One of the biggest advances in mass-market technology in recent years has been the sudden takeoff of tablet computing. Initially scoffed at when Microsoft began developing the (already marginally established) idea of tablet computing in the early 2000s, tablet computing finally found its zeitgeist with the Apple IPad in 2010. Five years later, tablets are something of a must-have item for the technophile on the go – but it seems that their meteoric rise is beginning to slow. What does the future hold for tablet computing, and how can we expect to see tablets advance in the next few years?
Tablets have become increasingly popular in recent years. Touch-screen technology has become familiar enough for people to be comfortable with the concept of a touch-screen computing device (something which was not so much the case when Microsoft touted their first tablet 15 years ago). They’re easily portable, work well with the mentality of the ‘app generation’, and are both cheap and easy to insure . However, there is a school of thought which believes that tablets will find it hard to expand upon their repertoire without significantly changing their format. The tablet market suffered its first ever drop in 2014. Many analysts believe that this is due to the ‘fad’ phenomenon, wherein people initially bought tablets simply because they were told that tablets were the ‘in’ thing. They got caught up in the rush – but when the initial euphoria of having the newest toy in the store had faded, they began to realise that tablets are not actually a whole lot better than smartphones. The screen is larger, but the processing power and general aptitude of the average tablet tends not to be a whole lot more advanced than that of a good smartphone. Essentially, reality is starting to hit. New phones continue to draw customers because the kinds of things which can be updated on a phone – cameras, footstep trackers and so forth – are more suited to a smaller, more portable ‘outdoor usage’ format like a phone. Tablets, it is suggested, are becoming the clunkier, more expensive cousin to smartphones, and falling behind as a consequence.
Nonetheless, there are those who maintain that tablets are the future of computing, and will continue to advance into new, exciting, saleable realms given enough time. Some have pointed out that computing trends in general are moving towards thinner, lighter, more portable formats – and that keyboards, once thought an essential for any serious word-processing unit – are no longer thought as necessary as they once were. An optional touchscreen keyboard is as attractive to some as the more solid and tangible kind. Furthermore, the growth in sales of things like Chromebooks which lack internal storage and operate largely as interfaces to the Cloud, indicates that the lack of harddrive space on tablets is going to be less of an issue as external storage options become more advanced. Many of the trends in computing seem, therefore, to be approaching the kind of format which tablets have been utilizing for a while. Could a sort of merger of the tablet and the laptop be where tablets are headed in the future?
The limitations of the tablet seem largely to be based around the fact that they’re currently in a limbo between glorified smartphone and substandard desktop computer. While they’re unlikely ever to edge smartphones out of the market, the way in which the PC industry is heading could demonstrate a future for tablets as flat, portable computers. Tablet-laptop blends already exist, with Lenovo notably going out on a limb to make use of both formats in as innovative a way as they could manage. While the technology and ergonomics of today’s tablet-laptop hybrids arguably need a degree of development, it seems likely that tablets’ best option of survival is nonetheless to follow this route. Tablets will then appeal to today’s Chromebook users – those who want to be able to make use of the advanced practical aspects of a computer, but don’t want to fork out for masses of hardrive space, and who need something portable. At the moment, tablets appeal to those who like apps and touch screen gaming – both of which can easily be got from a phone. If tablets are going to survive, they need to offer something more than this – and computer buying trends at the moment seem to indicate that the tablet could well be the platform of the future for today’s PC and Macbook users.
Article from Gemma Ryder