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Brett Nordquist (Customer Experience Engineer)

My brief affair with the tablet

Written on May 12, 2014 by Brett Nordquist

I recently returned from Las Vegas where I attended an Intel partner event. Over the course of three days, I was able to listen to many speakers give us their predictions for the future of computing. We were presented with demos of fancy all-in-one PCs, sleek new laptops as well as beefy workstations powered by quad Xeons. If Intel was building chips for it, we saw it or heard about it. 

Yet one topic popped up in nearly every presentation I watched: the tablet. 

Whether it was the enterprise, medical or education, the venerable tablet was well on its way to shaking up that market. Intel was giddy about their prospects for building the next generation of tablets. In fact, every attendee was given an Android tablet to take home. 

So since I returned home I've been giving some thought to my experience with tablets. I bought my first tablet, an iPad 2, in the fall of 2011. I enjoyed playing casual games on it and writing the occasional email. But it was mostly used by my kids to watch Netflix or YouTube. At first I carried it nearly everywhere including church and work. The larger-than-my-phone screen was nice, but all-day battery life was its "killer app". 

But over the past year something strange happened: I stopped using my tablet. 

As I consider what factors lead to my abandoning the tablet, I wonder if others have experienced something similar. I've narrowed down the factors to the following:

1. My smartphone screen grew larger and battery life improved  
2. Multiple device management fatigue set in
3. Added a third screen to my Windows 8 PC

My smartphone is the device I carry with me everywhere I go. It's good at a lot of things such as texting, viewing emails, taking pictures and making the occasional call. It's great at participating in social activities such as Twitter and Facebook. 

But its screen is still too small for lengthy emails, writing blog posts or browsing the web for more than a few minutes. For those activities I prefer waiting till I'm at my PC. 

My PC excels where having a lot of screen real estate matters such as editing photos and videos or witing code or gaming. My phone excels at performing a number of smaller but no less important tasks, and it's always with me. 

My tablet? It filled this odd space between my phone and PC. My phone could do much of what it could do, and was smaller. But my tablet couldn't perform the tasks I rely on my PC to do. This winter I thought maybe I'd find a use for the smaller, more powerful iPad Mini with Retina display. It's a fantastic device, but after two weeks of sitting on my nightstand I decided to return it. As much as I wanted to find a spot for a tablet in my life, I couldn't do it. 

Intel would surely not agree with me because they showed people walking around their houses carrying 27-inch tablets on which to play board games or explore the galaxy as a family. Maybe Intel assumes a major breakthrough in voice recognition? I don't know. 

I would be foolish to attempt to predict the future. I never thought my kids would watch movies on their iPods, but they do. But when they need to write or research a report, they default to one of three PCs in our home running Windows 8. 

I wish Intel the best in selling tablets, but today they don't fit into my life. Managing a PC and a phone is plenty. In order for another device to make it into my life it would have to displace one of those two, and I don't see that happening anytime soon. 

Tags: Tablets, Smartphones, PC

So the real shortcoming of the tablet was the lack of a keyboard and mouse, or was there a performance issue as well?

Posted on 2014-05-12 21:41:33

That's probably fair to say. Screen real estate, multi-tasking, and lack of keyboard were all factors. My spouse got a new laptop a few months ago and I've been like it more and more. Never been a big laptop fan but maybe I can change.

Posted on 2014-05-12 21:46:50
Daniel Gonzalez

Excellent insight and my exact thinking, especially "2. Multiple device management fatigue set in". BOOM.

Posted on 2014-05-12 22:31:51

Thanks, Daniel. I get tired just keeping all the devices charged let along making sure they are virus free, have strong passwords and the latest updates. It really does get tiring.

Posted on 2014-05-12 23:15:26
Chris Pritchard

I find that I use my tablet less and less as time goes on. The points you mentioned like phone screens has a lot to do with that, and the amount of devices I already have in the home.

I'd like to add though years ago I went to double monitors for programming and gaming, then moved to double monitors eventually ended up at 3x24in 1080p monitors. Recently picked up a 27in 1440p monitor and ditched the triple setup, tired of fiddling with games to make them passably work across that much real estate.

You mention 27in tablets... I cannot imagine having a mobile tablet that size. Disregarding the weight of something that size with batteries and everything else in it, due to the sheer size it would sit in a single spot in my home and I'd never move it... so I cannot ever see myself having one over any other device in my home already. Things like streaming to your to TV via airplay and chromecast as well I think hurts how successful over sized tablets will be as why bring a 27in tablet into the living room when you can broadcast onto your TV that is most likely going to be bigger.

Posted on 2014-05-12 22:52:10

Maybe we'll see a breakthrough on materials that will allow for a portable 27-inch tablet. I still can't imagine allowing my kids to move from them room to room around the house!

Posted on 2014-05-12 23:16:12
Sean Long

Maybe if it had a flexible, roll-up screen - so that when not in use, it was more of a tube / bar, than a gigantic rectangle ...

Posted on 2014-05-13 03:17:43
Sean Long

My iPad Air is primarily used as an e-reader - I play "paper-and-pencil" roleplaying games, and as a youth would cheerfully lug around one, or even two, milk-crates filled with thirty-plus pounds of books ... each.

But, now in my forties, I'm unwilling to haul that much "dead tree" around with me on the less-and-less frequent occasions when I can find a group to game with. At the same time, the games I play are more and more often publishing all their products in electronic form.

So, an e-reader seemed the way to go (seventy pounds of books-and-box, or three to four pounds of tablet ... not a difficult choice!!). My first one was a Nook Color, with a 7" screen. And while that's fine for pure-text stuff, like novels and so on ... it's ABYSMAL for the image-laden, typically PDF role-playing supplements. Especially, when they have lots and lots of tables. Zooming in and panning around the pages grew very tiresome, very VERY quickly. Oops.

However, tablet's typically 10" screens are just about right. Oh, sometimes I need to zoom in to read a table here and there. But at least I can, by and large, flip from page to page and FIND that table without having to pan across each page carefully; going from the essentially 14" size of an 8.5"x11" printed page, to a 10" screen, still leaves you able to browse the contents quite well.

I also use my iPad for casual games, occasionally watching Netflix, snapshots when my "real" camera isn't readily to hand, and Googling things when I'm not near my computer (I don't have a smartphone at all). Even music, via a Bluetooth remote speaker, now and then.

Oh, and driving my Parrot AR drone. Or does that count as a casual game? :D

But it's in no way a replacement for my PC.

Posted on 2014-05-13 03:16:00

I don't have a tablet of any kind, nor do I really need one. In fact, I rarely carry my (non)smartphone unless I'm traveling or have a priority need. I don't like to be encumbered when I'm out in the world. I find that my PC and laptop are all that I need. I may purchase a 27 inch monitor for my photo work at some point. When I take photographs, I use either my 4x5 view camera or my Nikon DSLR.
My wife, on the other hand, loves her iPad. She has a keyboard for it that makes it more useable for e-mail, etc.. It's funny, but I've tried, I really have, to use the thing, but I find it awkward. BTW, when she needs a document made, she gets me to do it on my PC! Funny how that works. :-)

Posted on 2014-05-13 04:18:12

I don't own a laptop so I took an iPad on a short business trip two weeks ago. I found myself checking email, but not much more. Like you, I prefer to travel light.

Posted on 2014-05-15 20:38:50

I have the exact same opinion and experience. I think it boils down to really only needing so many devices in your life. A tablet can work for folks who had a tablet-shaped hole in their life, but for people who already had a smartphone and a laptop, probably not.

Smartphone - tablet - laptop - desktop.

* Pick only two.
* You're best not picking adjacent choices, to maximize the number of use cases you'll be well equipped for.

Well, you're going to pick smartphone for sure, since it's the only one that can go literally everywhere in your pocket (while tablets get left in handbags, backpacks, coats, etc.) If we obey the 'adjacent choices' rule, that really leaves you with a laptop or desktop to round out your dynamic duo. For me, it's desktop and smartphone, the power extreme, and the portability extreme.

Posted on 2014-05-14 19:29:18

That's a good point. Between the desktop and smartphone, that covers everything I need. I don't know if that will hold true for my kids that use laptops and tablets more than I do, but we'll see.

Posted on 2014-05-15 20:39:44

I would like to know the age of the people here ,I think this is the reason for the responses? I work in IT and the people that are young and up and coming they use Tablets more than any computer or phone . I am Fifty Three and most of the people I work with are Young I do not have a tablet and I am left behind at work because I dont have a tablet can you please start making tablets I want to buy USA products as much as I can get anyway ?

Posted on 2014-09-17 14:23:14