True, the PC has taken us a long way and yes, the tablets are the latest hot new computing device. But are they going to replace computers we use everyday such as laptops or Desktops?

One thing is for sure, so far the iPad is selling extremely well. Better than expected even. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, in the Wall Street Journal had stated that the iPad had cut into laptop sales as much as half! Later though he recanted  that statement, “The reports of the demise of these devices are grossly exaggerated,” he now says. But it begs the question: What made him say that in the first place if in fact he was “grossly exaggerating” the numbers?

The Reason

The fact is, Apple has had tremendous success with the iPad because it is a very good device. Most people actually do not need a high powered laptop because most computer use is internet based. Also, despite the many limits that the iPad has (namely no Flash), it is still a major player because of the applications and the availability of them provided in the app store. It is a one-stop-shop for whatever you need. When you have an infrastructure  around a device to this degree, we shouldn’t be surprised at the numbers. Or that it is moving in on other device’s turf.

Archos has 5 Android Tablets being released next month using Google’s Android OS 2.2 (Froyo)

Samsung has what most are considering the only true iPad competition with the Samsung Galaxt Tab. The Tab will also be shipping with Google’s Latest Version of Android OS (Froyo). Which also has a tremendously large and growing application store along with other Google services and applications already baked in the OS.

There is a word of caution however, for the early adopter of these tablets. Google says, “Android is an open platform, and we saw at IFA 2010 all sorts of devices running Android, so it’s already running on tablets; but the way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly.” That being said All of the new Archos tablets do not have Android Market. They have Archos’ Applib; which is their own app store. “Froyo is not optimized for use on tablets,” Google says. Even if a tablet you purchase does have the official Android Market, you may not see a lot of the applications you would see on the smartphones. We are expecting the next version of Android to have some optimizations for tablets, some time next year.

Still, quite a few other companies have already introduced their tablets into the market (with most of them running Android OS) and we hear talks from every other major gadget manufacturer wanting their hands in the game.

Also, we have to remember that tablets are not new. They have been around for years. But not like these. Usually they were clunky and not made for finger press and super expensive. They would use an OS designed specifically for a mouse such as Windows so the touch screen didn’t really add much ease of use for most people. But since the first Apple iPhone and the HTC G1 (the first Android phone), the Touch Revolution has exploded! Touch screens makes things a lot easier rather than just using a directional pad or a scroll wheel or trackpad to get around on devises.

Not to mention that both OS makers that are leading the charge in the Tablet market are the same ones who have had great success in the Smartphone business. Google and Apple. In fact the very same Operating Systems on the phones are on the tablets! (with a few adjustments) So those who are in love with their smartphone would feel right at home using a tablet of the same OS. It also shows the versatility of the Mobile OS. However, Microsoft believes that Windows 7 will make for a great tablet as well, even though it is a desktop and laptop OS, primarily used with a mouse or track pad.

Still, who really wants to buy these tablets instead of a laptop. Will you miss the CD/DVDRW drive, the USB ports, the Ethernet port, the physical keyboard and a large hard drive? How about Windows 7 or OSX, even Linux?

Whether the Tablet craze will actually catch on long enough to really strip some ground from the Laptop market remains to be seen. But when was the last time you have read about or even been excited about a Laptop coming soon?

What Do You Think?

Are you considering buying a tablet or do you already have one? Why or why not?

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28 thoughts on “Tablets Replacing Laptops?”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I bought my wife an iPad because she really wanted one. I was of the opinion that they were next to useless because they didn’t do flash, didn’t have expandable memory, no webcam, and no USB port.

    Guess what? It is way more used than I ever expected it to be. It goes with her to work every day – and with the 3g she always has access to her home email. It sits in front of the tv for those inevitable “what tv show is she from?” questions and for queuing up a tv show on bittorrent. It went with us to europe and was great as a gps and for looking up info on our anywhere web. As it was small and light enough to fit in a (big) purse or slip in the backpack. Way more useful than any laptop would have been.

    Do I still want those features? Yup – but – this was not bought for me. Best feature is the large screen – which for 40+ eyes is much easier to do mobile web than even the new iphone 4.

  3. The iPad will definitely replace something. For some it is replacing a netbook. For others a computer. And for others a phone.

    But for right now, since Acrobat (the real Acrobat with movies and comments, etc) and InDesign, and Photoshop, and Illustrator, and the Times Reader (with Flash) and a host of other professional drawing, layout, and other design programs don’t work on the iPad, my iPad sits alone on the desk.

    It never goes out.

    It just can’t do what a professional’s tool (a computer) doesn.

    Hell, it can’t even play a DVD movie.

    1. It’s going to replace my Macbook Pro as a travelling companion when I go on vacation to Florida next month. I’m going to bring along and old Think Outside folding Bluetooth keyboard and I might even jailbreak it so that I can use a mouse. I’ll only use the keyboard and mouse for extended emailing and/or writing sessions though. I just like the option.

    2. From Professional stand point I would agree, but are they made for using those sort of powerful tools? Most users wouldn’t, even if they had a laptop, the professionals using those tools for work would have a high powered PC which would cost more than even the iPad possibly. Basic functions seem to be easier to use on tablets in some respects…. I think

  4. I just received an email that my new EMR for my medical office eMD’s will work with the iPad and Android OS Now I will have to buy one to try it out in the office. Now using a convertible laptop from Fujitsu.

  5. apple took the right path when they chose to use the same OS and processor architecture they used in their phones in their iPad. they needed the ease of use of the iPhones OS and the low power consumption of the arm architecture in their A4 cpu. it all comes down to size with tablets; if it’s too big and heavy and you can’t hold it’s weight comfortably for long periods in your hands then it is useless.
    current Intel chips, including the intel atom, simply consume too much power and would make any tablet they were in either too heavy or have rubbish battery life.
    these “tablets” that apple have released aren’t really tablets at all, just oversized smart phones. we don’t currently have the technology to create a real tablet with a proper cpu and fully functional OS with the same size, weight and battery life as the apple iPad.

    My consensus:
    wait another 3 years until intel release a better version of the atom and then use a tablet that’s capable of running a proper OS that you can plug your USB flash drive into. then and only then will tablets begin to TRULY eat laptop market share like the netbooks have. by creating the iPad apple have taken a shortcut, they’ve offered us a vision into the future of what the REAL tablets will be like by giving us a partially functional tablet.

  6. I completely agree Jeff, Tablets will NEVER be as powerful as full sized laptops and desktop PC’s and so will ultimately be limited in functionality to a certain extent. However, I pose the following rhetorical questions:
    – did apple omit the USB just because they were too lazy to code USB peripheral driver support for their mobile OS or because a USB port and any attached peripheral would probably consume more power than the iPad’s A4 processor. 🙂
    – is the A4 processor even capable of running Adobe flash? The code behind the flash engine that runs on most PCs these days is extremely inefficient and requires some serious processing power. unless the flash engine could be accelerated through the A4’s integrated GPU, I doubt it… Adobe are also an incredibly lazy bunch who I suspect wouldn’t bother to code up an efficient version of their engine for google’s open andriod OS, let alone apple’s proprietary mobile OS. Then you have to consider whether apple even want flash capability on their phones and iPad’s; wouldn’t that directly cut into their app store’s market share?

  7. It doesn’t seem to replace the laptop entirely; just replacing when and if the laptop will be the choice of device under certain circumstances.

  8. I think they will surely slow down the sales of laptop’s over time. Especially the Android one’s which have HDMI out, USB, memory card slot. I see most common use of home computers is to browse internet and upload their photos, videos to photo sharing sites and also to edit the pictures and lot of printing for school work(that is changing fast as most teachers are trying to go green) and shipping labels. Maybe, each house will be happy with one computer instead of multiple ones’.

  9. Most of the information I consume these days is from the internet. Even if I read an article in a (paper) magazine, the first thing I want to do is hit the web to see if others agree with the conclusion of the article or disagree.

    When I head to the breakroom for lunch, I’d love to have an iPad to catch up on RSS feeds, maybe even listen to some tunes.

    There are laptops that I could take, but I don’t want a full size OS, with it’s long boot time, login and all the bloat. I want to push a button and bam, start reading.

    Tablets will not replace laptops for users that take a laptop because they can’t take a desktop, but for everyone else it will. Some people may even buy tablets that otherwise would not have purchased portable computers.

    1. @Eric Thats a good point.
      “There are laptops that I could take, but I don’t want a full size OS, with it’s long boot time, login and all the bloat. I want to push a button and bam, start reading.”

  10. To answer the original question, I refuse to drink Steve Job’s koolade for any product, and thus will wait until a viable alternative appears. The Tab, without the Android market place doesn’t interest me, I doubt MS will come up with something usable (think Vista), and I guess I’ll have to wait until Google optimizes Android or Chrome for the form factor. I can see many uses for a tablet in my daily life but for now I won’t enter Apple’s walled garden.

  11. These tablets will take huge share in the market – this is the next phase in the computer’s evolution. More and more software will either be cloud based, the OS will be more efficient and the types of things people do on computers change. Most people use devices like this to run apps or surf the internet or read books or magazines. For those functions, it is a nicer experience than most laptops. PCs will still exist for some time but it will be a bit like how the laptop ate the desktop share – these things are great and the price point is pretty low – in 12 months you will be able to buy an android based tablet that costs only $300 or less (and thats before subsidies). At the moment, to use an iPad effectively you also need a computer to update software and synch etc. Soon these devices will able to be used effectively without the need of a computer at all.

  12. thanks to the hyperlink provided by Jeff on Adobe Flash, it looks like the iPads hardware (apple A4) is fully capable of smooth flash playback and that android OS has full flash suport. so…it looks like the only speed bumps regarding flash and the iPad is apple’s relationship with Adobe and the conflict of interest between flash support and apple’s app store. for this reason alone i wouldn’t buy an iPad.

  13. This sounds just like the debate from 25 years ago.

    Do you think these personal computer things will eat into the market share of dedicated word processors and mini computers?

    I suspect the result will be similar. If it makes a users life easier or more productive or more enjoyable it will gain market share.

  14. So far ONLY Apple has released a tablet with 768 horizontal lines. It appears that none of the ARM/IntelAtom/Nvidia Tegra2 can support 768 lines.
    This is important as apart from Apple’s ipad one cannotconveniently browse a FULL webste screen in the usual 600 lines. One has to constantly scroll the screen up and down to read full pages of any normal website. So viewing say the WSJ or NYT or Engadget or the Gatgeteeer is tiresome.
    I think Intel did this deliberately so that Atom powered chipsets in tablets and netbooks did/do not erode their higher revenue chipsets in laptops. This has opened the market for Apple to dominate until intel and others wake up and join the inevitable trend. One cannot tell users what they must buy! One has to anticipate their neeeds and supply it. Maybe Tegra 3 will support 768 lines, but even Nvidia is late here in aking proper advantage of Intel’s miss-steps.

    Meantime I might buy a Kindle 3 (to replace my nice Sony PRS 300) and se it for very mild web browsing needs when away from my desktop.
    I had been waiting for a “really” useful tablet with the following specs.
    768 horizontal lines
    forward facing video cam + mic for Video Skype
    10 inch screen.
    Battery life 10+ hours.
    This would nicely replace the Asus netbook (Atom based) I currently use while travelling.

    Right now MANY Apple competitors seem to think that users prefer a 7 inch screen and 600 lines, but surely this is far too close to the experience with the latest smart phones? Well that’s how I feel.

    1. Tablets are suppose to be even more portable and lighter than laptops. It might just be a personal thing. Some might like 7inch, some might like 9 or 10inch. Laptops come in all sizes too, so there may not be sweet spot in size or a one size fits all. Variety is good.

  15. I’ll stick with my 10″ netbook for now! The iPad is too limited for my needs at this time. I do a lot of typing and a keyboard on the netbook is good enough. I can pop it into my backpack for traveling and just go. Having to carry around a keyboard and mouse to use on the iPad kind of defeats the purpose of portability. And having to jailbreak to use them sounds kind of criminal (on the part of Apple)! Whereas, with the netbook I got everything right there. Apps? I don’t need no stinking Apps! What are you people thinking? There’s enough open source programs out there for my netbook and I’m all for open source. I don’t need to line the pockets of large corporations with my hard earned green. I donate to the open source programs I use!

    1. Wouldn’t we say that most of the time, and i mean MOST OF THE TIME, you get what you pay for? Open Source is great but the problem with open source sometimes is that its open source. If the development of tools aren’t funded properly then you end up with glitchy or just simply not so great applications. Now every now and again you find some things that just works and works great but if it does it won’t be long before it needs to be better and thats gonna cost money too. People often wonder why Linux distros like Ubuntu haven’t excelled pass Windows because they feel it works just as good if not better. Fact is they aren’t better, they are just free and open. Which some people love and others don’t care. They just want something to do what its suppose to do and make it easy for me to do it. Now this is coming from a Ubuntu, Fedora, PC Linux, Mandriva user, that its not always simple. Windows, and OSX and Android(which is open source) and iOS all have funded support far beyond any others. Thats why we pay for it. Right? So applications are worth the money provided they work as advertised. If it doesn’t then it goes away.

  16. I wish I could replace my MacBook Pro on trips, but since I am a software developer I always have to take my laptop with me anyway. Until the iPad runs Xcode, that is 🙂

  17. I have been a Mac user for over 20 years. I have used all computers personally and profesionnaly, Mac and PC. Recently I was swooned by netbooks, used them heavily, even had a hackintosh netbook that fully used Leopard. I was always annoyed by the long boot when I needed quick information from the web. XP was very long, Mac OS X a little better, and was much happier with Linux (Ubuntu and even better). I finally got an Ipad with 3G, and boy what a world of difference. I’m always using my Ipad. At home, at work, and when I’m commuting between. The Ipad had made my latest netbook jealous. It is almost never taken out to be used, even in theory can do more than my Ipad. Practicality wins.

  18. @Jeff Hollaway
    The open source programs I use work just fine for what I do.

    @Marco Bianchi
    Have you ever thought to put your netbook in sleep mode? Comes up very quickly that way!

  19. I waited until this week before getting and iPad. I work in Unix server support and so the question for me was, what was I going to use a new computing devices for and what got me the most bang for my buck. I know how fast technology depreciates and so I needed something to last for a while AND replaces the most devices…

    * Replaced, Sony PRS-600 ebook reader – Kindle app, Stanza app, iBooks, most of my epubs & pdfs went right in and are just as easy to read, especially in the case of PDFs.
    * Replaced, Nintendo DS – Games selection is good on the ipad, just as easy to drop in and get playing, great for waiting rooms & etc.
    * Replaced, Data plan on cell phone – Not that I ever used it much in the first place, but now I have a device that is easier to use & has a nice large screen for data entry.
    * Replaced, Macbook Pro – What you SAY! Yup, the macbook is about 4 years old and while it still works and is faster than the ipad, is a very heavy interface for couch surfing or laying in bed reading, and not to mention tilt the screen past a certain point and it flops closed.

    * NOT replaced, desktop(Win & Linux) – While there are several nice apps for doing things, the iPad can’t replace the screen real estate of dual-monitors. I do more ‘work’ on my desktop, while my iPad has become my entertainment interface.
    * NOT replaced, ipod classic – with 100GB of music (thank you ripped CD’s) the ipad just doesn’t have the storage capacity I need. Also, the ipod form factor is just so much better for music. Of course I don’t really NEED to have every song on the ipod, but I like too.

    * COULD Be Replaced, Personal Cell phone – with the data plan & headset mic and skype/email/facebook I have a wide selection of tools to contact people with. Get a cheap pre-paid for cell phone for sometime local calls and it could work. (only for me b/c I don’t make many personal calls, my work phone could not be replaced that way though b/c I use it too much)
    * COULD Be Replaced, Tivo and/or 2nd TV – with the netflix app & internet access, I’ve got tons of things to watch and at a short range there are no problems watching ‘TV’ on the iPad. This is especially true in my home office where space is limited anyway.

    There are probably a few more things that could be replaced that I can’t think of right now. But in just the week I’ve had it, the ipad has more than proved its usefulness and utility.

    1. @ Donald now you’ve got me wondering if I need a data plan… wifi at home, wifi at work…. if i am somewhere else, should i even be on the phone anyway?

  20. I’m going to wait for the iPad 2G to come out. Hopefully it will have a USB and a SSD slot to make it functional; a camera would be nice too 🙂
    Otherwise my netbook serves me very well…

  21. We all know that desktop and laptop are considered necessities while tablets are more of a luxury. There is no way that you can effectively use your tablet for your work, with the exception of just a few jobs. But everything that a tablet can do can be done by your desktop and laptop. I’m sure these two devices can coexist with one another.

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