I thought the iPad (and consequent tablets) was kind of pointless when it was released; after all, I already have a smartphone & a laptop, and if the tablet doesn’t completely replace either one, what’s the point? It’ll be a niche product for people with money to burn, I thought. Then the iPad2 came out & the original dropped to $400; So I cashed in my tax return & got one to play with.
At first, it was mostly a novelty; but then there was the moment I “got” it: I was sitting on the sofa one night watching TV & had the urge to look something up. My smartphone was in my pocket, & my iPad & laptop were both on the table in front of me. I reached up, hesitated for a second, & grabbed the iPad. It was just more convenient for quick web browsing & tasks like email, at least when I’m sitting/laying on the sofa. Since then, I’ve found I leave the laptop on the computer desk, and just have the iPad on the coffee table. I only use my laptop when I have to work on things most people don’t need to do on a home computer – and I think that’s the biggest thing to take away: there are some things tablets can’t do or don’t do as well as a laptop; but most home users don’t need to to do those things. Sure, typing a lot isn’t ideal, but the backlash over that is overrated – you get used to it fast – and you can always get a little keyboard for those times you want to write your Mom a novel.
Since then, I’ve found myself using the iPad for a lot more than emailing & web browsing: editing photos, recording & editing music, designing logos, crunching numbers; the custom apps really are amazing. And Maps & Yelp are a much better experience than a smartphone when you’re discovering a new city. They’re all things I could do on a laptop (if I tethered it for data), and most are things I *could* do on a smartphone, too; but after using a tablet, laptops really start to feel clunky, and for some tasks (editing music, graphic design), the smartphone is just too small to work comfortably. Laptops also aren’t ideal on the train, which is where I get a lot of work done in my iPad. As for the 7″ tablet, I think it’s better than a smartphone, but not enough of a difference to warrant carrying a second device. In many ways, 7″ tablets are more akin to big smartphones than they are to regular (9″+) tablets, but without the convenience.
As for reading, I actually prefer reading on my smartphone rather than my iPad, and I think it’s just a matter of convenience: My smartphone is always on me, and it’s not worth pulling out my iPad just to read. I can actually see a place for the classic Kindle for people who read a lot, because its screen is so much more paper-like; but I just don’t see the usefulness of a 7″ tablet over a smartphone. They’ll probably sell like crazy this year because they’re new & cheap, but eventually people will realize they already have a device that can do *pretty much* everything just as well, AND it fits in their pocket. After the novelty wears off, most of the 7″ tablets will likely just sit on a shelf most of the time. And yes, I realize I haven’t used a 7″ tablet regularly enough to really know how well it works as a tablet, but I have played with one long enough to decide its benefits over a smartphone don’t justify having another device.
I see a future where laptops are tools for work & computer nerds, and tablets (with 9″+ screens) are tools for average home-users. And for those who read a lot, I think there will always be a place for the cheap classic Kindle e-reader. But I think 7″ tablets are bound to go the way of the netbook: cheap, but rather pointless.
So until you’ve had a chance to actually use a (9″+) tablet, and I mean more than just toying around with it at your local Big Box store, I can see why you wouldn’t really see the point. I was the same way a year ago; but now I’m a happy, regular tablet user. Over the next few years, millions of others will likely come to the same conclusion.