Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Can Tablets Replace the PC?

My initial thoughts, when I first heard about the iPad, was that it was a solution waiting for a problem.  Obviously, given the queues that instantly formed around blocks in major cities around the world, many didn't share my point of view.  And a couple of years down the line I'm more than happy to concede that I was wrong, either that or the solution has incrementally found the problem.

But your average tablet is a compromise - it's fantastic for portability, the always-on approach works for me and the ability to carry a music library, photo album, bookstore, film multiscreen and Internet surfing capability in a device that is between seven and ten inches across is undeniably a superb concept.  However I wouldn't want to write this blog, let alone a novel, on a tablet.  And there are some things that currently seem a little harder than they ought to be, at least on the iPad - printing springs to mind, as well as running certain types of video files.  And of course the iPad is famously reluctant to connect to normal external devices such as hard drives and keyboards.  So in its current form it probably has plateaued in terms of convergence with normal computers.

I think that the way forward is closer integration with the world of laptop and desktop computing.  How about a tablet that is fully formed and functional stand-alone, pretty much as your iPad and other tablets are right now, but is also capable of connecting to a base-station, via USB or wirelessly to become a fully fledged PC that can run Microsoft Office, access a hard drive, join a secure netework and generally do all the fun things we like doing on computers, but can't on a tablet?

My guess is that Apple have worked this out, probably since before they launched the original iPad, but let's not forget that Apple also does a nice trade in sexy laptops and desktop machines - the iPad sits alongside and augments that range without displacing a single sale.  So there isn't a compelling reason for Apple to build the iPad up to a fully formed computer. 

So now is the time for the other manufacturers to step up to the mark, because I reckon in this fast paced and work obsessed world the ability to pick up a tablet and take it to a client's office loaded with a presentation, then home to work up a report before returning to the office the next day to work as part of the office intranet is a pretty powerful way to work using an essentially compact piece of technology.  Add some security features that means the tablet cannot connect to the office systems unless they are physically inside the firewall and you've got a compelling argument for ripping the desktops out of the workplace and consigning them to the scrapheap.

So, yes, tablets can replace the PC and I reckon the technology to make it happen exists already.  Who knows, this time next year I may be writing this blog on a device that doubles as a tablet when I'm out and about!


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