Monday, October 17, 2011

Is the Tablet the next Netbook?

It has been a year and a half since Apple launched its successful iPad. If you read technology sites all around the world, it would seem that the tablet will kill the personal computer. 

iPad make excellent gaming platforms among other things.

I got a tablet in January 2011 and quickly passed it off to my wife. It has been less useful than it looked. Basically, I am sticking to the laptop and smartphone combination from now on, and will sit on the sidelines watching the tablet market with interest.

In one year and one quarter since its launch, as of June 2011, 28.7 million iPads have been sold. Android tablets, sales are estimated at less than 3 million since their release.

In one quarter, Gartner reports that almost 92 million personal computers, not including tablets, have been sold. That is in just one quarter versus five quarters of tablet sales. Could the tablet be the next netbook? Something to tide us over in though economic times?

Tablets share a lot with netbooks. Like the netbook they are cheap and portable. Like the netbook they are of limited use. Overall, while tablets are more functional than netbooks, most of what you can do in a tablet, you can do on a smartphone. Android tablets have a higher mountain to climb. The latest generation of smartphones are really now mini-tablets.

Lenovo tries to define a role for its tablet.

Is the tablet the next netbook? Or are we entering the era of keyboard less computing.  I think, tablet will fail as a productivity device, but makes a excellent multimedia and gaming platform. Basically, I do not see it going away, neither do I see it growing as much as predictive by experts. This one is too hard to call.  Would love to hear you chime in.

Update: We got some new data on tablet sales from Digitimes for the third Quarter of 2011. So are the figures from both Gartner and Digitimes for comparison -

Desktop and laptops - 92 million.
Tablets - 18.9 million (13 million Apple iPads and 5.9 million tablets of other brands)


  1. I don't see how a tablet is more functional than a netbook. The whole windows computer capabilities dwarfs whatever you can run on a tablet. Maybe you mean to say a tablet is more enjoyable to use than a netbook, or cooler to use than a netbook. But functional? I think you must mean a different word.

  2. No, I really meant functional. But I guess that does depend on some factors.

    The main advantage of a netbook is the keyboard and the ability to run Microsoft Office. Most tablets, even the iPad or the small Samsing Galaxy Tab, have keyboard docks available. For the iPad and SGT, the keyboards are wide and the tablets are used in portrait more when pair with the keyboard. If you happen to get a tablet without a keyboard option or with a poor keyboard, than the netbook is much more functional. Caveat: I never found netbook keyboads to be very comfortable for long use.

    As for Microsoft Office, you will find plenty of cheaper alternatives available for Android or iOS. If you really must use MS Office, than a netbook is better than a tablet. The Windows tablets right now are not all that good.

    How is the tablet more functional? Most have GPS and can be used for navigation and getting more relevant information by using your current location.

    Trackpads are cool. I don't need a touchscreen, myself, but tiny netbook track pads are less than comfortable.

    The ARM processors are not as powerful as the Atoms in netbooks in theory. But only that far. iOS and Android are also lighter on resources than Windows, so the Atom processing power advantage is negated by a resource hungry OS. When it comes to multimedia and 3D gaming they do much better. A single core tablet can do 720p and a dual core tablet 1080p.

    AMD C-60 and E350/450 Fusion laptops can do the 1080p (the C-50 is not too reliable on 1080p), but in this blog at least, we no longer consider them as netbooks.

    Question is, what can't you do on a tablet that you can do on a netbook?

    The main drawback of both, a tablet and a netbook, is do you really want to spend the whole day looking a a 9.7/10.1-inch screen with a 1024 pixel width?

    Plenty of low cost 11.6-inch AMD Fusion laptops there days. Much better than a tablet or netbook.

    Netbooks are really dead. Tablets hurt their market, but low cost laptops will kill them. Question really is, will tablets follow.

  3. Well, I own an Acer Aspire One ZG5 netbook and two tablets, an iPad 4 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch. And I must say that I much prefer using the tablets. I find using a touchscreen to be much easier and more intuitive than using a mouse or a trackpad.

    It is very hard for me to type on a virtual keyboard; I need a real keyboard to be able to do any real typing. However, there are several Bluetooth keyboards available that can connect to a tablet. I find it much easier and more delightful to type my documents and blog posts using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad, rather than with any computer, laptop or desktop.

    While I realize that everyone's preferences are probably different on this topic, it is my opinion that tablets are much more enjoyable to use and much better for typing and functionality than any PC.

    I love tablets!

    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      About the keyboard. Do you use those which fit into the tablet to make it like a laptop? I was thinking just getting a mid/full sized Bluetooth keyboard, might be a better way to go. Apple has a nice mid-sized one.


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