Only a short year ago, tablet computers were regarded as a distant dream – something attempted in the past, but never becoming a reality for consumers.
Today we have a plethora of tablet devices either already on the market, or soon arriving:
If you count dedicated e-readers as “tablets” (which I do because they fit the form-factor), there’s even more:
- Amazon Kindle
- Barnes & Noble Nook
- Sony Reader
- Kno E-reader
E-readers typically have less functionality and power, but still behave like tablets for the most part.
How did we get here?
Why have tablets suddenly hit the market? What has spurred this consumer interest? Is there something wrong with our current mobile computing methods?
One reason tablets have emerged is because smartphones established the touch-interaction model, yet have become too confining with their limited screen space.
As a result, tablets are being introduced which extend the smartphone touch-interaction model onto a larger screen. Consumers are welcoming such devices for situations where having a larger screen makes sense – it eases eye strain, and allows users to take advantage of the touch interface on a grander scale.
Tablets are versatile and user-friendly. The touch interface reacts to the natural human impulse to physically trigger, move, or interact with the digital world. You can literally “cozy up” to a tablet, or do serious work while sitting on an airplane, for example.
The versatility and familiarity are why tablets are catching on at a rapid pace.
But tablets won’t replace standard laptops or computers just yet. For any dedicated work, tablets often fall far short on functionality.
Where is this going?
Are tablets here to stay? What can we expect going forward?
Tablets are still being manufactured and refined to meet consumer needs and expectations.
Vendors are learning about the trade-offs involved with features, performance, and cost – while trying to appeal to a broad audience.
In this web-enabled world, users are rather particular about how they interact with software and services. Some prefer a clean, structured ecosystem (such as the Apple iPhone/iPad) while others would rather have more freedom and less restrictions (such as Google Android).
Tablets are also best used for consuming content, so it’s important for vendors to craft their devices that do not attempt to do too much, defeating the purpose of this new interaction model. Tablets should either compliment existing computer-users, or allow previously computer-free individuals to jump into the digital world without being overwhelmed technically.
In the end, I’m not sure what consistent role tablets will play, but the constant innovation and competition is great for consumers.
What needs to happen
Vendors need to perfect the touch interface responsiveness and accuracy, and users need to become naturally accustomed to using “computers” this way.
Vendors need to optimize hardware specs for an unobtrusive experience, meeting the expectations of the manner and ways we consume content today.