Tablets are finally approaching the big time. I have been a fan of their potential since I was first introduced to Docunote (a very underpowered tablet) in 2003. The main problem that tablets previously had is trying to make them too much like a laptop with just a tweaked version of the operating system. Then the iPad arrived and changed the game. One year later, many companies are coming out with their own tablets, and I think sales are going to climb, while laptop sales will decline.
Thoughts about tablets in general: I have no experience with any Android tablet, but one of the most important things about the iPad is that it is instantly turned on and off. No waiting for boot ups just to check your email or do a quick search on who created the Cobb Salad. Keeping boot times low or nonexistent is important for their continued use. Battery life is also critical to the ultimate success of tablets. We’re used to finding an electric outlet at the local coffee shop to plug in our laptop, but tablets are meant to be used while you are sitting in your favorite chair watching television or in places where an outlet may not be available.
Tablet Software: It’s fantastic that tablets are now being differentiated from the laptop computer. Software manufacturers and website developers are creating content exclusively for tablet computing. It’s making the fact that there is no mouse, cd drive or hardware keyboard minimized due to reinventing how the software is to be used.
Who can benefit from a tablet?
Other than the initial setup procedures necessary for the iPad (itunes integration, account setup) it is very easy and comfortable enough for anyone to use. Tablets are great for reading ebooks, checking email and web browsing. While I don’t think it will be of use to the majority of tablet owners, being able to video chat using one could be a great thing but like all things that a tablet should be, it needs to be easy to set up and use.
Tablets can be used ‘in the field’ by inspectors. Touch screen programs can be created so building inspectors can easily navigate through the inspection process and (through 3g, et al) instantly send their findings back to the municipality.
The medical, dental and veterinary fields can absolutely make use of the technology during examinations.
In the near future I look to see tablets becoming more and more a part of everyday computing life. I see cable television and satellite provider having an application so you trade your remote control for a user friendly GUI. Being able to scroll through channels, select programs to record, change channels and watch previews of shows you want to watch would be great. I see them being required hardware for universities. I also see them being used as an integrator tool for video conference and telepresence use.