Will tablets eventually take over for laptops?
When shopping around for a light-use laptop a few weekends ago, I noticed something peculiar. In seeing the selection at a local Best Buy, it appeared that most of the laptops were much smaller than I'd remembered them. They looked sleeker and more stylish. But at the same time they didn't seem that much better under the hood. Something seemed wrong with this picture.
This raised the question: are laptops on their way out? It might seem like a preposterous question. Laptops have been our portable tools of choice for nearly two decades. We can't expect them to just fade away. Yet given the current state of portable computers, the end might be inevitable.
End of the evolutionary line
When I was browsing a selection of notebook laptops from Lenovo I started to think about how laptops have changed in the past few years.
1. They've gotten thinner. I remember the old IBM Thinkpads from the early 00s and how thick and heavy they were. Yes, they were portable, but they weren't that easy to carry around. Many times they required a special bag. Lenovo now makes the Thinkpad, and it's a lightweight device that can't get any thinner without removing parts.
2. They have longer battery life. If you owned a Thinkpad, you knew that bringing a charger was essential. The battery life was pretty short, and batteries didn't last very long in general. Now laptop battery life can extend for five or six hours. That's an enormous improvement.
3. They've removed everything unnecessary. Looking at the Lenovo Ideapad, an Ultrabook, I noticed all the trivia removed. It uses a solid state hard drive, so there are no moving parts there. There is no CD drive either. It has a few USB ports, an auxiliary port, and that's it. It's just the bare basics.
Seeing all this made me wonder where laptops can grow. I couldn't come up with a good answer. If laptops have no room for growth, then they're at the end of the evolutionary line.
The next revolution
When we reach the end of an evolutionary track, we need a revolution to move forward. It appears that the portable computing revolution has already occurred. Think about it.
- How can you make a laptop even less bulky?
- How can you make a laptop easier to use?
- How can you improve laptop battery life?
- How can you make a laptop more portable?
When we ask those questions in unison, we get a clear answer: tablet PCs.
The tablet removes the hinge from a laptop, making it less bulky. The touchscreen interface makes it easier to use. Because it runs a no frills mobile OS and has no moving parts, it uses less battery. And really, it's the ultimate in portability, since it can fit into bags of nearly any size with room to spare.
Essentially, the tablet is a revolutionized laptop. We just happen to get the revolution before the last evolution played out.
People crave familiarity, so it will take a while for the tablet revolution to catch on. Until people become more comfortable working without a physical keyboard and using a touchscreen interface, laptops will continue to persist. There's also the issue of tablets running different operating systems than desktops.
We will see little improvement, though. Again, it's tough to see where laptops can improve at all without turning into tablets. Eventually laptops will just fold themselves into the tablet market. It's difficult to see now, given our familiarity with laptops. But it's going to happen eventually.
Joe Pawlikowski Joe Pawlikowski edits several blogs across the web, including his new project, A New Level, where he covers what he has learned and wishes to learn.