Will tablets drive out laptops?

idiot_ipad_[1] On our sister blog Gadgetell, J.G. Mason posts an editorial calling the iPad a “trap” for the computer industry. Mason quotes an All Things D piece stating that the iPad is having a disruptive effect on low-end notebook computer sales as people delay or cancel notebook purchases to buy an iPad instead. Mason further calls the industry’s faddish focus on tablets to compete with the iPad another such disruption.

Mason thinks that over time, the iPad (and presumably tablets in general) will develop out of its more limited present capabilities to become a larger, faster, and more capable computer in its own right, which will be useful for both consuming media in tablet form and doing actual work when docked to a keyboard and other peripherals.

Unless the industry decides to lead and not follow, laptops will likely become things of the past.  Apple is betting the industry will follow the money, as it usually does.  This will keep Apple’s premium position in the market and keep investors happy for some time to come.

What Mason entirely fails to explain is why this is necessarily a bad thing. Now granted, if it were just the iPad taking over that ecological niche, I could see some protests against Apple’s “walled garden” development model driving out everything else (how ironic given how often similar complaints have been made about Microsoft’s desktop dominance compared to Apple’s tiny market share!).

But it is highly likely that other manufacturers will have their own just-as-good tablets running more traditional OSes once they get some momentum built up. If someone wants a tablet that can do it all and be fully compatible with the programs he’s been using so far on his desktop or laptop, why wouldn’t he get a Windows 7 tablet rather than an iPad?

If a tablet can do everything a laptop could well enough that we don’t need laptops anymore, then the tablet will be “the new laptop” and the companies that make laptops now will shift over to making tablets. What’s so bad about that, as long as it gets the job done?

Related: Netbooks: Passé or just settling down?

About Chris Meadows (4149 Articles)
TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.

9 Comments on Will tablets drive out laptops?

  1. I can’t imagine a tablet replacing my laptop. Most of the time I need the screen real estate completely and I often regret not having more available. A virtual keyboard would ruin that. Having to take an additional keybord with me makes no sense. Having it attached to the screen is more handy to take it with me and it doesn’t bother me much when working. And closing the laptop is a good protection for the screen while transporting it.

  2. Well, Piet, they do make cases like that one we covered for the iPad a few days back that essentially enclose the keyboard and tablet in one “laptop-like” device. You could use that as the default mode, just like a laptop, then take the tablet out of that when you didn’t need the keyboard. It would just be the portable equivalent of the way the recent iMacs enclose the entire computer within a thicker-than-usual monitor that you plug a keyboard into.

  3. Well said Chris – This Mason’s article is just a silly and incoherent ramble.

    “UBS analyst Maynard Um says the iPad is having a negative impact on the entire PC industry.”

    How on earth does this make any sense ? a new brilliant product comes out and now it’s damaging the entire industry ? Please !! What they mean is Apple is destroying some competitors by innovating and giving people what they want.

    “Why? PCs are boring. iPad is fun. Tablets are the new golden goose of PCs. So, we’ll start to see a tablet from everyone. Just as Apple planned.”

    Duh … and that is a bad thing how ?? Ooh the evil Apple is … horror … giving people what they want and they LOVE it !! OMG what will happen next ?

    I kept reading the article expecting Mason to point out he big flaw, the killer blow that proves the iPad was bad. It never comes. Nothing. Just another establishment computer nerd who is emotionally bonded with his Desktop and laptop world, and who can’t seem to grasp that other formats and other devices will change how we live and use computers, just like laptops and desktops did in their day.

    As a matter of comment I personally do not think tablets will do away with laptops or desktops. They are devices for different purposes. The iPad gives a convenient and portable and efficient way to consume and produce content to a certain level. Laptops offer a next level complexity of options for generating and consuming. Laptops offer most of what desktops offer but in a portable way. So there is room for all formats in the future imho.

  4. US consumers have historically proven that they can and will change their buying habits once they ‘get used to’ the idea of using something different, along with having ample motivation to do so. Once folks that use laptops try out the tablets, and if they find them easy to transition over to, then laptops will themselves begin to fall into the ‘former fad’ category. A few die-hard users will tout their superiority, but if indeed–as the article asserted–tablets can do all that laptops do, folks will tend to save up for and buy the newest, sleekest, best-designed gizmo on the market. Having researched eReaders and tablets, and written up comparison pieces for the Sacramento Book Review and San Francisco Book Review readers, I’ve decides to make do with my ‘old’ 8 year obsolete HP laptop, until I’ve saved enough to purchase an iPad. It is simply the best fit for me, being that I an online almost constantly, review books online, read books online and write my own eBooks to upload online, as well as keeping in touch with my editors and freelance employers. I was a skeptic, die hard laptop fan until I tried out a friend’s iPad and was amazed at how easily my current work habits adapted to it’s user-interface, not to mention the apps available.

  5. Personally, I think we are moving toward a ‘hard drive on a stick’ model where people will just have a thumb drive they plug into various screens. So you might have your core OS and apps in this drive and then plug it into your phone-sized screen to do you phone/music player stuff, and then plug it into your book-sized screen to read, play games etc. And then at home you would have the monitor-sized screen with all your peripherals attached, or the media-sized screen to play media and stream TV from your computer. You’d have everything all on the one stick—apps, files, media etc.—and just plug it into whatever screen you want to work on…

  6. Yes, I rather like Joanna’s model, although the thought of manufacturers getting together to use a standard format for everything is rather mind-boggling!
    I use an Asus EEE and a Kobo book reader and find this suits me- if I want a computer I want a keyboard and the E-ink screen of the Kobo is much easier for reading. And it only took me over 40 years of computer usage to get the ideal combination!

  7. I think Joanna Is close, but not quite right about where we’re going. Instead of that stick being carried around, I expect services like DropBox will let you “install” your software on them, then use the software from whichever screen you connect to the service. Google’s ChromeOS looks a likely precursor.

  8. Anytime an Apple device disrupts something that runs Windows, it’s always seen to be a “bad” thing. There’s just some urgent need for the world to have a product that dominates 95% of the computer industry for some reason or the other. Honestly, who the heck really cares if a few Windows computers disappear. Netbooks were crap computers built for the indigent masses in India or some other third-world country. The vendors were losing money building every one of them. Even Michael Dell said he wished those crapbooks would go away. iPads use less power, take up less space, they use less consumables and the applications are less expensive. They’re not perfect but they’re practical to those that are willing to accept them as a change. Especially, younger users who haven’t grown up believing that Microsoft and Windows is some sort of computer religion that deserves some blind worship until the end of time. Windows has slowed down the computer industry long enough. Let’s get some fresh blood and fresh ideas on what computer use can be defined as.

    Microsoft had its way for almost 30 years and now it’s time for some changes. If consumers are happy with those changes, then that’s a good thing. Just because a few tech-head idiots want to stick a full version of Windows on a tablet, it doesn’t mean the world at large wants some horrid crap like that. Windows desktop on every computing device in the world is not everyone’s dream.

    So, if the iPad cuts into a few notebook or netbooks sales, what’s the big deal? Microsoft will lose a few million Windows licenses out of billions. Hardly enough to shift the rotting computing industry away from Windows very much.

  9. Very well said steffenjobbs.

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