An Homage To The Tablet

by John Kirk   |   January 10th, 2013

Tablet PC shipments are expected to reach more than 240 million units worldwide in 2013, easily exceeding the 207 million notebook PCs that are projected to ship, according to NPD

Amazing.

The only thing greater than the resistance to tablet adoption has been how quickly tablets have overcome that resistance.

SPEED OF ADOPTION

The modern tablet was reinvented in April 2010 with the introduction of the iPad. It’s now two years and 8 months old. No personal computing technology has been adopted faster than the tablet. And that’s saying something. The tablet is being adopted at almost twice the rate that the smartphone was.

TOUCH USER INPUT VS. PIXEL USER INPUT

The key to understanding why the tablet has taken off is touch. Prior to the iPad, tablets used desktop interfaces. The genius of the iPad was that it used the finger – not the mouse or a stylus – as the primary user input.

TABLETS VS. HYBRIDS

Despite the unprecedented success of the tablet, many people think that the tablet is flawed – that the tablet would be perfect if only it were…a notebook.

It is my belief that the tablet and the notebook are inherently separate computing tools because their primary user inputs are incompatible. The tablet and the notebook use two disparate user inputs that cannot be successfully integrated into a single user interface.

This is highly controversial. If I’m right, then hybrids will always be niche products, struggling to serve two masters. But I could be wrong. Times change and technology changes. Perhaps a unified user input is possible. But it’s certainly not available in today’s market place.

PERSONAL AND INTIMATE

That which we touch, we love. The tablet is a personal, intimate device. It’s revolutionizing every aspect of our computing lives, but I think the tablet is going to have a particularly strong impact in education. We’re about to move from a computer for each classroom to a computer for each student. And that’s going to change everything.

Today we can’t imagine leaving our homes without our phones. Tomorrow, we’ll feel the same way about our tablets. I can, in fact, imagine a day where we wear our phones on our wrists, like watches, and our tablets take care of most of our other computing needs. But that’s a discussion for another day.

CONTENT CONSUMPTION VS. CONTENT CREATION VS. PRODUCTIVITY

Many artificial barriers have been constructed in an attempt to understand and/or dismiss the importance of the tablet. For example, arguing whether the tablet is a content consumption or a content creation device is about as helpful as debating how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. It’s a false dichotomy. There is no mythical line of demarcation between content creation and content consumption. The question should be, which tool is right for the job. And when you put the question that way, silly distinctions like content creation and content consumption simply fall away.

Similarly, questions of “productivity” suffer from two flawed ways of thinking. The first is to assume that the term “productivity” should be defined by comparing the tablet to the PC. You don’t compare a tool to a tool, you compare the tool to the job it is being asked to do. A screwdriver makes for a lousy hammer, but it’s pretty useful when you want to use a screw instead of a nail. Similarly, a tablet makes for a lousy notebook computer – but tablets aren’t trying to be notebook computers.

A second flaw is the myopic manner in which we define “productivity”. Most people define productive as “the things I do” and unproductive as “the things that other people do”. Don’t make the mistake of defining the productivity of others using your standards. Tens of millions of people are being productive on their tablets, even if their definition of productivity dramatically differs from your own.

BIG PHONES VS. TABLETS

Even though every flat computing device bigger than a phone is being defined as a tablet, there are very big differences between tablets that run big phone apps and tablets that run apps optimized for larger screens. Anyone who has used an iPad can vouch for this. The difference between an iPad specific app and a double sized iPhone App is night and day.

Further, most everyone is lumping all 7 inch tablets together. The truth is that there is a big difference in screen size between most 7.0 inch tablets and Apple’s 7.9 inch iPad Mini. (I’m sure that Apple would love to say that the iPad Mini was an 8 inch tablet in order to highlight the difference.) Most 7 inch tablets run big phone apps. The iPad Mini runs tablet apps. That’s a big differentiator that’s going unnoticed by pundits but seems to be taken into account by tablet buyers.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

We live in a world of multiple screens: phone, tablet, notebook, desktop, TV. We start a task on one screen and finish it on another. We consume content on one screen while simultaneously initiating queries on another screen. The television is the screen in our living room. The phone is the screen that fits in our skinny jeans. The notebook and the desktop are the screen that we use when we have to engage in multiple screen, processor intensive or pixel specific tasks.

The tablet? The tablet is the default screen – the screen that we turn to when we have a choice between it and a phone or a notebook. And that makes the tablet the future of computing.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Defendor

    There is so much Win in this article, I could write almost as much commenting on it. I think your analysis is bang on everywhere.

    I will expand on the 7″ – 8″ tablet paragraph.

    Lately my thoughts on the tablet game is that Apple has been playing chess, while everyone else is playing checkers. I don’t own a tablet. I do check them out in stores time to time. Most recently I compared the iPad Mini to the 7″ androids. For screen space, the androids almost feel like phones in comparison. That extra inch plus the thicker aspect ratio gives so much more screen area in a package around the same size, it is a rout IMO.I expect the iPad mini will eventually be the best seller of Apples line (and thus the market).

    But I really think the big iPad had to come first for ecosystem reasons. Apple is known to have experimented with this size almost from the beginning. No doubt they understood the appeal of the mini form factor, but I think they released the big iPad first to create larger differentiation between phone and tablet, to force developers to really look at this as a new device class and write unique tablet application. Even the poor scaling that Apple did of iPhone apps encourages unique tablet applications.

    Contrast with Android where most of the early tablets were 7″ and good phone app scaling was touted as an important feature. Today they still have no unique tablet apps to speak of.

    If I am correct, how many companies have the patience to hold off on the more popular product in order to properly seed the ecosystem? That IMO is playing chess, while Google is playing checkers in the tablet game.

    Now Microsoft, to change metaphors, is skating to where the puck was (two plays ago). They have released only large tablets, not because they are seeding an ecosystem, but because they insist you really need a keyboard with your tablet. We are coming up on three years since the introduction of the iPad, and Microsoft still won’t even be playing in what will likely be the largest volume part of the tablet market: Small one hand tablets(iPad Mini).

    • FalKirk

      “There is so much Win in this article, I could write almost as much commenting on it. I think your analysis is bang on everywhere.” – Defendor

      Thanks, Defondor. Those words mean a lot coming from you.

    • http://gcomputer.net/ Gray Knight

      I think Microsoft will end up in the better position in the long run.

      • benbajarin

        Please elaborate. I think that point needs some fleshing out. We are wrestling heavily, as John points out, with convergence and compromises required to make such a product.

        • http://gcomputer.net/ Gray Knight

          The compromises will begin to disappear as the hardware improves and the interfaces become more commonplace. It used to be that people said touch will never catch on as an input method. But it is so pervasive in mobile that people will want it everywhere.

          • FalKirk

            “The compromises will begin to disappear as the hardware improves and the interfaces become more commonplace.” – Gray Knigh

            Hmm. I would say the opposite. I think that the compromises are baked into the operating system. We’ll see.

          • http://gcomputer.net/ Gray Knight

            The operating system underneath is very efficient. It is the apps that are compromised more-so than the operating system. We’ll see, it is getting very interesting.

      • dr.no

        Do you think OEM want to go back to the 90s
        with Intel and Microsoft taking 60+% margin on the PC.
        Not when there is a free OS that is good enough clone.
        Microsoft can’t compete with luxury (Apple) or free (Android).

        THat is why they are trying to build their own hardware.
        Let them take 5% margin from it like the PC manufacturers
        have been doing for past 20 years.

        • FalKirk

          “Microsoft can’t compete with luxury (Apple) or free (Android).” – dr.no

          Exactly. Microsoft is being squeezed by Apple from above and Android from below. They have little room to maneuver in the phone or tablet space. Apple remains Apple – a premium provider. But Android basically stole Microsoft’s business licensing business model and replaced it with an advertising based model (which is panning out for Samsung but hasn’t yet panned out for Google).

          • def4

            Google thought that they could also “just walk in” but they have instead been eaten by the wolves (Samsung and operators).

        • jfutral

          I disagree to an extent, and that extent depends on MS being able to create a compelling product. So far Android being free isn’t really helping the OEMs. They can’t seem to make any money off of Android to save their lives, literally. HTC is down, what over 91%? So if i were an OEM and MS offered a product that would actually sell and not make me compete with Samsung directly, I would be amenable to that with a license over “free” Android (and yes, I meant the quotes because we all know it really isn’t).

          But if MS can’t show that Windows products will actually sell, it doesn’t really matter. I pretty much better start making microwaves instead of computing devices. Or become a 501c3 arts organization. There is a business model built on losing money.

          Joe

        • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

          Android isn’t free due to the licensing fees that have to be paid to Microsoft and Apple and others and there are probably more to come.

          • FalKirk

            “Android isn’t free due to the licensing fees… – Idon’t Know

            Good point.

      • Rich

        And why do you think that?

      • Defendor

        “Microsoft has pushed their operating system core to every current
        platform and has begun bridging the various input technologies.”

        Actually Apple was there first on the OS core. iPhone/iPad/Macs have always shared the same Core OS Kernel. MS only recently(WP8) moved Windows Phone from CE Kernel to NT Kernel.

        On the UI layers, Microsofts Desktop UI and their Touch UI are much more divergent (so starkly divergent they look like they are from different companies) than OS X/iOS which are much more coherent and seem to be moving closer together despite not residing on the same machines.

        The only thing Microsoft is “ahead” on is cramming both divergent UIs on the same box. I don’t really think that presents much of a real advantage, it seems to be more of headache.

        • steve_wildstrom

          I don;t know why anyone but a developer would care about what kernel a given OS runs (and even developers care mainly about what APIs are exposed.)

          As I’ve noted before, excluding embedded real-time OSes, there are only three or four, depending on how you count, operating system kernels in use today: Unix (which provides the OS X and iOS kernels), Linux, Windows NT, and IBM System Z. Some people would combine Linux and Unix.

          Apple has kept the iOS and OS X UIs distinct and separate, despite the introduction of iOS functionality into the Mac. Microsoft has mashed the two together, resulting in much confusion.

      • Rich

        I’m amazed at how many people think that Microsoft can introduce a very faulty OS and then take their time getting it corrected. You guys don’t seem to realize that this is isn’t 20 years ago and MS is no longer a monopoly in this market; they have competitors who are well ahead of them and are taking their customers. While Microsoft is gradually reworking a product they should not have introduced, others will continue moving forward and make the technology gap even greater than it already is, winning those who used to buy Microsoft. It’s already happening.

      • jfutral

        “bridging the various input technologies. Sure, right now it is rather messy and not seamless, but this will be updated considerably as even this year progresses. ”

        Not seamless is an understatement. But since no one has accomplished some form of integration, there is something to be said about at least taking first steps, as long as doing so doesn’t taint the waters irrevocably.”

        “Integration between devices is where this is going, and needs to from a user perspective.”

        i agree that some form of integration needs to happen. I don’t think it needs to be a conglomerate of touch and traditional. The integration that needs to happen is more software centric, so it ultimately doesn’t matter which device I create a document on, I can edit it with any device I have access to. I don’t need one device to be everything. I need software that can be used anywhere with anything, even if only with (hopefully only minor) limitations in the meantime.

        Joe

  • http://info-tran.com/ Info Dave

    Great stuff, John! Nice to see you doing well.

    I see the Tablet/Hybrid distinction to be the difference between the graphical user interface (GUI) and the natural user interface (NUI). The dominate GUIs are based on the Window, Icon, Menu and Pointer (WIMP) interface of the computer desktop. The NUI is based on touch and voice, missing many of the WIMP elements. I think that’s what makes the two faces Windows 8 so jarring.

    I also feel the Content/Consumption comparison is a bit of a fallacy. The lynchpin that decides the computer versus tablet debate is ability to select and manipulate text. The NUI makes it difficult to do what we have taken for granted with the GUI. The “toy” versus “real work” device argument is distracting. We need to move to a real world use case to decide which device is appropriate.

    Keep up the good work! I’ll be looking for you.

    • steve_wildstrom

      The NUI/GUI distinction you make is a very useful construct. I think the failure of Microsoft to understand this, and the jumbling of the two concepts in Window 8, explains why Win 8 is such a mess.

      • http://info-tran.com/ Info Dave

        I’m sure Microsoft understands this, they just have a terrible problem with implementation. Particularly with version 1.0. I think it would be quite easy to fix Windows 8. Microsoft just made some poor choices, like trying to cram Metro down our throats.

        Apple is bringing their NUI (iOS) back to OS X through gestures on a touchpad/trackpad/magic mouse. I can navigate the largest monitor with minimal hand and finger movement. Microsoft expects me to drag my arm across a large screen monitor, usually mounted in a vertical position.

        • steve_wildstrom

          Actually, I don’t think Microsoft gets it. They tried to slip the Surface into a market segment between the iPad and the laptop with a mixture of th features of each. It’s becoming clear that this segment may not exist and will defy efforts to create it.

          • http://info-tran.com/ Info Dave

            I can’t argue with what you said. Microsoft has positioned Surface exactly as you described. I’m a software guy, not a hardware guy. Metro is the best UI work Microsoft has ever done, but when I look at the hardware I say, huh?

          • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

            Metro is OK for smartphones but makes no sense at all for tablets and especially laptops or desktops.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rambu.tan.161 Rambu Tan

        “I think the failure of Microsoft to understand this, and the jumbling of the two concepts in Window 8, explains why Win 8 is such a mess.”

        All concepts & then implementations start with a premise. MS’s premise with regards to tablets & phones is that they have to be part of Windows. And this I think is their ultimate failing. (Funny why they didn’t look at Xbox & see a good counter example there.)

        “Give up Windows? You’ll have to pry it from our dead cold hands.” – Microsoft’s Tomb Stone

        • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

          Exactly. Gates, then Ballmer hung on to Windows everywhere far too long and are still hanging on. Remember Windows CE with a Start menu on a tiny low res screen?

  • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

    From an ergonomic standpoint, a keyboard is the most efficient method for writing text. Tactility is an important aspect of that. As of now, typing on glass is not comparable.

    So that gives a clue as to what use cases hybrids may be more useful than tablets. Basically anyone who does a tremendous amount of typing will want a device with a keyboard. Then it becomes about value proposition. Is it cheaper to have two devices or one? Does the benefits of one scenario outweigh the benefits of the other?

    I don’t use a tablet as my computing needs involve creating a lot of text and working at the pixel level. I use a laptop for everything. I game on consoles, so I don’t need a desktop.

    The question is, how necessary is text input to most users? In the home, probably not that much. In the office. A LOT. So it stands to reason that, in the consumer market, tablets are and will be king. However, in the enterprise, the convenience and paper management of a tablet conflicts with the need for text input and pixel-level control. This indicates that hybrids have a large potential market in the enterprise at least. The key is, once again, the value proposition.

    Under these circumstances, it’s reasonable that hybrids have a huge potential market, a smaller consumer market mixed with a larger enterprise market. But this is all contingent on them offering a better value proposition than a laptop + tablet.

    Do I think that is possible? From a hardware perspective, it is pretty much already a done deal. But from the software perspective, absolutely not. Only a masochist would consider Windows 8 to be a superior solution to any combination of a PC + tablet OS combination, whether it’s and combination of Android, MacOS X, Window 7, and iOS.

    I think if Apple set its collective genius to create a compelling hybrid from both a hardware and software perspective, it could do it because it already has an interface that can be equally effective for touch or pixel navigation: Launchpad. Does that mean Apple will take on the challenge? Doubtful. But Microsoft could actually fix the mess that is currently Windows 8.

    To sum, I think hybrids have a lot of potential and I’m betting that the kinks eventually get worked out. At the right price points, I can see many people choosing to have two devices for the price of one.

    • FalKirk

      You may be right, James. Touch can handle many tasks and we prefer touch when it is available. Mouse, trackpad and stylus are best for pixel specific tasks like drawing and spreadsheets. Word creation seem to fall in between. Wordsmiths prefer a keyboard but don’t always need the power of the notebook.

      On the other hand, I’ve been amazed at how many professional writers use and love the tablet form factor. They throw an add-on keyboard on a tablet and they seem surprisingly satisfied.

      Apple is gambling that people want a tablet that can occasionally access a keyboard. Microsoft is betting that people want a notebook that they can occasionally use as a tablet. We’ll see which approach the market prefers.

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        “On the other hand, I’ve been amazed at how many professional writers use and love the tablet form factor. They throw an add-on keyboard on a
        tablet and they seem surprisingly satisfied.” – John Kirk

        Ben Bajarin seems to prefer working this way. I wonder if he considers his setup a “hybrid” of sorts? The fact that people are actually doing this gives your position a lot of support.

        • steve_wildstrom

          I’m with Ben on that, but I only use the keyboard maybe 10% of the time. not for this, for example.

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        “Apple is gambling that people want a tablet that can occasionally access a keyboard. Microsoft is betting that people want a notebook that they can occasionally use as a tablet.”

        Exactly. I think Microsoft is wrong. We will see.

    • Ted_T

      Ergonomically the most efficient method for writing text is dictation. Like I did with this comment for instance. Another example of why hybrids will not succeed. The main reason these days I type instead of dictating, is the that I simply forget to dictate. The next generation is not going to have that problem

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        Sorry, but science doesn’t support that. Neither does technology.

      • steve_wildstrom

        I have spent most of my life writing on a keyboard, for many years with a manual typewriter. I am much more comfortable typing than dictating for anything longer than a short note. Spoken and written English are quite different and it takes a fair amount of practice to dictate written English properly (even more true of some other languages, such as German.)

        • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

          “I have spent most of my life writing on a keyboard”

          I think this helps explain why you think this is the best input method.

        • Ted_T

          I agree with you that long-form writing by speaking is at first difficult and takes practice. But it hardly takes more practice than learning how to type in the first place. For the next generation it is going to come just as easily as typing came for this generation

      • http://gcomputer.net/ Gray Knight

        Dictating isn’t so beneficial. The reason I prefer texting to talking on the phone is one of more privacy and faster responses. Having a conversation is great when you are face to face, but I’ve always felt the phone is less personal. If I want to get something done, texting shortcuts the cultural dialog requirements.
        Dictating requires similar dialog requirements, only worse: did you mean to put a comma here, or did you pause to take a deep breath, or is this a colon, semi-colon, period, or did it assume you were asking a question, or are you starting a new paragraph, chapter, book, etc.
        If I’m driving, I can text using dictation without problems. But I wouldn’t want to post these with dictation.

        • Ted_T

          Judging from your comment, you have never actually dictated anything on iOS. The way it knows where to put a comma or a colon is because you say “comma” or “colon”. New sentences get automatically capitalized.

          I agree with you about the privacy aspects, but not about anything else. In fact, the most common usage of dictation for me is to send text message. I do it while walking down the street when typing an actual text would be dangerous.

          Also my observation is the iOS dictation is frighteningly accurate. And it keeps getting better. You say you wouldn’t post anything you dictated, but I just dictated this entire comment and guess what: I’m posting it.

      • http://info-tran.com/ Info Dave

        I’ve observed doctors dictating, and transcribers trying to interpret. Not a pretty sight. Dictation is to typing as touch is to the precision of a mouse. We’re better off where we were.

        • Ted_T

          Yes, because dictation will always work at the same quality as the last time you tried it. There will never be any improvements, ever.

          Soon very, soon speech recognition will surpass those human transcribers of yours. Because, they have the practical experience of listening to a small handful of people while large speech recognition systems such as those of Nuance/Apple have input from millions upon millions of users, and they keep improving based on that.

          Until very recently so that speech recognition could work well at all, you needed to read a practice text into it so it could get used to your particular manner of speaking. Once Nuance released the Dragon app for the iPhone it suddenly got an orders of magnitude larger user base and as a result was able to vastly improve its system. This led to an excellent quality speech recognition once it was built into iOS.

          • steve_wildstrom

            The quality of speech recognition software is now very good. The difficulty is that writing by speaking is not a natural act fr most people. Spoken language uses a simpler vocabulary and much simpler syntax than written language and without a lot of practice, it is very difficult to “write” by speaking.

          • http://info-tran.com/ Info Dave

            That’s what I wanted to say…

          • Ted_T

            I agree completely, especially for long form writing. But typing isn’t a natural act either, and I think that starting from zero, writing by speaking will be just as easy to learn.

            All the counter arguments seem premised on both technology and people staying exactly the way they are today. Neither will happen.

            When I was growing up things like cell phones, texting, email and PCs/word processing didn’t exist. You wrote longhand or typed on an often manual typewriter. Ironically because so few people typed worth a damn, dictation to secretaries was one of the main ways people wrote. My grandfather dictated a couple of his books from start to finish. These days young people seem to be born texting. In a few years (or a few months) they’ll all be dictating their school papers and wondering how anyone could have lived without that…

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      I have seen people type quite well and quickly on glass, especially young people who do not have a preconceived notion about such things.
      Hybrids almost always mean two products of less quality than a single dedicated product. People have rejected hybrid devices for years including Microsoft’s failed attempts at tablets which went nowhere. Now they somehow think they are going to do it again with the laughable Surface RT and the Surface Pro that runs full Windows, has terrible battery life, and …fans, yes fans,, on a tablet. Good luck with that Microsoft. The market has moved on.

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        “I have seen people type quite well and quickly on glass, especially
        young people who do not have a preconceived notion about such things.” – Idon’t Know

        It isn’t a matter of “preconceived notions” so much as evolution. Typing on a traditional keyboard engages the sense of touch in a more comprehensive manner than typing on glass. In almost any case, a human will gravitate to a manner of interaction that provides the most sensory data. Some people may type well on glass but most people won’t.

        As for people rejecting hybrids, I don’t think the rejection is based on the form factor but rather pricing and software. A hybrid is simply a tablet with an attachable keyboard and should retain all of the benefits of both a tablet and laptop. The failure is in creating a software solution that doesn’t compromise those benefits. That isn’t a limitation of the hardware but of the software.

        • jfutral

          The people I’ve seen type well on glass are the same people that type well on keyboards. The people who don’t, (like me) don’t type well to begin with. One of the reasons touch typing evolved is because of the distance between keyboard and output. On an iPad, in typical use, both are right there as close as they can be. So the visual response helps make up for a large portion of the physical response. Not 100%, but certainly a major portion. At least that has been my observations.

          Joe

          • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

            “So the visual response helps make up for a large portion of the physical response. Not 100%, but certainly a major portion.” – jfutral

            I agree with this. I hope I’m not giving the impression that I don’t think people CAN type effectively on glass. But, as you’ve pointed out, they must compensate visually which isn’t as efficient as the sensory data provided by the nerve endings in one’s fingers.

          • jfutral

            But I think this gets more to @IDon’t Know’s point (which I agree with) that for the vast majority of people it is less “compensate” than it is for the ardent touch typist. The only tactile response I need is that my finger tips have hit something. I get that with glass. And the glass has all but alleviated one issue I have with keyboards and that is when I hit two keys by mistake and my typing comes to a complete halt while I try to find out what, if anything, happened to my output. (I’m a “biblical” typist—Seek and ye shall find.)

            I think the only efficiency that is lost is based more on what one is used to than any inherent benefit to a physical keyboard. I kind of thought the iPhone proved that quite well. Many thought the lack of a physical “keyboard” was its doom. Yet here we are.

            Joe

          • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

            “I think the only efficiency that is lost is based more on what one is used to than any inherent benefit to a physical keyboard.” – jfutral

            While science doesn’t support this statement, there IS a method of typing on glass that is indeed equal or potentially superior to typing with physical keys. It’s colloquially called “swiping” or “swyping” after the Swype Keyboard. Rather than explain it, here’s a link:

            http://www.swype.com/

            This method is more natural for a surface that is smooth and offers moderate tactile sensation. It is literally like handwriting with a keyboard. I believe that this technology has the potential to supplant physical keyboards as it allows speeds comparable to, if not faster than, traditional typing, even for trained touch typists. However, this technology has not yet been applied to tablets in a compelling way. It also presents a major behavioral change that will take awhile to become commonplace.

            As it stands right now, traditional typing on glass is a compromise. The “soft” keyboard as implemented by Apple was to allow for greater screen real estate and most people accepted the trade-off of less typing efficiency. Auto-correction and predictive text has helped bridge the gap but typing with physical keyboards is still ergonomically superior, at least when the traditional method of striking individual keys is being performed. From a physiological standpoint, typing on a physical keyboard is far more optimal than typing on glass.

          • jfutral

            Right. And toward the end there is this, which is exactly my point:

            “These results were not surprising given the familiarity of the participants with physical keyboards.”

            Typing on glass is a new phenomenon for most people. Even the poorest of typists (such as myself) have to break from familiarity with physical keyboards. None of these studies have occurred over an extended period of time to see how much changes after a couple/few years. They seem to be focusing on short term results, which probably have more immediate market implications.

            For instance, I learned to draft by hand long before CAD. I could whip out drawings typical for my industry, complete and thorough, in a couple of hours. When I first started using CAD, it would take several more hours to accomplish even the simplest of drawings. Today, 20 years later, that is completely flipped on its head. And don’t even get me started with my lettering, never mind just regular handwriting, which is also suffering from using a computer so much more. Don’t even ask me where my t-square is.

            Maybe we need more scientific studies. I think the conclusions are pretty obvious. YMMV.

            Joe

  • Mark

    Great set of observations. One personal productivity enhancer for ME in using my tablet (iPad), is I can more often and relatively efficiently respond to things as they crop up because my tablet is always close at hand (where my desk top pc isn’t). I ha e found the tablet more useful in many of these tasks than my iPhone.

  • http://twitter.com/majgr Grzegorz Maj

    You are wrong in several places.

    When you have to choose only one device, what that would be?

    Probably 13″ Mackbook Air – relatively portable, and you can do any serious work on it. communicate via Skype, or FaceTime. Or this one device would be smartphone – highly portable, social networks, being connected all the time etc. When you have 2 devices it would be phone, and 13″ notebook. 3 devices: tablet joins, around 7″ if you prefer reading, or 10″ for browsing.

    Touch vs pointer, and productivity: Touch is faster than mouse, but more inaccurate. To have photoshop functionality on tablet, tablet has to be bigger by a factor of 1.5 than normal screen. Or all this complexity has to be hidden under several touches, because complexity isn’t going away if we want to be productive in the same level. (Applications similar to iPhoto(for iPad) were given for free on CDs attached to PC World or something – because really nobody wanted to buy them). You are writing that productivity cannot be measured in one’s own manner, yet on Internets are several shared posts of ‘brave’ people using only tablets for all – and this is seen as a exception.

    This whole truck vs car analogy, people are buying SUVs: neither truck, nor car. That is why people would prefer tablet with keyboard. People like 2in1, they like to have feature that someday may be useful, they want to be prepared for this. Also, look at market of bluetooth keyboards for tablets.

    If Windows 8 is successful be prepared for Air 11″/iPad hybrid – just to have iPad and Windows 7(VM) in one device for some people. And Tim Cook will say that they were wrong in the same manner as 7(8)” iPad.

    • Ted_T

      “When you have to choose only one device, what that would be?”

      Good thing we don’t have to choose, thus the hybrid devices won’t succeed.

    • jfutral

      “people are buying SUVs”

      But they aren’t buying SUVs that try to be a transformer car and an SUV or a truck and an SUV. The attempts at those have failed, too.

      Joe

    • mjtomlin

      “When you have to choose only one device, what that would be?”

      Choose one device for what? That doesn’t make much sense.

      My phone is always with me when i’m running around.
      My tablet is always with me when I’m around the house or when I travel.
      My desktop is with me when I’m at my desk.

      • http://gcomputer.net/ Gray Knight

        If your phone is as powerful as your desktop, then all you need for a “desktop” is a bigger screen (with keyboard/mouse). If the “glasses” work out soon enough, then you won’t need the bigger screen, as you’ll have it.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      Not agreeing with someone is different from telling them they are wrong.
      Level of accuracy on a tablet or smartphone is not significant compared to a PC unless you are using Microsoft’s weird implementation of Office etc. on tablets. They somehow think people will want to use touch to hit the same UI targets as on a PC with a mouse.
      People don’t like 2 in 1 and they don’t like hybrids that do nothing especially well. Microsoft is one of the companies that has never understood this.

      • jfutral

        “Not agreeing with someone is different from telling them they are wrong.”

        Apparently not on the internet.

        :-)
        Joe

  • pawhite524

    Another provocative and intriguing article, John. Kudos!

    I will be in the market for an iPad mini with cellular in May 2013 when my iPhone contract expires. I plan to go back to a feature phone as the telephone element and use my iPad mini for the rest. I expect I will save nearly $70.00/month with this plan. If it doesn’t work out then I guess I’ll put my iPhone back on a plan.

    I’d prefer your idea of a telephone wrist watch but my LG Envy 3 will do, hopefully. I continue to look forward to your articles and this ever reliable and readable site.

    All the best to techpinions and the unusually delightful people who comment on the articles for the coming year (well, into infinity actually!).

  • def4

    I share your opinion about the fate of the smartphone.
    It’s funny to me that there’s this ridiculous raging debate about the limits of touch input on tablets, but nobody seems to care that smartphones are severely more limiting.
    Pretty much everything I try to do on my iPad is easy and fun. It’s a pleasure.

    Everything I try to do on my smartphone feels too involved and cramped.
    Smartphones are expensive to acquire and horribly expensive to own. They are intrusive, distracting and fiddly. They require too much time, care and attention to operate even for consumption, let alone creation.

    I would much rather have a small device to wear on my wrist to handle most of the uses cases smartphones are actually good at – as opposed to everything power users try to use them for.
    But for that to work it needs to have excellent voice recognition and command interpretation. That will do until reliable mind reading is developed.

    • pawhite524

      Kudos!

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      I don’t see any of these issues with my iPhone 5 or any iPhone and I have had all of them. The tablet has a better screen and apps designed for tablets with the iPad so yes that is easier and preferable in many ways.

  • Redwan Huq

    “Most 7 inch tablets run big phone apps. The iPad Mini runs tablet apps.”

    A lot of misinformation emanating from this phrase. First, the majority of popular apps on 7 inch tablets, for example the Nexus 7, have tablet-specific versions. That’s what matters. Second, the iPad Mini can’t run iPhone apps. For example, if you buy a $20 game for your iPhone, you have to spend $20 AGAIN to play it on the iPad/iPad Mini. Ouch. On Android, if you bought that game on your phone previously and just got a Nexus 7 for the holidays, you can play it on your tablet without paying for it again!

    • AdamChew

      You explained it very well that android tablet run big phone apps because they are phone apps.

      Go to an Apple store and then find out for yourself whether the mini can run iPhone apps. I have a mini and it runs iPhone apps.

    • benbajarin

      Apple developers make things called universal apps. Most of not all the apps I buy run on both iPhone and iPad for the same price even though they are two different versions one for both. So in fact you don’t have to pay twice in most cases.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      The Nexus 7 is actually a big smartphone and having Nexus 7 specific versions is not nearly the same as having real tablet apps. Plus there are few Nexus 7 specific apps anyway.
      The Nexus 7 is sold at cost by Google in an attempt to get someone, anyone, to buy and Android tablet and not return it. They have succeeded with the Nexus 7 because of cost and a usable version of Android. But the Android forums are full of stories of people with quality control issues and poor service requiring multiple returns and exchanges to get a good one. You just don’t see that with iPads.
      You are of course completely wrong about iPhone and iPad apps as others have already said. Universal apps have been around on iOs for many years. The tablet app story on iPad completely destroys the selection of tablet apps on Android.
      Also the iPad Mini is better build quality, much more screen real estate, and noticeably better color and contrast than the washed out looking Nexus 7.

    • FalKirk

      “… the iPad Mini can’t run iPhone apps. – Redwan Huq

      That is incorrect. The iPad and the iPad mini can run all phone apps (about 500,000) at double size. They can also run all tablet optimized apps (about 250,000) The phone apps will do in a pinch, but the tablet optimized apps almost alway outshine them.

  • ChKen

    Well argued, Falkirk, as one would expect from a recovering attorney!