The Tablet as the Near-Future Desktop Replacement?!

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for giving the world the phrase “post-PC.” Welcome to the post-PC era, everyone.

Desktops to laptops, laptops to notebooks, notebooks to tablet PCs, tablet PCs to netbooks,  netbooks to tablets. Seems like a logical, natural progression of design and function, right? But stop for a moment and think of what led to the iPad (at least from the consumers’ perspective) . . . you guessed it: the iPhone. This powerful, industry-changing little device made consumers want a larger screen with more features. Add in the success of e-reader devices like the Kindle and, more recently, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and you can see how consumers were chomping at the bit to use a tablet.

As I write this, I am surrounded by four Kindles of various generations, six iPads, one BlackBerry, and a late-generation ThinkPad for good measure. Now that may just be a result of early morning mass transit boredom and the high disposable incomes of NYC metro area commuters, but it is an interesting sample data set regardless. The majority are tablets, with each user completing different tasks, from reading to gaming (three people were spotted playing Angry Birds) to shopping to surfing.

Can the iPad replace my netbook or desktop PC today?

Not yet! As a graphic arts professional, I need a few tools––Acrobat Professional, Adobe Creative Suite, and Quark, to name a few––to be at my fingertips as well as the power to support each tool. The tools exist on an iMac currently and do the job quite well. Sure I could use remote access technology like virtual network computing (VNC) with the Mac and work remotely, but given the unreliable cellular data service in NYC, I can’t seriously consider that option.

The other part of my job is the project management side of graphic communications. Those daily tasks use primarily the Microsoft Office suite and rely heavily on Outlook as the central tool. Applications for the iPad/iPhone such as Docs2Go, Dropbox, and Evernote can replace many of the Microsoft Office functions. Project management and Gantt chart software like MS Project have some app solutions and a few cloud-based ones as well, but for my use and requirements they just don’t hold up.

So what is stopping me from pitching the desktop and adopting the tablet?

1. Data connection and reliability.
Reliable cellular data connection is not something that exists in NYC. Some areas are better than others and some very data-light tasks are fine, but until there is fast, reliable cellular service, I am sticking with the desktop dust collector.

2. High-powered applications.
Yes, print is dying or changing or adapting (whichever flavor you prefer), and because of that, applications used for page layout and raster and vector design may never make the conversion to tablet interfaces. Why would they? There was no need to carry flint and steel once the lighter was invented. Each application’s functions will be splintered off into smaller apps, with each excelling in its user interface and usability far beyond its desktop/laptop OS cousins.

Now with all that said, my two objections to adopting a tablet as my primary computer seem inconsequential. I could use the office Wi-Fi and have access to a Creative Suite–powered iMac when necessary, but that does not take into account my desire to be completely mobile. I want every possible resource at my fingertips, and I want as few of them as possible to require constant access to the cloud. Backup and distributed access are fine, but I want a lot of those functions to occur on the hardware in my hands.

So my ideal tablet doesn’t exist yet and neither do the ideal apps for that device, but if I were a traveling sales professional, journalist, or academic, the functions and applications available on the iPad 2 and future tablets would be more than sufficient.

Will you pitch the desktop and move to a tablet?

Author: John Carew


One response to “The Tablet as the Near-Future Desktop Replacement?!

  1. Pingback: Some insights in mobile business productivity

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