Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tablet PCs Revolutionary? Wake Me After the Hyperbole Is Over

Used under the fair use doctrine for commentary purposes. Oh, those revolutionary machines . . .

So maybe I've started a Facebook War, and given my ineptitude at Facebook, perhaps that's not a good thing.

The topic du jour is tablet PCs, namely the iPad 2. The statement was made by a former college professor that because tablet PCs are now media consumption and communication and production devices, they are thus revolutionary and bound to be the face of new multi-million dollar companies.

That I doubt. Here's what I said:
You know, I hate to be the one to roll my eyes over this, but I have a hard time believing tablet pcs in any shape or form are going to be the foundation for any multi-million dollar businesses outside of the hardware companies making them, and maybe the Angry Birds people. They're just not that revolutionary, folks. The only advantage I see that they have over desktops and laptops -- which are also media consumption and communication and production devices -- is their cachet and portability, which hardly seem revolutionary to me, given that smartphones also have that cachet and portability but the only ones really getting rich off of those are the cell phone companies.

I say this as a proud owner of an iPod Touch which has been nice to have but certainly isn't revolutionary in any way - it's lighter than my laptop, I'll give it that.

Where's the new terrain that's being explored? I'll bet good money that desktops and laptops have already been there.

I'm prepared to eat crow on this if we can take this beyond the hyperbole.
I'm not alone in thinking this. John Swansburg, writing for, penned an anti iPad screed titled “I Hate My iPad. Can my tablet-loving Slate colleagues convince me I didn't just waste $600?” Here's what he says:
I think it's amazing that Apple has convinced so many people to pay $600 for what seem like such marginal improvements in their lifestyles—$600 to be able to check my e-mail in bed in a slightly more comfortable fashion than I can on my laptop seems sort of crazy when I stop and think about it.
He goes on to say that typing on the iPad is “beastly” – something I'll echo about my iPod Touch – making it still more of a consumtpion device than a production device. And yes, there are people out there no doubt developing smart pens and such with which you can write on your iPad screen – but how much of an improvement is that over a pen and a bit of paper? And given how bad my handwriting is, will the technology ever exist to be able to translate my henscratchings into legible text? I'm not holding my breath.

I've written one and one-thirds of a novel in the past year. Some of it, on the iPod Touch. But that's been relegated to notes and a few short snatches, given the iPod Touch's typing limitations. The rest of it – nearly 100 percent in fact, has been done on a steady stream of trusty old desktop computers.

Additionally, per Catharine Smith writing at the Huffington Post, the iPad and its ilk are certainly not revolutionary. She points out that the first tablet could easily be considered to be 1964's RAND, which included a clunky CRT and a pen with which one could write on the screen. I'd look pretty silly climbing on the bus, pulling out my RAND and calling it revolutionary to my busmates, wouldn't I? And the sleekness, the portability, the power, certainly give today's tablet PCs strong advantages over the RAND, but I've yet to hear anyone truly explain to me how these toys are any more revolutionary than the desktop I'm writing this on or the laptop I've got stowed in my bag for a weekend of writing and production seminars.

Yes, I'm sure people will point out to me many, many articles out there that do say tablet PCs are revolutionary, “magic,” or whatever other adjective is currently in voge. I've read a lot of them. And basically what they boil down to is this: They're portable! They're groovy! Steve Jobs said they're magical! Take my money! I want five of them, please!

Again, I'll say it: I'm prepared to eat crow on this if we can take tablet PCs past the hyperbole.

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