Why Tablets will Never Replace Laptops

Tablets PCs are all the rage nowadays. I mean, lets face it – the personal computer is no longer the king of technology. It’s been around for decades and it’s high time that we Tablets on a Shelftalk about something fresh and new. Smartphones are of course still hip, but the release of Apple’s original iPad in April of 2010 has shaken up the market with a completely new viable form factor for the media to go crazy over.

The entire market has also been presented with a device which is genuinely more portable, generally offers better battery life than laptops and is far more intuitive with multi-touch capabilities. The experience is simply far more interactive. Tablets certainly have their place, but still have their pundits. Some are still left asking themselves why they need yet another device for browsing the web, viewing pictures or writing emails.

There is far more to it than that, however. Here are the top 5 reasons why tablets will never be able to completely replace laptops:

  1. Nobody would ever want to write this article on a tablet. I mean, seriously guys, think about this one. By the time somebody typing the 1,000 or so words (hopefully less!) it will take to get my thoughts across in this article, a writer equipped with a laptop could easily write 2 or 3 full articles. Then there is email, programming, Excel, databases… I think you get the idea: the keyboard is simply the ultimate input method for writing… anything. Period.
  2. Just because you can make it smaller, doesn’t mean you should. This point goes hand in hand with the above point. We all like small and portable things. But the smartphone revolution has made this point abundantly clear as well. When we found out how powerful that ultra-portable technology like smartphones could be, we also began to recognize that a bigger screen could also be a huge asset which would allow us to work with more data at once. The keyboard and mouse have a similar relationship with the tablet as the tablet does with the smartphone. After all, we are human and we will always need devices that are large enough to interact with. If our eyes could resolve the hairs on an ant we could certainly live with much smaller screens. If our hands were smaller, we could certainly live with smaller keyboards. There is a finite limit to how small something can possibly depending on how we choose to interact with it.
  3. Higher-end content productivity is simply better served with a full-fledged system. I’m talking photo editing, video editing, CAD drawings and the likes. Not to mention that full-fledged laptops are more powerful (though in 10 years this may not even matter anymore). But the venerable mouse and keyboard with various other input devices attached have certainly proven themselves. In fact these are environments where all the input devices required almost favor having a fixed workstation. Let us also not forget more advanced multi-display setups as well. These are largely fixed and take advantage of features which tablets have no place offering.
  4. Not everybody is always on the go. Really, I promise! Everybody is increasingly mobile nowadays? Tech support representatives are more mobile? Accountants are more mobile? Not everybody is more mobile, and that’s fine. But somebody has to call out this fallacy that absolutely everybody wants to or even can work while driving or flying to some other destination. And besides, wasn’t technology supposed to help people stay put and avoid having to fly out to meet your client in the first place? What happened to green initiatives focusing on reducing how much you travel? When did fuel get cheap again? I must have missed those memos.
  5. Tablets are better suited to content consumption than creation. That really seems to be the recurring theme here. This is not derogatory. This does not mean that tablets can only be used to view YouTube videos of people getting kicked in the groin and pictures of lolcats. The CEO of a company is more likely to be a consumer of content than a creator. The engineers, marketers, accountants and lawyers create the content, among other groups of skilled workers. Managers will then look at all that information and make better decisions based on it. But at the core of everything, there is always a huge need for creation of new information and content. Tablets, mainly due to the different interface, are better suited to organizing and displaying the information once it’s been created.

So given all this, what can we deduce? First, tablets are complementary to laptops in the same way that smartphones are complementary to them. This often seems to get lost in a lot of the media coverage surrounding them.

Further, to those who do not understand what purpose a tablet serves in an office environment, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t spend much time reviewing lots of information while on the run, you don’t work with information often, or you are the one creating it.

So no, I can’t predict the death of the laptop even within the next 10 years anymore than I can predict the death of the full-size keyboard in that time frame, and nor should you. It’s absurd to even think about it when you put it that way and it always will be as long as humans have 10 fingers and two hands.