Tablets replacing laptops and eReaders

A survey shows that users are abandoning desktops, laptops, ereaders, and portable music players in favor of tablets.

New survey results from Nielsen show that users are ditching their laptops, abandoning their ereaders, and leaving their MP3 players behind. For a large, and growing segment of the population, the tablet is the new primary computing and entertainment device.

According to the Nielsen data, about one third of the tablet owners who were surveyed indicated that they use their desktop PC less -- or not at all -- since getting a tablet. The same is true for laptops, netbooks, ereaders, and even portable music players. Across the board, the tablet is making more than a little dent in the way people use technology.

It makes sense. Is it a better computer than your laptop? Probably not. Is it a superior platform for reading electronic books? Not necessarily. Is it the most convenient method of carrying and listening to your music collection? No. But, it has an advantage in that it is capable of doing all of those things -- and doing them quite well in most cases -- in one portable device.

If you go on a trip and you can only take one device, which would you choose? If you take the laptop, good luck reading a book by the pool, or rocking some tunes on your headphones while you take a walk. If you take the ereader, you will have the pool thing covered, and can probably listen to some music in most cases, but checking Facebook, writing an email, or editing an Excel file could be problematic. If you have a portable music player, you're probably stuck listening to music unless you have something like the iPod Touch. In that case, you essentially have a mini tablet, but the diminutive display is not ideal for reading books or getting any productive work done.

Why is the tablet chosen over its mobile gadget rivals? According to Nielsen, the number one reason given is that is "easy to carry / take with you". Other reasons cited include: light weight, convenience, fast speed, fast startup and shutdown, and size. I am surprised that exceptional battery life wasn't listed as one of the top reasons.

The tablet is the natural winner in the "if you could only take one device, which would it be?" challenge. There are some gadgets like the Nook Color, that can come close. But, although it is technically an ereader, its Android-based OS, and Barnes & Noble app store make it closer to an iPad than a Kindle.

Of course, in order for the tablet to truly be a ‘post-PC' device and replace desktop or laptop PCs, Apple needs to cut the cord and not require a PC for activating, syncing, and updating the iPad. There are rumors that Apple is hard at work developing over-the-air updated for iOS 5 that might do just that.

As tablets become more powerful from a hardware perspective, and the tablet OS and culture evolve, the trend away from traditional PCs will probably continue.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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