The conventional PC/notebook may come with a price tag and a certain amount of clunk, but it empowers users in ways that tablets simply can’t—at least, not yet. There’s a reason tablets are being positioned mainly as secondary or tertiary computing devices—something you take with you when you’re walking the shop floor, or into the boardroom for a presentation.
But when you sit back down and need to get real work done, as opposed to just tabulating and collating (or browsing and displaying), you’ll do all that with a keyboard and a mouse and decently-sized screen. It’s silly to believe that people will rush right out and deny themselves perfectly useful tools for getting things done, all for the sake of embracing the new.
I’m consciously avoiding most of the more prosaic arguments used to attack tablets. You’ve heard most if not all of them by now: the Why Buy A Tablet When You Can Get A Full-Blown Notebook For Roughly The Same Cost argument; the Why Spend Money On Something That Doesn’t Even Run My Desktop Software argument (which applies mainly to the iPad and ‘Droid-powered tablets); the Who Can Afford Another Computing Device In This Economy argument.
To me, all of these are somewhat secondary to the main problem: a tablet isn’t a PC or a notebook, shouldn’t try to be one or be positioned as one, or pressed into service as one. It’s from this mistaken view that most, if not all, of the problems with tablets seem to spring.
One thing I do see happening is the further hybridization of the tablet and the conventional desktop or notebook. Hewlett-Packard seems to be leaning in that direction with their new TouchSmart line of PCs. Slate-style notebooks that convert between tablet and conventional notebook form factors have been around for a while, although for a long time they were hidebound by the limits of touch technology. (People didn’t like using a stylus with a smartphone, and they didn’t much like it with a slate PC either.)
The full-blown PC, the notebook, the slate, the tablet—all of these things have lessons they can teach each other, while at the same time cultivating their respective niches. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but all of them are important.
The real point of the tablet is that it isn’t replacing anything. It’s a new kind of device, one suited to a specific subset of behaviors. If we think of it as the death knell for conventional desktop-based or notebook-based computing, or something equally overblown, aren’t we just ignoring its real capabilities?