The raft of tablet PCs now hitting the market are more likely to replace your netbook or laptop PC than your smartphone.
That’s my conclusion after my first hands-on experience with Apple’s iPad last week.
Apple didn’t send us a device of course – for that you’d have to battle through its media ‘helpline’. Instead, I tried out a colleague’s own unit while we attended the Broadband World Forum in Paris.
My first impression is that it’s simply too heavy to be considered a mobile phone replacement. It’s not a device that fits in your pocket, so you’d need to carry a bag of some sort to take it with you on your daily commute.
But in that context, the device makes a serious play as a laptop replacement.
It’s a view backed up by research firms, with IDC saying tablets began eating into netbook sales in 3Q10, and Gartner predicting 19.5 million media tablets will ship in 2010 at the expense of e-readers, games devices and media players.
At the mobileSQUARED Roadshow late September, a delegate on my table easily typed his notes straight into his iPad using the virtual qwerty keyboard.
So I was keen to see how the on-screen keyboard performed when handed the device last week, and was immediately happy it was as easy-to-use – and as accurate – as a physical keyboard.
Running around a conference and exhibition speaking to several companies a day, I would prefer to carry a tablet and enter notes directly than lug a heavy – power hungry – laptop around.
I also saw my first seven-inch ‘tablet’ – a form factor Steve Jobs reckons will be “dead on arrival,” but which I believe is simply being mis-sold.
Go back ten years and these units would be called Nokia Communicator. Like Nokia’s seminal device, the new breed of seven-inch tablets are too big to be an everyday, mass-market, device.
However, they are good for those who want additional functionality without the burden of more ‘weighty’ units with larger displays, but still need a degree of portability (the device I saw would fit easily in the inside pocket of your suit).