Back in 1987, the magazine published an article written by Elise Lind titled “The New Mini-PC’s Downsizing for Convenience,” that introduced the laptop for its distinguished portability and convenience. Now that a quarter century has passed, the role played by portability and convenience in computer product development has become even more important. When talking about the most important developments in computer products in recent years, the tablet is one category that nobody would ignore.
According to Nicholas J. Reynolds, product manager of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) Tech Store, “[The tablet] will continue to be a product that grows and becomes more popular.” As a hybrid between laptops and cell phones, tablets boast unique advantages in some aspects. Nicholas says, “[A tablet] is more convenient to carry around than a laptop, and people can easily pull up useful information while the cell phone is too small for the tablet applications and playing games.” It’s also lighter and more flexible than a laptop. The tablet is said to be a complimentary, rather than competing, product to the laptop. It is more focused on specific applications, such as reading, media consumption and gaming, rather than a broad and comprehensive application set; this hardly makes it a replacement of the laptop. However, Nicholas says there may be one exception, “The new Windows Surface Tablet, using the full Windows 8 operating system, could be a replacement of as laptop because it can run all the same applications as a laptop.”
People may wonder how such a product can catch the attention of the public and create such a large market in such a short time. Nicholas offered two reasons; one is the improvement of the operating systems. He says, “One thing that Apple does right is that you don’t have to carry around a pen or anything to input commands, and they also make their products light and accustomed to an operating system designed for touch input.” The other is the extension of battery life. According to Nicholas, the improvement of battery technology saves a lot of space and weight which makes the thin, light Apple design possible.
In response to consumer reaction to the Apple iPad, many companies have started to design and produce their own tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle and tablets adopting either the Windows RT or Windows 8 operating systems. Some of them have turned out to be a fleeting star like the Blackberry PlayBook and HP touchpad. Some tablets stand out because of their design and operating system. Nicholas says, “The Amazon Kindle HD, which has a better resolution than the new iPad, integrates with Amazon. Books and movies purchased through Amazon can be easily accessed with this tablet. Although it runs its own version of operating system rather than Android operating system, its features are sufficient for it to hold footage in the tablet market.”
Hardware and software are two scales on which to measure the performance of an electronic device. On one hand, according to Nicholas, there are no major differences in the hardware of those tablets. He says, “They are pretty standardized. If you pull out the hardware from a bunch of them, you cannot see many differences between them.” Some changes may be made to the hardware to match its design purpose, but hardware cannot be an efficient standard to compare tablet performance. On the other hand, software, specifically operating systems, plays a crucial role in differentiating various tablets. Currently, the two mainstream operating systems for tablets are the iOS operating system and the Android operating system. Nicholas makes a comparison between them. He says, “They’re both well-supported operating systems with hundreds of thousands of applications at this point. Android is a bit more flexible while iOS isn’t really designed for that. iOS accesses Apple’s App Store while the Android tablets use the Google store primarily, but you can use other application stores as well.”
The tablet market can be divided into 7 inch tablets, like the iPad mini, and 10 inch tablets like the iPad. Nicholas says, “A 7 inch tablet can usually be held in one hand while a 10 inch tablet cannot. A 10 inch tablet will allow easier typing on the screen, is better for watching media, and is easier to see from a distance.” On the other hand, “A 7 inch tablet is easier to read like a book, and the smaller screen size makes it more likely to fit in pockets and bags.” That being said, Nicholas admits that “application availability is going to be pretty much the same for both screen sizes, so it comes down to a combination of portability and price versus bigger, and often nicer screen and higher price. I see people continuing to buy both depending on their needs, but 7 inch tablets are getting more popular now due to the lower price.”
To compete with tablets, Intel proposed the idea of the Ultrabook which is light and thin with a built-in keyboard. It has the advantages of portability and convenience just as tablet while also functioning like a laptop. So, it may be a good choice if you don’t want to bring a heavy laptop around and need to do some business that necessitates the use of a keyboard. Nicholas suggested that if only one device could be purchased between an Ultrabook and a tablet, most people may choose an Ultrabook over a tablet.
So, how does one decide which tablet to purchase? Nicholas says, “I think the most important thing is making sure that you get the right tablet for you. With the Amazon Kindle, if you want to run a lot of Android apps, it’s not going to be a good experience for you because its operating system is not designed to support Android apps. Or, say you have an Android phone but you buy an iPad; then you cannot share apps between them. For this reason, people should consider buying same platform systems like all Apple products or all Android products. As long as you’re familiar with the system, everything will become comfortable. So I don’t think there will be any differences if they choose one of the major manufacturers.” The prosperity of the computer market and the growing existence of a myriad of creative ideas and applications all serve to diversify our lives. Choosing the most suitable one that syncs your other electric devices can enhance your experience.