Future of the tablet

May 03, 2011

Day after day, it becomes clearer how the tablet computer fits into our daily lives, especially after a year of the launch of the iPad, a tablet in a new avatar launched by technology giant Apple.

The tablet was previously introduced by Microsoft ten years ago. It was just a touch-screen laptop that could be carried vertically, and users could take notes with a stylus. But it did not become popular with consumers, who could not find anything great about a laptop with the same operating system that was made for desktop computers and that offered the same battery life.

It then became clear that a tablet with extra portability, a suitable operating system and extended running time would be a viral product. And this is what Apple has finally done, to lead the tablet market.

I still cannot believe that it took a company all this time to make an efficient tablet computer. I am not referring to Microsoft’s product, but to the time elapsed since 1994, when a television report on a news publishing company discussed the idea of a device called the news tablet, which would allow people to read and interact with news. The report specifically explained that we may use computers to create information, but we will use the tablet to interact with information, which is exactly what is happening now.

Last year, I did not believe that the tablet would soon replace the laptop. But after gradually becoming a heavy tablet user, I began to believe it. I started to leave my laptop at home and rely completely on the iPad.

Being a tablet aficionado, I really wanted to try a new tablet with nifty features. But the current tablets in the market do not interest me much. While Android’s first entry into the tablet market with Motorola’s Xoom is significant, it does not offer something entirely new, other than a rearrangement of the user interface. I am putting aside what most reviews had said about it being an unfinished product for a single reason – that title is meant for a more deserving device – RIM’s Playbook!

After using the iPad 2 for a month, I clearly knew that I could not write about the impression it had made on me, because it is the same as the earlier one, only with a few additions. But this made me realise one important thing –  Apple is on its way to repeat the iPod success story again which dominated that market. Even if my prediction comes true, we will have a new device from just a software update.

I think that the next major update to iOS (the platform both the iPhone and iPad work on) will take two different paths. The first one will continue as it is and be meant for the iPhone. The second one will be a completely modified version of the operating system to suit the large iPad screen and make use of each small bit of it, instead of the scaled-up design of the iPhone user interface.

This is exactly what Google did with the third version of their mobile operating system Android code-named ‘Honeycomb’, which has been optimised for tablets.