Tablets are to laptops as TV is to computers…

I got a tablet a while back, and I’ve been thinking about what it means for the IT business. This has taken on more significance in light of HP’s announcement that they will exit the tablet and phone businesses.

What I notice with the tablet is that while it’s a convenient device for consuming media – watching movies and TV shows, listening to music, browsing a few web pages, playing simple games, etc. — the user experience is brutal when I try to input text.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at using the capacitive touch screen for text input on both the tablet and my (very large screen) phone. Still, I doubt I could sustain more than about 3 words per minute of text input into these things. By comparison, once upon a time, probably 20 years ago, I clocked myself at 120 words per minute of text input using a keyboard.

So for me, a keyboard is about 40 times more effective than a touch screen. If I have more than a few words to enter, I’ll reach for the PC or laptop, thank you very much. My pain threshold for glacial user input just isn’t that high.

So the tablet is basically a media consuming device. A step up from a portable DVD player, if you will. Doesn’t that make it more or less equivalent to a television, where we all sit on the couch, numbly consuming dumbed-down content? I think the analogy is pretty compelling.

To imagine where tablets will go in the future, look no further than the evolution of TVs. They sold (and continue to sell) like hotcakes. Millions of units shipped every year. Fancy technology (think huge LCD flat screens, 3D TV, etc.) all dedicated to pushing visually stunning but largely dumbed down content to numb consumers.

Whereas a PC is an interactive device where people actually contribute something — you know, write documents, send e-mails, heck – even play interactive games with their friends — TVs are just numbing. I think the portable version of a PC is a laptop, and the portable version of a TV is a tablet.

This means that tablets will continue to be a huge commerical success for their manufacturers, but their social impact will resemble that of the TV…

As for the “business use” of tablets … what business use? Reading e-mails on the go? Watching movies while flying to a sales meeting? I think business users want tablets-as-toys, and the “business use” of tablets is just a made up justification to get the company to buy the toy. Maybe I’m just cynical.

I think this even impacts the “Web 2.0” movement. Remember that? It was supposed to mean that users contribute content to the web – rather than just reading static web pages. I think tablets are not “Web 2.0 compatible” — they are really “Web 1.0” devices.

Funny, that.

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