Will the tablet make the home PC obsolete?


I have an iPad through my job at Monash University. I was a slow convert – after the first month I still could not see how this was more than an advanced toy. And the ‘on screen’ keyboard – well – sucked. I kept hitting the wrong key.

But as I found new Apps, and the ones I had tried were updated to give the functionality I needed, I became a convert. Now (like many converts) I am a believer happy to proselytize the  benefits of the iPad to anyone who will listen. It has changed my life. Gone are the piles of paper. I now use the iPad for all meetings. I carry my academic papers on the iPad. I use annotated pdfs (using Goodreader – but some people prefer iAnnotate) for my meeting notes and e-mail them to colleagues if they want a copy of my notes. I suspect (compared to, say, Joshua) I am an iPad neanderthal. I have lots more to explore. And I still hate the on-screen keyboard.

So will the iPad replace the home PC? The Age discusses the effect of the iPad and other tablets on the PC market here. I suspect the answer is ‘yes’. As the tablet and the laptop converge,  most homes, with a couple of tablets and perhaps a ‘plug in’ screen will not need a traditional compute-in-a-box.

15 Responses to "Will the tablet make the home PC obsolete?"
  1. I’ve been thinking of going for an ipad instead of a full laptop when my current one is finally kaput. Some quick questions.
    Do you think a USB port would be a useful addition to share files more easily? How do you get photos off a camera to email/edit etc
    Do you find ‘light duty’ spreadsheet work easy enough?
    Are there any good statistics apps?
    Do you have a plug-in/wireless keyboard?
    Can you get by with an ipad without also having a ‘normal’ computer? What functionality would be required to get to this point?
    I would appreciate the thoughts of a reluctant convert.

  2. In my view, no (on the iPad).
    As long as Apple products are User Pays through the Nose. I only see the affluent and not bright using the iPad & other iProducts.
    Will other tablets do so? Potentially for the same reason you say the convergence of tablets and laptops. I’m waiting for one where you can plug a full size keyboard into it. I hate texting size things and texting but give me a full keyboard and I can type until I’m content – texting takes far too long to say not much

  3. @senexx
    Ignoring your outdated and boring insults on those that use Apple products – the iPad supports bluetooth keyboards.  I use an external “full size” keyboard with mine every day.
    And for “user pays through the nose” argument – the 90s called and wants its argument back.

  4. Cameron
    I would probably not give up the laptop yet – because I still like the keyboard. A friend has the external keyboard – and has given up his laptop. I havent tried it seriously (fooling around on his a bot doesnt really count).
    I don’t find the lack of USB a problem as I use Dropbox to transfer files.  I don’t know about statistics packages but I am waiting for Mathematica for iPad and LaTex for iPad!
    I still have a laptop – and am typing on it now!

  5. The iPad is a consumption device, not a production device. There is still a place for a dedicated production home PC/laptop, especially in these days of increased teleworking. The linked Bloomberg article talks about a bifurcated market – the divide is between consumers who don’t have to do any work on an iPad, and corporates which still need PCs for real business.

    Stephen, have you ever tried to write a thesis on an iPad? Ask some grad students if they are trying that. 😉

  6. The iPad is a touch based UI as opposed to mouse/cursor UI. Which is ‘better’ depends on what you plan to use on it, e.g painting/drawing is probably a lot better on iPad than doing it on the pc. On the other hand if you’re a writer than stick to the pc unless you plan to get a bluetooth keyboard.

    The potential applications based on the touch UI is what makes the iPad a post-pc device but it’s uses are going to be different to what is traditionally done on a pc (though it’s clear a lot of stuff we use to do on a pc is done better or more enhanced on a device with a touch UI).

    Stephen, LaTeX already exists on ipad. Search for TeX Equation or TeX Touch. Also if you’re not already aware of it, I highly recommend OmniGraphSketcher for iPad (or Mac). Personally I’m still waiting for LaTeX app where you can hand draw the maths symbol as opposed to typing in the code.

  7. Paul, the consumption/production divide might have been an apt characterisation when iPad was first released but not anymore with the explosion of apps dedicated for use on iPad. Just look up youtube for painting, music, photo editing etc. on iPad.

  8. I think this may come down to a battle over the ability to offer something compelling enough for people to single-home (use only a laptop, only a tablet, or only a PC), which characterises Apple’s approach, versus multi-homing, which characterises just about everyone else’s. The latter leads to potentially less profitable hardware manufacturing business for all concerned. But perhaps better for consumers in the long run? We’ll see. I wonder if html’s effect of moving profitability away from communications networks, (the ‘dumb pipes’ phenomenon), might work in a similar way here. Dumb interface (tablet, laptop, PC), that gets us to the services that can be profitable…?

  9. The sucky keyboard is a real deal breaker for many, many uses – not just for Apple but for all touch devices.  Sure, you can manage text messages & even meeting notes on them, but you can’t hope to write a book that way.  The other big problem is the display – backlit ones of all types are not things you’d ever want to read “War and Peace” on.

    These things won’t go anywhere near their full potential until someone works out a way to give them a proper keyboard with tactile feedback (and suitable for big fingers), and until good colour e-ink displays are available.  Better batteries would be nice too.  

  10. @derrida derider: You’re looking at the iPad through a pc lense. The iPad is a post-pc device which isn’t going to kill the pc. People are still going to need a pc for any number of tasks including but not limited to cpu-intensive work and anything that involves a lot of writing. However a lot of stuff you use to do on the pc will have a better experience on the iPad. Yes, the poor keyboard will be a ‘deal breaker’ for some people. For those people they will still need the pc. But this is more than compensated by take up from people who find the iPad useful for activities that use to be impossible or poorly suited for the pc. You just have to see rapid take up of the iPad in the education, health, arts, and indeed the business sector to see it’s impact.

  11. Also forgot to add, the iPad has a battery life of 10 hours. This is more than most (if not all) non-Apple laptops.

  12. @DavidN I’m writing an honours thesis at the moment and if there were an app that allowed me to draw in math symbols in latex I would buy the ipad just for that!

  13. The Asus 121 has incredibly responsive inking- just like writing with a pen , it runs full pc work with WIN 7,  12 inch screen helps with the spreadsheets and the maths weight is a bit much to travel full time  for me but you bigger guys could do it it’s 1kg, a bit more with  a bluetooth keyboard , the battery is only 3 hrs  but I tell you the power and the fact that you can write ANYTHING- maths equasions, handwriting instantly converts to text if you like with equivalent correction rate to Phat products I am told.

    I have waited for 14 months for this to come into production – for the wacom reliability and the full windows operation. No need for apps because it has windows- , HDMI out, an SD card slot, a 2.0 megapixel camera for video chat, and supports Adobe Flash 10.1.  HN sold out in 12 hours for 14k. but they sell for 1k in USA

    I need to write and edit lectures, mark papers, co-author papers and work in different research areas, research from/clip and annotate from different sources libraries, web, books.  

    I really need to WRITE fast and legibly and to turn that into editable text immediatly, not play at note taking with the ipad, thats why i need the wacom driver and pens and that is the difference in cost.

  14. Í retract that about the battery- i’m usually plugged in and I was reminded that the 3 hours was full screen dvd viewing.

  15. Well, if there are already tablets with LaTeX and a fully functioning browser (javascript + flash + whatever else I take for granted), it can’t be long until people like me start buying them.

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