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Are Tablets Replacing Notebook Computers? (Video) 211

Posted by Roblimo
from the computers-get-better-faster-and-cheaper-every-year dept.
Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the application and the user. We're seeing tablets advertised like crazy these days, and a trip to any busy coffee shop with free wi-fi will make it obvious that while there may not be as many tablets in use as notebooks, you see a lot more of them than you did five years ago, when it seemed like Bill Gates was the only person who had one, which he tried to show off as often as he could. In 2010, Apple debuted the iPad, and before long tablets were all over the place. So, on behalf of people we know -- and there are more than a few -- who either sneer at tablet computers or aren't sure they need one, we turned to David Needle, editor of, for advice on what kind of tablet to buy -- assuming we need to buy one at all.

Robin: This is David Needle. He is the Editor of Tab Times. And we’re going to talk about tablets. Should we buy tablets now?

David: That’s a great question. Sure, sure, I mean, they burst on the scene, they are kind of like reminds me of a couple of generations back when notebooks shook up the desktop establishment, which was what everybody bought was a desktop PC; well, a tablet is a more portable version of a notebook.

Robin: So, now instead of notebooks are we all going to get tablets?

David: Yeah, I think that’s the direction things are headed in. For now there is somewhat of an accessory or something that augments the use of a notebook. They can’t do everything a notebook does because the notebook has a full keyboard; it has much fuller range of applications, especially for productivity type stuff. But it does a lot of those things and it’s headed in that direction where it could be a true replacement for the notebook.

Robin: I am seeing them and I am actually playing with a very cheap Android tablet, and it has Bluetooth, it’s called a Nook from Barnes & Nobel, and a Bluetooth keyboard I have hooked up to it and you know that I can get Open Office on it, I have Open Office on it?

David: Yeah, yeah, ah, that’s cool. So Office compatible, you can do some things there, right?

Robin: Right. As a writer that means it’s a full productivity machine for me. What about these, what kind of – it’s after Christmas, it’s time to look at, we’re beyond the gifts for us, we can calm down and shop carefully, what’s a good tablet – what’s a good deal on a tablet now?

David: Well, actually and of course that doesn’t mean the end of the deal, so, right? Because now we’re hitting end of the year, we are hitting people that want to do may be tax deductions for home office, that type of thing, so there is a lot of deals. It’s a great time to buy. I think what we have to decide as a buyer, as a consumer is, is this in fact replacing the notebook, is this going to be something that you use for work or is this an entity in and of itself. Is this a device that you’re going to use to supplement what you’re watching on TV, occasional e-mails, and that kind of thing and more of a media consumption device, or is it going to be that full replacement or near full replacement for your notebook?

If it’s the latter, then you want to buy a product that’s a little more in-sync with the devices you’re already using, your computers and your notebook. So that’s where Windows Tablets have a little bit of an edge, you can run Office applications, do things like that. If you’re more in the media consumption side, there is where Amazon and its Kindle Fire line come into play, because they are a little bit like the android but they are kind of their own universe. So they’re kind of their own thing, but for media consumption and a great range of apps, very good prices, very good hardware.

Robin: Okay, yeah. And I’ve been experimenting literally, I’m using my android phone as my camera and fast action camcorder, and I am starting to use that tablet as my chariot to a conference or to a remote ____3:41 even though I have a small 11.5 inch screen Chromebook type computer.

David: Okay, right.

Robin: You have a Chromebook yourself, do you not?

David: I have a Chromebook, I have several tablets, I have an iPad, I have Windows 8 machine, so the whole range that you kind of have to have to cover all the stuff. So they all have different purposes but you know the iPad of course is still the winner and the leading tablet. And that’s the gold standard. I mean there is many many more apps for the iPad than any other tablet and it’s a beautiful device.

Robin: Okay. But it’s also costly, let’s say.

David: It’s a beautiful device, it starts at $500 and goes up from there. The iPad Mini with Retina Display is $100 less, that’s a very good tablet. You know smaller than the full sized iPad. Android devices from the Samsung Galaxy to Google’s Nexus, those are great tablets, I mean, they give you a lot for the money too. Kind of the killer app for tablets is the form factor itself, is the fact that ____5:01 supportable that you can go anywhere with them and do more with them.

Robin: What do you figure has the minimum right now that we need to spend to get a usable, not fancy just usable tablet?

David: Sure, sure. You know the funny thing is you could go as low as – we had heard a lot of talk last year about the $99 tablets. I mean they came out from sort of no name manufacturers. It didn’t really happen in a big way. Now the big CES, the Consumer Electronics Show is in January, so we’re going to see a lot of more low-end devices there. But whether we’re really going to see $99 mainstream I don’t know. But for as low as $150, you’ve got Dell Computer with Venue 7 coming out with a pretty good, pretty usable 7 inch tablet. So that’s pretty exciting. That sounded great, that’s not cream of the crop on display or any of those things, but you can certainly do stuff with it.

Robin: Right. Well, I mean, I learned the hard way that you don’t buy pre-teens good stuff because we suffered this. “Give me, no that’s mine, no it’s my turn and it’s plugged in and boom and there goes your main board where the....

David: Well, we’re actually seeing new thing, we’re seeing actually quite a few manufacturers come out with kid specific tablets, designed for kids, designed for the family. So you don’t have to necessarily pass along the one that you’re using for work or play. And these are ruggedized. They have pretty good hardware in terms of hard plastic shells, being able to take a few simple falls, that kind of thing.

Robin: Indeed. From what I’ve seen, the OLPC, the One Laptop Per Child is quickly becoming the one tablet per child project. They have a kid

David: Yeah.

Robin: I don’t remember who makes a Polaroid or somebody unlikely

David: Well, they were ahead of their time. They basically that original idea was that there would be $100 computer, it was ahead of its time, it’s still around and it’s morphed into a tablet thing, but that was the idea, spill proof, drop proof, applications built-in, pretty nifty idea.

Robin: Okay. Now we all love tablets all of a sudden, in fact here you are working on an publication that covers nothing else, why didn’t we pick up on tablets when Bill Gates was walking around showing them off over and over again, why did we ignore him?

David: Right, well and we largely did, I mean, they did find a niche, the Windows Tablets did find a niche in sort of delivery service people and medical and certain more limited scenarios. The problem was, Microsoft’s vision has always been ever since Windows came in the scene, Windows and then everything else grows from that. So they tried to extend the basic Windows desktop metaphor to a tablet form factor. And it didn’t really work. What Apple did, Apple came along and said, let’s reinvent this idea of a tablet and they were also the beneficiary of great timing, because the hardware had really evolved to the point where they could come out with a real portable device, low cost – relatively low cost and it worked out well for them. They started from a blank slate. They didn’t try to extend the Mac OS to a tablet. They said, no, let’s start with this iOS idea. And make it for tablets and let’s make a tablet be this unique thing that’s a very portable device for media consumption.

Now since that’s come out and Microsoft was always like, well, you can do everything you do in a desktop on a tablet. Well, it was heavy, it was expensive, it just didn’t work from that perspective, from a mass market perspective. Now, Apple has extended – really the developer community has extended this idea of media consumption and said, now you can do productive things on the tablet.

Robin: Which you can.

David: Which you can and there’s third parties companies coming out with keyboards and peripherals. It’s interesting because Apple itself is not – Apple sees different markets, Apple sees the tablet market, it sees the desktop market, the notebook market. So they themselves don’t do a lot to make the tablet more usable from a productivity point of view. They want you to buy a MacBook.

Robin: Well, I mean those who can afford it, no doubt do, it’s a

David: Yeah.

Robin: I’m just finding that the jump from the desktop down to the tablet isn’t big, and that leads me to another question, okay; let’s say we’re making a website.

David: Okay.

Robin: Okay, let’s do that, do we need an app or apps (plural) for Android and for the Apple people or do we just need a mobile website?

David: Yeah, I think there is going to be and they’re already is starting to be a big convergence, we’ve heard about this term called HTML5.

Robin: Yes.

David: Which is a kind of programming language, and the great promise of that is that it kind of reminds me of Java, the write-once-run-anywhere idea.

Robin: Right.

David: You do HTML and then you don’t do separate apps, and whether apps will – I think that is the direction. But right now there is this hybrid idea that you need an app for everything, and that hasn’t always been successful particularly on the publishing side, for example Rupert Murdoch’s company News Corp., invested a lot of money and hired a lot of people to do this thing called The Daily, which was an app for the iPad, and it just didn’t work, it didn’t pay in terms of the pay back for them. The idea that you have to load a separate app, I mean, we have an app, there’s a Times app, there are different apps for publications, but the idea that you always have to launch an app when people are so used to just go into a website. For media, it’s hard to know if that’s going to work long term.

Robin: I personally don’t think it will, I mean, I remember when everybody was going to have their private little walled-off piece of the internet; in fact, I have started writing one online, when Time Life was doing that.

David: Yeah.

Robin: They had all their magazines; it was Path Finder was the site, you’d never need another site except

David: Well, not to get too off topic, but, yeah, the idea that you had this gold standard, you had this terrific brand Time and they said, well, okay for the web we’re going to start this thing called a Path Finder with all new names and all new – yeah, in retrospect not so smart.

Robin: But even so, once again everybody was trying to have their little private thing; as you may or may not recall, you’re not an old man like me, so you may not remember back when there were like these things like CompuServe and the [Prodders]; there’re all these different online services, and you gave one money and you couldn’t send email to your friend from CompuServe, you couldn’t send email to your friend on ____13:01 .

David: Right.

Robin: Everybody wanted their private thing. With the one size

David: Yes, I don’t really see us going back to that, now the one thing you do have is for example you can’t run iTunes on an Android tablet, on a Kindle Fire, that’s not available, so we still have our separate universes up to a point.

Robin: Really I haven’t tried, I thought I – yeah, I do too have, I have iTunes on an Android; yeah, you can do that.

David: On like a Kindle Fire, you can’t run

Robin: Well, the Kindle, there’s some adoptions you have to do, you have to route it, so you’re in the mainstream Android.

David: Yeah, except

Robin: It’s not hard.

David: Well, yeah.

Robin: Well, I’m the tinkerer, let’s face it, I run Linux and I play with things. But I’m fine with the Android stuff which I gathered Android is now the world’s most popular operating system. Scary.

David: Yeah, that maybe, and I guess that is true, but then you get into usage, and when they do measurements of Internet usage and an app usage and things like that, it’s no contest, I mean, there’s much more traffic going through the iOS universe; iPhone and iPad.

Robin: Really?

David: Yeah, well, there's a lot of devices, they’re really cheap on the Android side that, do they ever get used? Well, it’s kind of hard to say. Or they are used very minimally. So a lot of devices out there, what’s actually being used, it’s iOS.

Robin: So if we want to be mainstream at this moment, we want to go with iOS.

David: Yeah, I mean, in aggregate I mean there’s still plenty of great things on the Android side that you can take a look at. And, I mean, Nexus 7, there is no question that that’s a popular device, Kindle Fire very popular, so plenty of options there. Windows ironically you’re talking about things in the past, Windows is the dark horse and I would say don’t count them out. There’s lot of resources there. They don’t always get it right the

first time, but they get it right at some point.

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Are Tablets Replacing Notebook Computers? (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:04PM (#45822595)

    Two different tools for two different tasks. Tablets are consumption tools. Computers are production tools.

    The end.

  • News for Nerds? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Golgafrinchan (777313) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:05PM (#45822611)
    What a strange article to post on Slashdot. I wasn't aware that a fairly basic "this is what tablets do, and here's a brief buying guide" article qualifies as "News for Nerds."
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:09PM (#45822655)

    Let's qualify this "no" answer. If you're a power user, a tablet isn't (today) going to get the job done. But if all you want to do is check email, browse websites, maybe play a few games, and so on, a tablet is just fine. I know many people that have quit using their desktops and notebooks because a tablet is all they need.

    Desktops and notebooks have a place in the corporate world and other small businesses, and I don't see many geeks replacing their workstations with tablets. Certainly you can't effectively program on them yet and there is still a lot of software that requires a full Windows, OS X or Linux install. There may be a day when the tablet is the workstation and acts like a desktop when you're at your desk, and a tablet when you're not. But that is not quite here today for most people.

    The desktop is not dead, and tablets have not replaced notebooks. But I think we can all envision a day when that is a distinct possibility.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Midnight_Falcon (2432802) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:09PM (#45822657)
    Betteridge's Law of Headlines indicates this answer is most likely correct :)
  • Timely article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <> on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:13PM (#45822685) Homepage Journal

    Only a few weeks ago I was in a meeting. There were 2 laptops and 6 iPads in the room. I think that was the first time I saw 3x more tablets in a meeting of that size (or at least that I remember noticing)
  • Re:News for Nerds? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SethJohnson (112166) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:15PM (#45822707) Homepage Journal
    I thought exactly the same thing. It's like the staff at Slashdot don't recognize that its audience would collectively know a million times more about this topic than the goofball at "" would.

    This kind of post is disrespectful to the audience. It's the kind of thing that drives it away and then you're left with mainstream audience who doesn't know crap about tablets. How profitable is advertising to them? Probably not as much as advertising to people who routinely configure Cisco routers or select cloud platforms for enterprise application deployments.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:16PM (#45822715) Journal

    For most ordinary home users who go online to consume content and do brief chats/facebook/such, the answer can be a fairly easy "yes", so long as they're willing to ditch their old programs in exchange for apps. My wife did this in July by swapping to an iPad, and hasn't looked back. I think she used the bluetooth keyboard twice... meanwhile, it's replaced her PMP, camera, gaming console, and she watches movies with it on long road trips.

    For crabby old tech types like me the answer is "hell no!" - I have way too much invested in CG/3D hobbyist bits and tools, I need the horsepower to render with, I type way too much, and in my estimation, screen real-estate is king. I'll stick with my MacBook Pro, thanks much.

    In-between? Depends on whether or not you primarily consume content or primarily create it; therein lies your answer.

  • Um, yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:25PM (#45822807) Journal

    From the first link in the summary: Last July, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Gates explained that Jobs "did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren't as thin, they weren't as attractive."

    Well yeah, plus, anyone who has used Windows XP Tablet Edition will tell you, it really didn't have tablet support. The "tablet features" were repurposed Accessibility features and they really didn't work very well. What Apple brought to the table was that a touch-only interface, to be intuitive and easy to use, couldn't be merely a bunch of cabalistic gestures that mimicked the actions of a three button mouse. Had Microsoft started *then* on a touch-only gui, instead of trying to shoehorn in the KVM-centric GUI of XP, maybe things would have been different.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:44PM (#45822973)

    There are some x86 tablets (like the MS Surface Pro) which are coming along well enough that if they have a decent docking station that supports USB (for backup drives, keyboards and other HID items), a plug for a monitor, a Thunderbolt port or two for faster drives, it may be that a tablet can function as someone's sole computer.

    If I need a docking station, external backup drives, external keyboard, etc. then please explain why I'm even bothering with a tablet? Seriously, just get a laptop. Tablets are for people who don't need all that stuff, they are designed as a device used to consume content, not create it.

  • by ApplePy (2703131) on Monday December 30, 2013 @06:54PM (#45823083)

    Devices that people are comfortable creating in creating twitter;

    "Creating twitter"?

    That's about as much "creating" as is "creating" a turd from the contents of my colon.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Monday December 30, 2013 @07:27PM (#45823377) Journal

    Correct but there is A REASON why sales are down, something that none of the pundits seem able to grasp and the reason is thus: The PC went from being "good enough" to insanely overpowered while the user's jobs? They didn't change.

    I mean look at the kits I sell on the low end, we're talking triples and quads with 4Gb of RAM, GPUs that do 1080P, and 500Gb how many of your average folks is gonna be able to slam that chip hard enough to require an upgrade, much less a new PC?

    The PC industry (and MSFT) got spoiled by what was a bubble, the MHz war created a bubble because increased single core performance? Trivial for a programmer to take advantage of while taking advantage of an 8 thread CPU? Insanely HARD and many jobs simply don't scale across cores well. The same will happen to tablets, we are already seeing quad tablets in the sub $150 range so it won't be long until everyone has an insanely overpowered tablet that wants one, which will be followed by smartphones.

    What will happen to the industry then? Who knows but the days of just throwing a new PC on the market and having it sell itself are over, the industry is just gonna have to adapt and try to come up with new markets.

UNIX is hot. It's more than hot. It's steaming. It's quicksilver lightning with a laserbeam kicker. -- Michael Jay Tucker