Will Tablets Replace Laptops? If So, When?

Can a not-so-blank slate handle your day-to-day computing needs?

Tablets are hotter than hotcakes these days, and we're not just talking about the Kindle Fire. Sales are booming: The iPad rules the boardroom, the living room and the coffee shop, and it seems like every day a new pundit trots out the old "we're living in a post-PC world" line, but is it true? Will tablets eventually replace laptops? Heck, can they do it today?

Why tablets rule

  • Portability: The biggest tablets are skinnier and more lightweight than the smallest laptops.
  • Comfortability (even though that's not really a word): On top of being slim and trim, slates run cooler than notebooks and won't ruin your chances for parenthood if you plop one on your lap.
  • Touchscreen awesomeness: Have you tried playing Angry Birds on a laptop's web browser? No? Then take my word for it: don't.
  • Enhanced connectivity: A lot of tablets sport cellular 3G and 4G radios to keep you posting on Facebook even when you're far away from a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Battery life: The 4-to-5-hour battery life of most laptops turns road warriors into day trippers. The iPad can last more than 10 hours on a single charge.

Why laptops rule
Tablets have a lot going for them, but laptops still come up aces in some crucial areas.

  • Bang for your buck: A $500 laptop will get you a lot more computing oomph than a $500 iPad. A top-of-the-line Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet packs in 1GB of RAM and a 32GB hard drive. Bottom-of-the-line $300 notebooks sport at least 4GB of RAM and 320GB hard drives.
  • Screen size: The smallest netbooks out there have bigger screens than tablets.
  • Productivity prowess: If you need to type out documents or emails, nothing beats a physical keyboard. Virtual on-screen keyboards slow you down and suck up half the screen.  And while slinging birds with your forefinger is fun, mice deliver a level of precision touchscreens just can't, well, touch.
  • Extras: Laptops have disc drives, a multitude of ports and over a decade's worth of programs available online. Tablets didn't really get going until 2010.

So will tablets replace laptops?

The times are a-changin', but they ain't changed yet. You could make the switch now, if your entire PC experience consists of browsing the web, watching Netflix and banging out the occasional email; but, converts could become irritated when tablet-specific internet browsers trip on non-mobile-optimized websites. And if you enjoy playing 3D games or, you know, actually getting work done, you should stick with the power and productivity of a conventional PC.

The times may be changing soon, though. Just like drunk Uncle Jim, the line between tablets and conventional computers is beginning to get wobbly and confusing.

The power of cloud compels you!
Some tablets already come with physical keyboard docks and advanced quad-core processors, bridging the gap between power and portability. In fact, the aforementioned Asus Transformer Prime rocks both. Worried about mobile compatibility issues?  The next-gen Windows 8 operating system is being designed to run on PCs and tablets alike.

Tech that can't be crammed into tablets is being crammed into the cloud and delivered to tablets, instead. (That's where the cellular connectivity comes in handy.) Cloud storage services like Dropbox compensate for itty-bitty tablet hard drives, while OnLive offers desktop-quality gaming and media and productivity capabilities on tablets by pushing the computing power needed into the cloud.

Of course, doing everyday tasks on tablets means that mobile security is no longer optional. Malware authors love Android devices, and they're even using Dropbox to spread their dirty digital bombs. A strong mobile security app protects your tablet from nasties, baddies and phishermen.

So will tablets replace laptops? Yeah, eventually. But for most people, it won't happen today.

 

Author: Brad Chacos

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