Mobiles & Tablets

New face of computing or still just fancy toys?

Shakthidharan Vadakkepat | Updated on January 23, 2018



With more powerful processors and connectivity options, tablets are also evolving. But can they replace the PC or the laptop?

Super smartphones have queered the pitch with their price Vs potential formulae. Most people are buying super smartphones despite their high prices and without using them to full potential. Come to think of it many of them today are as expensive as large screen, high-def, 3D LED tellys. Many of them also feature 64-bit computing power and octacore processors that are more powerful than many current day PCs.

But, the smartphone is today considered an extension of our personalities (explains why we are ready to pay the fancy prices). Unfortunately though, tablets with similar features haven’t been able to sustain the same enthusiasm. They just aren’t as personal as smartphones. After the initial euphoria surrounding the iPad and the others that followed suit, tablets adoption has been dipping. Smartphones and phablets have put paid to their own big brother’s prospects. But, it might just be too early to write the tablet’s obituary.

Similar limitations

Compared to smartphones, ‘tabs’ are good for improving the media consumption experience. But, tablets suffer from the same limitations with low in-device memory, and poor plug and play and connectivity options that smartphones also suffer from. This immediately makes tabs impractical, and only a very small percentage of users actually use tablets as productivity aids. The capabilities of phones and phablets have increased exponentially this past year, and they sit in your pocket.

So, with BYOD (bring your own device) catching up at the workplace, will the tablet survive or will the smartphone rule both at home and at the office. To boost the fading popularity of tabs and find new uses for them, gadget makers are attempting a new concept – the Transforming tablet. Will this one hit the right buttons with customers?

The transforming tablet is the new breed that can be a touch device and at the same time ‘transform’ into a workstation with a proper keyboard and touch pad. The keyboard optimizes your typing experience and alleviates the pain of typing on a tablet display that can let you down big time if you work on long documents daily. It also frees up one hand that was needed to hold the tablet and makes proper typing possible.

If there is a future for the tablet, it has to be more oriented towards it being a productivity tool. It offers more screen real estate for displaying workflow information, spreadsheets, and other data, all of which can be viewed without the need to keep scrolling. Tabs also don’t suffer from lack space for connectivity options or plug and play slots.

Apple is rumoured to be making a new iPad that has an array of connectivity options or it could be the new USB C and very surely a set of peripheral devices that will use the options. The new iPad could have a screen measuring 12.9 inches diagonally. If the rumours are to be believed, then it marks a clear signal from Apple that it wants to take the fight not just to the desktop, but also to the laptop.

Transforming tabs could be the flavour of the year. ASUS started creating Transformer Tablets and had a decent run. Lenovo followed suit and now Dell and HP have joined in. But, while they have been considered novel, they haven’t been considered serious computing devices, at least not yet?

The fact remains that ‘spec-to-spec’ they are outgunned by the PC. There is not a single tablet (except the Surface Pro) that can seriously contend with the PC. If you are a developer or a designer, you cannot yet use your transformer instead of your PC. Multi-tasking is a big challenge and storage is limited. For them to be the best choice for powering the BYOD trend, they also need to be able to successfully keep apart the official and the personal worlds of the user. Companies are paranoid about keeping proprietary information out of the reach of outsiders. This is where Apple could make a difference with its ecosystem, and with a version that is optimised for fire-walling the personal and the official.

A powerful tab can then be potentially plugged in for both play and work.

So what is the verdict here? Transformer tablets are exciting, but in their current avatar they are just glorified email, browsing and media managers. They will need to evolve into serious computing devices with decent specifications to compete with the laptop or the PC which are still the computing devices of choice for developers and designers alike.

Published on April 30, 2015

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