To Tablet or Not to Tablet: The Conundrum

All the world’s been taken by the tablet. Each week brings a new tablet to compete with the original Apple iPad. When it was just the Apple iPad, I had no problem answering the question, “Should I buy a tablet?” For me, the answer was clear — no.

My “no” came about for various reasons, not least of which is that I really dislike Steve Jobs telling me what compromises I have to make. For me, the lure of the PC/Microsoft world has always been that, with the exception of the operating system, I have choices — and lots of them. The result has been that over the years I have had my computers custom built locally. If I wanted a faster but smaller hard drive, I could have it; if I wanted extra memory, I could have it; if I wanted a different type of mouse, I could have it; if I wanted a different keyboard, I could have it. Unless I bought from a company like Dell, I could dictate what components my computer was built with and which software I wanted loaded. None of this could I do with Apple.

So in the beginning my answer to the question of whether to tablet or not was an easy “no.” Besides, what would I do with the tablet?

That’s the real kicker and what I wonder about with all of the millions of tablets already purchased. What exactly is it that a tablet would bring to me, aside from separating money from my wallet, that isn’t already provided by my desktop and laptop and could be provided by a smartphone if I had one?

I work all day on a computer; it is the tool that helps me earn my living. Consequently, I have a computer that has been customized to fit the work I do and the way I work. For example, I have three 24-inch LCD monitors with rotating screens. Consequently, I don’t need a tablet to get my daily work done; no way would a 10-inch tablet replace three 24-inch monitors (or even my 15-inch laptop screen).

What about when I need to meet with a client or when I am giving away my secrets at a conference? I have a 5/6-year-old laptop that has all of my work programs on it, can access all of my e-mail accounts, and lets me pop-in a DVD to watch a movie should I need to kill a lot of time travelling. Other than having a smaller, nonrotatable screen (15-inch landscape rather than 24-inch rotating) and fewer screens (one instead of three), my laptop is essentially a clone of my workstation.

What my laptop isn’t, which the tablets are, is lightweight (it’s about 5 lbs. vs. less than 2 lbs. for the tablet) and it lacks touchscreen capability. But then the tablets lack a DVD drive and many lack USB ports and bluetooth technology, which are found on my laptop.

So here I struggle thinking perhaps I should break down and buy the Samsung Galaxy Tablet. After all, I can get it at $100 off (until July 30), which is a 20% discount. I’ve seen the ads for the Galaxy and it sure looks good. But what would I do with the device? As it is, my laptop sits in the corner and is booted up only a few times a year. But my laptop can do more for me than any tablet currently can.

I do know someone who bought a tablet and loves it. But when I asked him how it stacks up to his older laptop, it is like I burst his bubble of enthusiasm with a pinprick. What he keeps pointing to are the “cool” factor, the weight difference, and how much he loves the touchscreen. Not a word about how the tablet actually helps him accomplish anything.

I guess I have a more utilitarian view about things now that I am getting closer to retirement. I know that 25 years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about plunking down money for something just because it intrigued me or because it was “cool.” But age does change one’s thinking and now I need to justify (albeit to myself) spending $500+ on a device that I have no real need for. I didn’t hesitate to spend $300 on my Sony 950 Reader, but then I knew I would spend hours reading ebooks on it; but what would I do with a tablet?

I’m stuck in that rut of wondering what it is I would do with a tablet were I to buy one. For the most part, if you own a smartphone, you have a miniature tablet. Buying a tablet would simply duplicate what your smartphone already does for you. So I ask: To tablet or not to tablet? I think I’ll continue to wait. I much prefer the $500 to be in my pocket than in someone else’s. There is always tomorrow.

reposted with permission from An American Editor


  1. Lynne Connolly25 July, 2011

    I have a rooted Nook Color. The smaller size, 7-8 inches, makes it much more useful to me. I can put it in my bag, and it weighs less than a pound, so it’s truly portable. It’s a nicer size for reading, too.
    I would buy a larger tablet with one of those cases with a physical keyboard as a netbook replacement, but as a writer, the netbook is still hugely useful to me.
    I don’t play many games.

  2. sarah1191825 July, 2011

    I’m still shouting at the tablets to “get off my lawn” and stop calling themselves tablets when they don’t use a stylus.

    The only tablets I have a use for (and I have a few) are those that gives me something the laptop can’t: handwriting.

    My laptop is one of the lightest and smallest around (11″ Macbook Air) so weight, portability and form factor are no selling points for me. It’s not literally pocketable, but I don’t think I own a bag it doesn’t slip into.

    Instead of an iPad or what the kids these days are calling a tablet, I have an Asus Eee Note and a Nokia N810. They both perform specific functions the laptop doesn’t and my Nokia E71 phone has a qwerty keyboard which is actually better for sending an email than the virtual keyboard on the iPad.

    For people not likely to have laptops or other devices on them, I can see why they might be useful. But for someone like me who lives with a laptop within constant reach and has other devices for specific purposes, an all-purpose, general media tablet doesn’t add much value.

  3. curiosity killed the..25 July, 2011

    I’ve been struggling with this same conundrum for close to a year now. I’ve wanted a tablet so bad i can taste it I’ve scoured countless hours on tech sites looking for new tablets coming out and reading reviews of those that have been out for months. functionality is 1st and foremost my concern in spending such a chunk of change i want the damn thing to actually do something that i cant get with a pc or laptop.
    as an artist having a digital tablet to draw on has been very much a dream of mine since the early days of college(04) even though i had a wacom tablet i was never really impressed with the results( 1-2 second lag time) and i longed for a device i could simply draw on the screen and see my pen strokes in real time.
    however my 1st experience with a tablet like device was disheartening was an android 2.0 e reader that did not have app support or flash capability.
    ever since then I’ve looked for the best of the best but unfortunately there just isn’t a lot out there yet. i would consider a windows based tablet in a heart beat if they didn’t start at $1,000 for the ones worth getting. apple has never felt like an option either since they avoid flash like garlic to vampires.
    that leaves just android and as nice as 1-2 tablets I’ve been following for the past 7 months or so has looked their functionality is seriously lacking for the price they sell them for.
    maybe just maybe when the new quad core tablets come out they will be in the same price range as all the others that came before them have been then i might could justify plopping down 500 for it. until then though i will just wait and save my pennies like the rest of the sensible people,the few left w/o a next gen tablet.

  4. fjtorres25 July, 2011

    Your prblem, Mr Adin, is you see a tablet as a computer–a tool to do meaningful things with–rather than a fashion statement or toy. 😉
    Apple’s dirty little iPxxx secret is that their largest single pool of customers are switching over from Nintendo and Sony, not computers or eink readers. 😀

  5. Krystian Galaj25 July, 2011

    It’s a thing to read news on, to play games on, to watch tv series on, while resting on something soft. To be subtly invigorated, like when you go shopping and are treated like king of the mall, and to get rid of the blues. Not to accomplish anything.

  6. Sherri25 July, 2011

    I couldn’t see any reason to buy an iPad because I have an iPhone and a very nice Sony laptop that weighs less than 3 lbs, has a SSD so it’s really fast, plus has all the extras an iPad doesn’t, like an optical drive and printer drivers and real multi-tasking. The Nook Color was interesting, but though I’m capable of rooting it, I don’t want to bother, and my investment in Kindle books makes the Nook Color less useful. If Amazon comes out with a color tablet with WiFi that doesn’t have to be rooted to be useful and costs less than $500, then I’m going to be tempted.

  7. Common Sense25 July, 2011

    I’ve never understood the tablet craze myself, for the same reasons. The only plus, in my opinion, is the portability, but you also have that with a netbook and you don’t have to buy a separate keyboard. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    On the other hand, my husband is not a technical person and mostly uses my laptop for web surfing and Facebook. I was going to get him a netbook for his birthday, but he really loves his smartphone so I may get a tablet instead. Especially since Amazon is supposed to come out with one soon. It will also be far less than $500+ the author mentions.

    I don’t do Apple. I don’t like the proprietary universe and high prices.

  8. Jeff25 July, 2011

    I, too, have not yet found a tablet-sized hole in my life… though I admit the cool factor is high. I had a chance to view the never-released Go computer long ago (handwriting recognition with stylus, which goosed MS to develop its own tablets), have used a Crosspad (Cross Pen’s attempt at a paper/computer interface), have a Wacom pad, and of course I own a Microsoft tablet computer (too bulky as a handheld, but fine as a laptop). As a writer, I haven’t found a tablet solution that actually helps me do anything special, including read books better than I already can on a Kindle or Nook. I think poster fjtorres is on the money: the tablet market may be upgrading from Nintendo and Sony, not looking for a more capable ebook reader. I’ve been around long enough to know that not every platform finds its killer app, but I keep looking…

  9. JacekAmbroziak25 July, 2011

    Like the author of the article I also have a custom built workstation w/ a huge 30′ screen, a MacBook Pro — but also a Droid smartphone, and a Motorola XOOM tablet. Each device plays a different role. For reading eBooks I only use the tablet: the screen is sufficiently large and touch sensitive, and the tablet is convenient to hold (as a pseudo-book). As I read I sometimes get and respond to email, and/or check background info on Wikipedia. I also run a bunch of Android apps on the tablet. I do not like reading off laptop or workstation screens. So yes, definitely “to tablet.”

  10. Chris25 July, 2011

    I don’t have a problem with the tablet craze, they’re just not for me. I lead a pretty nomadic lifestyle, so a tablet would be right up my alley… but. I prefer reading ebooks on a dedicated e-ink reader rather than a backlit LCD screen, so it won’t replace my Reader. I can’t use a tablet for work, so it won’t replace my lapper. I already have a smartphone that allows me to handle email, going online, etc, so with the exception of the size of the screen it won’t replace my smartphone.

  11. MNielsen27 July, 2011

    For now the tablets are still considered toys, which for most of us probably also is the right definition of our use of them. However as more and more applications and accessories gets released, the shift from toy to work-tool will happen pretty quickly. Obviously the Apple approach of locking everything down has not helped much on businesses looking at tablets as a viable tool for specific tasks, but some of the newer tablets are much more flexible and offer extension options worthy of professional use.
    Personally I have been in the same limbo as others. Should I get a tablet and what would I use it for? As I am working on my startup money are tight so I will likely combine my desire for a tablet with the need of the business and get myself a Nook Color I can root. Besides giving me its main feature of eBooks which I need for my startup it also gives me the basic features of a smart phone (email, twitter, and internet) but on a bigger screen.

    1. curiosity killed the..27 July, 2011

      dont get me wrong nook color was a great choice when it came out and people started rooting the hell out of it to make it even better. however its nearing closer to a full year old, it runs on a single core ti based cpu and by the time it reaches a year old in nov there will already be quad core nvidia tablets out on the market. which means if you can wait 4 or maybe even 6 months from now you could very well likely get your hands on a dual core 2nd gen tablet for anywhere between $250-$300 if ya cant wait that long then nook maybe still the best option for the price range your looking for however a month or 2 down the road who knows which or the real tablet market developers will be getting rid of their overstock of 1st gen high end single core tablets and could fall right into your price range as well as they prepare for the quad cores to come.

      1. MNielsen27 July, 2011

        You are right of course, but then again there will always be something new coming “next week” because this technology is moving fast.
        What is appealing to me is its size. I have small hands but the nook lets me hold it in one and “type” with the other. The other thing for me is that it can be used for my startup. The nook has 25% of the market so that alone make it a “must have” for me anyway.
        I had hoped that B&N would have released a new version by now, which is part of the reason I have been waiting.


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