Is a tablet a PC? The short answer is no! …but they are similar in that both are computing devices that can do some of the same things yet also do some quite different jobs. Some of the headlines from post holiday sales would have you believe that tablet s are soon to replace the old dinosaur PCs. Last time I looked we’re still selling bicycles, motorcycles, cars and luxury cars all means of transportation in general terms. There are niche markets for each based on utility and price as well as other considerations. The same is true for computing devices: the major considerations being portability, versatility, utility and price.
Tablets are distinguished by being mobile, more than portable almost as mobile as a smart phone and having a touch interface. Up until the 4th quarter of last year, the tablet market had been dominated by Apple’s iPads which retail at $499 and up. Sure there have been other entries and some at lower price points, but none with the success of the iPad. There had been an increasing demand for a tablet well under Apple’s threshold price. The Kindle Fire at just $199 opened up a whole new market for touch tablets. I do not mean to suggest that the Kindle product is competitive with the IPad; it just broadened the market with its smaller screen size and much lower price. I don’t see it hurting IPad sales, more likely it has taken over the wannabe market that had been swirling about with a myriad of partly successful entries for some time.
Now let me draw some distinctions between tablets and PCs. PCs can do work and they can also communicate and provide access to entertainment. Tablets can communicate via email and face to face softwares, they can search the Web, play YouTube videos and movies (if you don’t mind the compressed screen size) and they can play games. If you study the top App downloads for tablets you’ll find that the top 50 are almost all games. Some users are literally buying $500 device to play games with. I know, they say they are working, but not so much.
If you want to do serious work: word processing, spreadsheets, Web research with note taking and picture editing you’ll want a PC. Tablets are just not there yet. Limitations with printing and with file sharing are bothersome with tablets as well. Progress is being made to make tablets more printer friendly but there are still not enough printers available that are AirPrint enabled and older printers require separate App installs that can still be cumbersome to operate.
In spite of their drawbacks, the portability of tablets is seductive. It’s nice to be able to curl up in the bed and read a book or view Facebook on a lightweight 7 or 10 inch screen and the battery life makes them truly portable, almost as mobile as your phone.
There’s room in the market for smart phones, laptops, tablets and even desktop PCs. You just have to assess your budget and how you use computers to make good choices.
Till next week, enjoy all your computing tools and send your questions to: