Thursday, 2 June 2011

Why should you buy a tablet? Part 1

If you are looking for reasons to find some kind of reassurance for buying that shiny looking tablet in your hand, you might as well stop reading right now. I am not going to give you any. Rather I am asking and looking for reasons.

Why should you buy a tablet? For its bigger screen? For its better graphic? For its better processing power than your phone? I am not against tablets. Even though I don’t think I can find any real use or function for them right now, I am excited about them and how they are going to change and redefine the market. Its effects are going to be felt far and wide, from high-end PC’s and laptops to their cheaper netbook cousins, right to the high end mobiles themselves.

The form factor of the tablets is still undefined. Companies are still unsure about the ideal size for their tablet. Samsung is soon coming out with 8” and 10” tablets, HTC Flyer has 7” screen size, Sony is coming out with two tablets, one a 9.4” slate and another a dual screen 5.5” (which might be the first tablet to be PlayStation certified). And believe me, these different versions of tablets are not to have a range of products which suit your likings. This is more due to lack of knowledge and information. The tablet market though booming is still new and immature. The companies themselves are being amateurish by releasing  tablets left right and center, though delaying it too much has its problems too. Most of them being loaded with different versions of Android are hardly making any numbers
and then comes the Apple’s one buttoned, fantastically engineered, iOS loaded iPad. Are you listening Microsoft? Except Apple, all the other companies are having an identity crisis. They are finding it extremely hard to differentiate themselves amongst the sea of tablets from reputed companies to Chinese mockups. Apple having its one product policy and the company to start the whole tablet revolution is comfortable in its 9.7” screen size.(You should see the way Steve Jobs snapped at rival companies with lesser screen size, calling their tablets “tweeners”).

Now let’s get down to the real business. What is the use of a tablet? One of the biggest drawbacks of any touch based device is the input. Touch based devices are great in selecting things, going in and out of menus(depending upon the OS of course, take note Symbian), surfing internet and of course better to look at; Bigger screen means better videos and better interaction with the OS.  But when it comes to hardcore work, you need to type; you need to provide a lot of input. Trust me, I have been using a touch phone for the last couple of years, and there are times when I miss the clicking of buttons. There is a limitation to how much you can type on a screen with no real reciprocation like a click. Even though input technology in touch based devices is improving, with all the voice recognition softwares and new ways of typing using touch (read swype), there is still no real breakthrough in it which can replace the physical clicking of the keyboard and mouse.

If you look closely, you’ll realize that tablets are not scaled down versions of laptops and computers, they are blown up versions of mobiles. Look at the OS being used on tablets. iOS on the Ipad, Android Gingerbread (v2.2.x and v2.3.x) on most of the other tablets. Gingerbread is a phone OS, used on most of the mobile devices released in the last quarter; manufacturers have had to add a custom layer on the Gingerbread to make it useable on tablets. It’s only now, that Android Honeycomb (v3.0 and v3.1), an OS specifically designed by the android team for tablets can be seen being bundled with a few of them. iOS for iPad is again a rescaled version of the iOS for the iPhone. What will you do with a really large mobile phone? Watch movies, videos, photos and listen to music? Do you not already have devices which cater to these specific needs? Videos and movies can be seen on any damn laptop or our little forgotten television. Photos can be viewed and edited on a computer. And if you really really really need to see a video or a photo, without which you cannot survive, there is always our very own mobile phone. Mobile phone screens these days are breaching the 4.3” barriers. Having a 4” screen is a norm in today’s middle to high end smartphone. Is it not enough?

Applications! Mobile ecosystems thrive on developers and applications. Having a large ecosystem is the need of the hour for all the mobile Operating Systems. Even a really good OS like windows phone 7 is finding it difficult to sustain and remain buoyant against the android and iOS, only due to lack of developer support. (A detailed look into this is coming in next few weeks). Its applications at the end of the day which drive an OS. But in the tablets’ case, applications will drive the whole market. Phone’s basic function, even though most of us have forgotten, is to make calls, receive, send SMSes and stay in contact with people. Tablets’ basic function is yet to be defined, its touch based input limits its usage for hardcore working and I do not think you would want to be seen holding a 9” iPad to your ear trying to talk to someone. The applications available for tablets currently, are again based on the OS from which they are derived from. There is still a lack of applications which will really drive and define this market. Yes there are office style applications; yet again the input problem is consistent with this. I myself work a lot on Word and Excel worksheets and I tried to play around with them on a tablet and after the novelty factor wore off (15-30 mins depending on your obsession) I realized it’s almost impossible to work on it. Developers need to design applications keeping in mind this hindrance. There is a need for innovation in the way the user interacts with such stock applications.

Tablets have their advantages; I mean for a person who needs to be always online and connected and who is always “on the go”. Internet tablets are on the go devices. It makes no sense to use them while sitting at home or office, because as I said, the novelty factor wears off and tablets have too many chinks in their armour to ignore. Tablets are the future, it is where all the manufacturers are going to concentrate their research and development to. The consumers themselves have accepted internet tablets with arms wide open. It’s like an indication saying that this is what consumers have been waiting for. It was a natural evolution into tablets - larger screened mobile phones into tablets. Yet it’s not now that it will replace our run of the mill computers and laptops. Though market numbers suggest that netbooks have suffered the most, yet it’s still far from being extinct. Internet tablets are going to rule and be the focus of the markets for the next few quarters but the hype and the novelty still needs to die down and everyone needs to use it to believe that it’s still not ready. If not now, maybe couple of years down the line, internet slates and tablets will, once the evolution into touch computing is complete, take the market forward. First it was the PCs, then Laptops, Mobiles took over the realms from then, next it’s the tablets’ time. The question remains, is it now? Tablets are the future, but they are FOR the future too.

So should you buy a tablet then? I myself do not see any sense in shelling out around 25-35k (depending on which device you choose) on a device which is confused about its own identity and purpose. Tablets right now seem as if they are jack of all trades and master of none. I know the money factor is not even going to create any doubt, let alone stop technology enthusiasts from buying these sexed up shiny slates. Yet if you do want to buy one, you might want to hold onto your wallet until part 2. There are some interesting things done by some companies in this segment. We will take a look into some of those and maybe then you can make your decision.

News Box
3)    People attending Computex, 2011 in Taipei yearn for tonics and pills. Too many tablets released. Know more on  Engadget      Slashgear      Tech2

Note : Sorry for the delay in the post. There are no reasons other than laziness. Will try to keep myself in check from now on.

No comments:

Post a Comment