Mar 29 2012

Tablet vs. Notebook: Does Form Factor Trump Tradition?

As the love affair with mobile technology grows, workers have to decide which device should be their main squeeze.

Tablets, once thought of as a passing fad, are here to stay. The recent release of the new iPad, which sold an impressive 3 million units in four days, is evidence that the hunger for tablet devices is growing, not waning.

But will tablets replace traditional notebooks for worker productivity?

Notebooks, while portable, are heftier than 10-inch and 7-inch tablets. Local storage, flip displays and physical keyboards weigh them down. For the most part, notebooks stick to the computing paradigms established on the desktop.

But tablets reimagine the way we interact with computers by opting for a touch interface. It’s not perfect for every situation, but already, some users are reaching for tablets instead of notebooks.

Curlis Phillip, writing for AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog, remarked how glad she was to leave her notebook behind on a recent trip:

While I sat at the airport waiting for my flight to Punta Cana, I read a few articles online, checked out the news, responded to emails, and posted a quick update on Facebook using my BlackBerry Playbook. It felt so good not to have to tote my laptop on this trip. For years, my bulky laptop had become my carry-on item on my holiday trips. This meant I had to fit my personal items in a much smaller purse to lighten up the load.

Although I can do the same activities on my BlackBerry® Torch smartphone, because of the form factor and screen size, I find it much easier to read online magazines, respond to emails and catch up on the news using my tablet. Plus, it saves me from having to stop at the airport newsstand to purchase magazines and newspapers for my trip. My Playbook conveniently fits in my purse and the usability is well worth the investment.

But not so fast. Evan Selleck of mobile technology blog Phone Dog is having a hard time justifying why the tablet is superior to the notebook:

Yesterday I think I completely talked myself out of the iPad (and, effectively, the PlayBook) because I can't find any reason to have it. Sure, I could show off the display to people, but that's pointless. They can go to a retail store. I need a tablet to actually serve a purpose, and since I mostly work from home, I have other pieces of technology that offer up the same functionality, but bigger and better. I can watch TV from my actual TV. I can watch Netflix thanks to the Xbox 360 and my TV. I can catch up on sports news on my TV, or even my Xbox 360 (and TV). I have my computer to read the news and type.

So, for me, I have absolutely no use for a tablet. And it's strange, because I really, really want one. It's one of those gadgets that I always go look at when I enter an electronics retailer. Always. I will always pick one up, stare at it, and immediately try to justify why I want one, why I may even need one.

There is of course a middle ground here, as plenty of people own both a notebook and a tablet. But for many, it seems there’s a growing divide between tablets or notebooks.

For field workers, like salespeople, tablets probably make more sense. But for accountants who have to type pages of documents and work with spreadsheets, untethering from a notebook or desktop might not be an option.

Which team are you on? Team Tablet or Team Notebook?

[Could ultrabooks be the middle ground between notebooks and tablets? For more info, check out: Ultrabooks vs. Notebooks: Is It Time to Make the Switch?]


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