Are Tablets Here to Stay? [You Told Us]

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After the CEO of BlackBerry, Thorsten Heins, questioned how long a shelf-life tablets have to look forward to, we decided to seek your opinions on the matter. After a week of discussions related to the topic I sat down to pore over the results only to discover Bill Gates, the Chairman and co-founder of Microsoft, had stumbled into the discussion.

Gates was asked about the future of the PC, to which he opined that it’s “going to be harder and harder to distinguish [between] products” and so the Microsoft Surface brings together the “portability of the tablet but the richness of the PC.” In other words even Microsoft thinks that tablets are here to stay, but do the MakeUseOf readership agree?

The Results

We asked you Are Tablets Here To Stay? We had a fantastic turnout in the comments section, with people from both sides of the debate airing their views on the question at hand. The vast majority also took my advice to explain the basis for their opinion over merely answering the question with a simple one word answer.

The general consensus that emerged from the collective mind of the MakeUseOf readership is that tablets are here to stay for the long-term. Making Heins looks like a poor soothsayer who may just be bitter because the BlackBerry PlayBook failed so spectacularly. But that consensus came with several caveats.

First is the scope for the form factor to evolve over time. We have already seen this happen with the emergence of smaller screen sizes and phone tablets (phablets), and laptop/tablet hybrids which try to give consumers the best of both worlds. It would stand to reason then that tablets will continue to evolve over the next few years.

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Second is the question of how tablets are used, with the majority agreeing that they’re much better suited for consuming than producing. So, watching movies, listening to music, and reading webpages as opposed to writing articles, editing videos, and creating art.

There were also a proportion of commenters who agreed with Heins in principle, suggesting that tablets will give way to something else within a few years. Which wouldn’t be all that surprising given the pace of technology and the way only a select few form factors actually manage to survive beyond the launch of their direct successors.

Comment Of The Week

We had great input from the likes of Austin H, Moi, and John F, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to Rob H, who receives the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this:

I’d steered clear of tablets until recently. Then a relative showed us her photos on an iPad. My wife seemed impressed and was showing strong signs of wanting one. I’m not a fan of Apple products, in my opinion overpriced and too restrictive but I could see the attraction. I bought an Android 10 inch model instead.

Last week I want for a country walk with a group of friends. When we got back to the pub I popped the SD card out of my camera into the tablet and showed everyone the photos of the walk. There were a couple of Apple fanboys there. They seemed to think that operation was too easy (is that right? no SD slot in an iPad?). When they realised they’d paid 3 times as much as me they started to try to find fault but instead found other features they’d not got like USB, and HDMI. Ahh but no SIM… so I opened a web page via my wireless tethered mobile phone.

You may be thinking this is “off topic”. No. My point is that at Apple’s prices and specifications tablets are only for a niche market but at Android prices we can all afford one. That changes things.
One attraction of tablets is portability. Yes, for most of my computing needs I prefer a powerful large screen desktop PC with a proper keyboard, mouse and external speakers. It can do everything fast and well.

When I’m out and about I use a smart phone, frankly I make very little use of the “smart” aspects, the small screen image and tiny on-screen keyboard are OK when there’s no alternative but otherwise forget it.
The tablet is not a replacement for either but fills a gap. It has its own niche and I believe it’s a valid one. The screen is big enough to show a document at readable size, the on screen keyboard has big keys so I don’t make typos (a big problem on my phone), it’s OK for TV and movies. It goes around the house with me – read an online recipe in the kitchen, check my emails on the sofa, read an eBook in bed, Skype my overseas relatives (front and back cameras so I can show them the garden as well as my handsome face!). It is small/light enough to take round to a friends house to show them my photos. I can even use it in the car for bigger and more versatile mapping than the SatNav (not as a replacement but sometimes “as well as”).

In short my experience of using a tablet is that it has a lot of advantages over mobile phone or desktop and a few disadvantages. On balance that makes it worth having. If anything I wonder if tablets might erode the market for laptop computers, their additional features come at the cost of bulk, weight and price.

In my opinion the tablet could actually make mobile apps worth bothering with. I only ever got under a dozen for my phone and several of those got deleted as just unsuitable in such a small format.

We liked this comment because it presents an argument as to why tablets have a place in the world. It may be a niche – sitting between smartphones and laptops –but it’s a niche that seems to have found an audience. Tablets may never become an essential purchase, but for those who can afford to own one they’re a worthy addition to their collection of Internet-connected devices.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Cheon Fong Liew

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