Deciding to Buy a Tablet?

Many of my friends and colleagues know that I am a consummate consumer of technology. Basically, that just means I’m a geek. I love technology and the way it expands my knowledge and helps me stretch to develop new talents, some of which I never knew I had.

You’ve probably read or seen all of the discussions about tablets lately. For me, tablets are not new. They have been around for over 10 years, long before the iPad. The problem was that they were slow, clunky, heavy, had short battery life and a lifeless hacked-up version of an operating system. I was working at Compaq at the time we introduced an early tablet and people kept saying that the market didn’t want them. They just couldn’t handle the truth: the products sucked because the technology wasn’t there yet.

Enter the brilliant engineers and designers at Apple. Who knew you could save a flailing computer company with an MP3 player? In one of the most brilliant turnarounds in business history, Apple made its mark as an innovative, out-of-the-box thinking company that valued beauty along with usability. It’s no surprise that the iMac and Macbook Pro are showing up in so many television shows lately. They are just plain sexy!

So, when Apple introduced the iPhone, the ooh’s and ahh’s echoed around the world. A simple, viable, intuitive, reliable touch-based interface fronting for a wonderful user experience encased in a simple, yet gorgeous, case. Brilliant. Next step, extend that technology to the iPod family and create the iPod Touch. Again, brilliant. Why not leverage all of that engineering and expand the appeal for those that wanted a handy device for gaming, cool applications and internet connectivity. I love the fact that I can control my Apple TV with it.

Apple decided it was time to take a gamble and introduce a tablet based on the same platform. Bigger, even more beautiful, and leveraging the same technology inside that made the iPhone and iPod Touch a success. They did it again. It looked like it was going to be a bright day for tablet computing. Even the PC manufacturers started to stand up and take notice. Windows 7 is much better suited to use on a tablet device than earlier versions, so stay tuned for a flurry of those devices.

So, all is well and good, right? Well, as much as I love technology, I am also a total consumer. I don’t like it when companies start playing games with standards. Don’t kid yourself, it is all in the name of profits and market control; it is not about doing what’s right for the consumer. Look at the arguments going on right now between Apple and Adobe on the use of Flash animation, or Google for saying it would not support the de facto industry standard streaming video format, H.264, in Chrome HTML5. Rubbish.

So, here is where we will be in 2011. Apple will release iPad2 sometime between now and summer. It promises to be lighter and faster, but still no Flash. Bummer. Blackberry will release their long awaited PlayBook. It will run Flash, but it’s the Blackberry OS, which although improved in 6.0, is still lightyears behind Apple iOS. Then there is the new upstart, Google Android, that is making inroads into the marketplace and brings Flash to the platform, but I’m concerned about Google’s postion on H.264 streaming. We will also have Windows tablets, which will run everything our desktops run today; and a new entrant from HP, who is planning to bypass Windows and Android in favor of WebOS, which they purchased with Palm Computing. Oy vey! Yet another platform!

By now you are probably thinking, “Geez, Rob! What are you telling us? Which one should I get?” As with many questions my clients ask me about technology, the answer is: “It depends.” (I know, people hate that answer.) Whenever you purchase any technology device, you owe it to yourself to sit down and think about how you will use it.

If you are looking for a beautiful device, excellent user interface, thousands of amazing apps, e-mail, web browsing and e-reading, then the iPad is your baby. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the iPad2. I am also looking forward to seeing the new Motorola Xoom Android tablet. Based on what I’ve read so far, it’s going to be hotter than Samsung Galaxy Tab. Finally, I want to see some bona fide Windows tablets before I make my final decision. You see, I’m the guy who doesn’t want to sacrifice any functionality on a platform. I want it all.

Tell me what you are thinking about this whole tablet debate. I’d love to hear your points of view.

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