The rumor mill for an Apple tablet has been going since June. Companies like OLPC and HTC are also talking about their own single piece device. However, I believe no matter what is said or done, people will end up not buying a tablet. In this article, I will give you 5 reasons why I believe this.
This last year we have seen an interesting phenomenon happen. People gathering around the rumor mill to get the jump on a new product that Apple might be coming out with. We have seen rumors in the past not happen – the iPhone mini, the clamshell flip iPhone, camera on the iPod touch – However, this rumor seems to have some tread to it, simply because of some tangible evidence that the community has noticed. Domain names registered, receipts from 3rd party manufacturers received. Even some “friend of Steve Jobs told me so” comments.
It’s not just Apple that is on a “Tablet” kick. OLPC announced their next machine will be a Tablet. HTC was rumored to have a tablet coming to CES 2010 next week dawning Google Android. Add a WiFi and 3G connection, then you have a device that people can connect and work with.
Tablets have been around for years in many different shapes and forms. The biggest problem was packing all that power into a small case with an LCD screen. Add to the issues no keyboard or mouse or even a way to not have a CD player or IDE hard drive installed.
In the last 2 years, hardware has met the standards where a Tablet is thin and completely static. Atom and ION processors (especially dual core Atom), SSD and 3G or WiFi connectivity makes for a slim case with no moving parts. Touch screens have the sensitivity and accuracy to be able to function properly, and graphics chips can allow us to view almost anything.
But in all it’s glory, the Tablet just might not be adopted by the average consumer. If we look at the tablet in it’s current state of a laptop with a screen that rotates and closes, we find this is used mostly by business; companies like UPS to sign off on a package, a food or beverage distributor to input inventory. Even a campaign supporter to take survey questions from the passer-by.
Geeks will love it, businesses will too. However, I believe there are 5 reasons why the mainstream public will look, but not want a Tablet computer. Here they are:
5. Where is my connection?
Whatever tablet comes out, you can be assured it’s not going to have a CD ROM or DVD on it – especially an “Apple iWhateverthedangdevicewillbecalled”. That would add too much bulk to the machine and the spinning of a disc might cause vibrations that some could find annoying. You might have an external device attachment through it’s USB port, but for the most part, you will rely on the internet connection to download and watch.
It will be great in hotspots with a powerful WiFi signal. However, going out in the real world, might be harder to keep connected or get a good download / upload speed. AT&T’s 3G speeds only top 7 Meg at best. No matter who gives you the 3G, the connection and throughput to get web content might be as slow as when we all had 28.8 phone modems back in 1998 – especially if you are mobile. 4G or WiMAX might be the answer, too. Yet that process is in it’s infancy and won’t see good coverage for at least a year.
So, unless you are in a place with an 802.11n router and only a handful of people using it, you might be annoyed with the ability to get your music, video, or even books.
4. I’m always cleaning the screen
Some people get annoyed if you touch their screen. I am one of them. Sometimes its not easy cleaning a smudge of the LCD. The Tablet will most likely have a glass face for smooth touch, but fingerprints will be left behind. Heck – Look at your keyboard or mouse right now. If you’ve been using these things for even the last 2 months, you will see that some of the keys really need to be cleaned.
Now imagine you just came from Burger King and finished the last bite of that scrumptious Whopper. Could have just finished that 3 piece meal from KFC. Maybe just as simplistic as a snack – like a bag of Cheeto’s. Time to grab the Tablet and start working? What – no place to wash hands? Well wipe it on your jeans and get cracking.
The average amount of germs on a toilet is 20. The average on a keyboard or mouse is 2,000. Imagine what the average will be on a tablet….
3. Man, that screen is too close
The 3.5″ TFT screen on the iPhone is easy to watch from your hand. Now imagine it to be 10.1″. A little bigger and a little brighter might give people headaches just to look at a close proximity. It won’t be as bad as sitting in the front row to watch Avatar on the IMAX, but you might find yourself pulling the tablet away a bit to focus in properly.
A laptop screen is normally 22 inches away from your eyes. I am 31 inches away from my 20 inch Dell monitor. The small screen of the iPhone makes it comfortable at 13 – 14 inches away. If I held the Tablet in both hands, I would have to extend my arms out to watch – in which my arms would then get tired.
And yes. Kindle screens are 6 inches – and they are monochrome. Is that better to look at than a 10.1 inch color screen?
Speaking of holding the Tablet….
2. You mean I have to hold it to watch?
With a Notebook, you can tilt the screen to your viewing pleasure and work. With a Tablet – unless it comes with a stand or other fancy holder – you pretty much are on your own. No stand means you either have to hold it with your hands – maybe cradle it in one arm like you would a book, have a wall or other corner to prop it up and hope it doesn’t slip from the required position. Finally, set it flat on the ground or on a table and sit with your head down in a non-ergonomic position.
These are all viable reasons, but out of all of them, the one reason why people won’t want the tablet:
1. The On screen Keyboard
This goes hand – in – hand with the last point (and yes, pun intended). Setting it down to view won’t be as annoying at setting it down type. Even in the promo pictures of last years’ OLPC ideas, the child had to sit cross-legged on the floor to type. I don’t see anyone being able to work like that for any period of time. That is just bad strain on the neck.
There is no way to be ergonomic with a Tablet, unless you have a stand to prop the machine up – like a monitor – and a USB keyboard and mouse to type. Defeats the idea of a Tablet, eh?
Then let’s take the 10.1 inch screen Apple is rumored to have. It’s easy to “Two thumb” an iPhone, but 10.1 inches will mean your thumbs might not reach all the keys. Let’s all just go back to the one finger “Hunt and Peck” method. Since the Tablet will be rectangular, holding it vertical to type would be the most comfortable (Approx 3.68 inches in a 16:9 ratio if I did the math correct). Remember – you also have to hold the device.
The good points – light weight – portable – decent viewing screen for movies and such – long lasting battery. Could do the same with a laptop and make it almost as thin as paper. If a gesture technology like with the Samsung phones comes into play, then maybe this would be a viable option. Then again, we are using an archaic method in the US – standard QWERTY keyboard.
If a tablet does become a big part of 2010, then I will be surprised. We are putting to much value that the average consumer will accept and fully utilize this device. In the end – they’ll probably just stick to their laptops.