Maybe No Room For Tablets

As if the previous robust lineup of iPads wasn’t enough, Apple just released more new tablets. The consensus among tech journalists is things are more cluttered and confusing. Not only that, but it seems the tablet space in general — not just iPads — is more messy than ever. From a piece at CNET:

“…It’s getting increasingly difficult to define the tablet’s place in our lives because it’s always shifting.

…tech giants seemingly have different answers for what a tablet should be in 2022 and beyond.” — Lisa Eadicicco

Tablets are flexible. Their functionality is fluid. One moment, iPad is an eReader, and the next it’s a mobile game. Yet in 2022 and beyond, a tablet should be exactly what Steve Jobs said a tablet should be when he first announced the iPad and defined the space between a smartphone and a laptop. He said if there’s room for a tablet in that space, then it must be better at some key tasks. I still think he was right.

A tablet should be — are you sitting down? — a tablet.

That means a tablet shouldn’t try to be a laptop. And it shouldn’t be dismissed as just a big smartphone. While tablet software is limited to simple tasks like a smartphone, its much larger screen lends itself to more. Yet the simple software and other hardware omissions prevent a tablet from replacing a laptop.

Of course, being in the middle— squeezed tighter than ever — between a smartphone and laptop requires tricky compromise. That’s why companies continue to shift and search for what tablets are 12 years after Steve Jobs defined the category with iPad.

Again, the CNET piece:

“[tablets] seem to constantly fluctuate between serving as oversize phones, laptop replacements or something else entirely.”

“Smartphones and laptops have always felt essential in some way, and their respective roles are more straightforward. Laptops are for work and school, while phones are for essentially everything else. Where does that leave tablets? They’re meant to fill the gap between smartphone and laptop, but it seems like that gap is always evolving.” — Lisa Eadicicco

The author concludes that messy experimentation is good for tablets as it could lead to better devices overall and a more clearly defined tablet space.

But such experimentation could continue indefinitely as companies strive to figure out what tablets are really for. The focus for tablet capabilities may fluctuate with fads. Tablet makers may sell more for a time and then change the formula — throwing ideas at the wall until something sticks — when sales slump again. Yet it’s unnecessary to re-define what a tablet is after Steve Jobs already defined it.

Meanwhile, the tried and true devices — laptop and smartphone — remain stalwart and reliable. Their clearly defined use cases bring a calm comfort to each one’s respective computing category — no confusion there.

After making the iPad my computer more than once, I’ve come to think the best approach is to trust the tablet definer, Steve Jobs. Allowing a tablet to do and be what it’s best at — lightweight tasks like email, web surfing, and entertainment — really simplifies things and avoids the tablet mess the tech sphere is now in.

While the iPad remains a compelling device with its large multi-touchable glass interface, I’ve experimented in my own way over the past couple months. I turned off my iPad and buried it in my dresser drawer to see if I’d miss it and how long I’d enjoy my MacBook and iPhone without it. So far, my iPad isn’t missed.

Maybe there really isn’t enough space between a laptop and smartphone after all.

How useful is a tablet to you today?

Update 10–29–22

I stumbled upon salient quotes from a Macworld piece today:

“The iPad is not the Mac–as much as Apple would like it to be–and a fluid, complex range simply doesn’t work. We have acknowledged that iPads are mainly aimed at light-usage consumers, and light-usage consumers need and seek out clear signposts that tell them which product to buy—which is exactly what the iPad range is unable to offer.”

“Most of us want something bigger than a tablet for working on, and something more portable for carrying around in our pockets. Caught in between, the tablet is…” — David Price

Sounds like wise Yoda-speak to me, “Caught in between, the tablet is.”

The whole article hits the same nail on the head that I’ve hammered on. Maybe there is some room for tablets as Apple still profits wildly from them. But it’s a tight squeeze in between smartphones and laptops for sure.