Tablets have made an enormous impact, there is no doubt about it. Over a million, by far the majority of them iPads, have been sold in Australia over the last two years.
At the same time, the sale of PCs has been in a small decline. Desktop PCs lost out against laptops once their prices converged, but now even laptop sales are suffering as more and more people shift to the tablet paradigm.
The trend has led some to predict the death of the PC. That is unlikely to happen – both device types have their place. Tablets are great devices for consuming information, but they are not so good at creating it. PCs shine for heavy duty input and high level processing – the sort of work performed by the so-called “power users”.
So will the functional difference between the two devices. Microsoft’s new Surface tablet (at least the higher end Surface Pro) will run a full version of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, and have virtually all the capabilities of a laptop PC. It will have a full size keyboard that doubles as a cover for the screen, as well as tablet touch screen capability. Is it a tablet or a PC?
Of course we haven’t seen the Surface yet. It looks increasingly as if Microsoft rushed the announcement to make splash before arch-rival Google, whose Nexus 7 machine is a vastly different beast.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro comes in way over the iPad in price and functionality, and the Nexus comes in way under. The Nexus is smaller, much cheaper, and tied much more to the cloud – processing and storage on the Internet – which is the model Google sees as the future of information processing.
Microsoft talks about cloud processing,but it still has a PC mindset, with apps and data within the local device. Google has a very different ethos – it has taken to heart the mantra of Scott McNealy, the founder of Sun Microsystems, who famously said “the network is the computer.”
Do you want a tablet that works like a PC and costs as much as a PC, or do you want a tablet that weighs and costs less than half as much, and which draws its data and its apps – and its inspiration – from the Internet? Or do you want an iPad?
I have a Dell XPS13 laptop with a 250 Gigabyte sold state drive. It’s about the size of an iPad, yet is a fully functional Windows 7 PC. It’s fabulous.
I have a Google Nexus 7, which fits in my man bag (or coat pocket), and which is great for web surfing, reading books and newspapers, and playing games. It’s fabulous.
And I have an iPhone, which doubles as my Nexus and laptop wireless modem. It’s fabulous.
I can’t see any device type winning out over any other. Different functionality, different size (sorry – “form factor”), different purpose.
Viva la difference.