Will Tablets Replace PCs? Part 2

"Nope. Even I can't see much improvement over the last few years," says Geordi LaForge.

“Nope. Even I can’t see much improvement over the last few years,” says Geordi LaForge.

Four years ago, I wrote a post that was in response to RJ Jacquez’s post on his blog about the advent of the Microsoft Surface’s release.

My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

RJ’s argument was that while mobile was the wave of the future, he felt that the Surface was not a mobile product. Since the Surface still ran full programs rather than streamlined apps, it really didn’t qualify as a mobile device, despite its tablet-like form. His argument was that the industry needs to learn to streamline code to make lighter programs for heavy duty use so that mobile can become more prolific.

My argument at the time, more or less, was that while I agreed with his thinking and supported more use of mobile, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon because PCs enabled people to use more powerful programs that tablets just couldn’t handle. I supported the idea of cloud technology, which was just barely emerging at the time, but I knew it wasn’t there yet. Only when cloud technology could catch up, I contended, then we could start making a bigger move to mobile devices as our primary work tools.

surface_pro_4_vs_ipad_pro_5Well, here we are, four years later. Have we made huge strides in moving more to mobile? Yes and no.

More tablet-like devices have been created in these four years, and the main leaders in this arena, Surface and iPad, have made improvements over the years. Surface has its standard version of the device, as well as a “Surface Pro” and “Surface Book”. iPad has developed its competition creating iPad Pro, but the various MacBooks continue to be the competition for the Surface Book.

Surface’s OS is still the same thing that runs on laptops, namely full versions of Windows 10. Windows 10 runs regular, full version programs, but it also runs on apps that can be bought through the Microsoft Store, including many cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365. But, it’s still a really flat PC in a tablet format. People still use it like their PC, running more powerful programs in it, and use it as a laptop, just smaller. It’s certainly more portable than a standard laptop, but as laptop design gets thinner and thinner, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, the price tag on the Surface is still pretty high. To get a powerful enough machine that can create and edit video, you’d pay somewhere around US$3000.00+ for a Surface, when you could get something just as powerful in another brand of laptop for less than half that price (like I did for my current laptop).

iPads, in the meantime, have become more robust, and while still more dependent on cloud-based apps such as its own Work suite and it does run the cloud-based Office 365, other apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud aren’t the same. There are Creative Cloud apps available for iPad, but they are still the watered down versions of them, and not the full versions that can be used on a laptop. Even though Adobe claims that Creative Cloud is cloud-based, it’s only cloud based insofar as it will save your work in iPad to your storage within Creative Cloud, but that’s about it.  iPads have definitely been a frontrunner in promoting  cloud-based storage, but running robust apps that are memory-intensive isn’t part of its anatomy.

Still, with these minimal advances, they are still steps forward in the right direction. For example, I do used Office 365 or iWork on my iPad when I help my son write up his homework assignments, and I can store them on my OneDrive or my iCloud. If he’s working on a bigger project, he can use PowerPoint or Keynote on my iPad, save it to OneDrive or iCloud, and then continue working on the project using my laptop or his desktop.  Cloud-based storage, and some other cloud-based apps have definitely gotten better, for sure. I like this ability to switch from my laptop to my iPad to work on low-impact project, like doing my son’s homework.

There are some apps that won’t ever happen on iPad. For example, I’ve been working heavily in Dreamweaver this past week or two. This is not to say there aren’t other HTML/JavaScript editing tools that are probably iPad apps out there, but this is the most popular one and a standard one to use. Is there an iPad version to access? No. I need to use my laptop for this.  This might be where Surface would be the better choice, but again, it’s still really a laptop in a different device shell, as mentioned before.  I doubt that Flare or Adobe TechComm Suite tools are ready for the iPad treatment either. They can probably run on a Surface, but would you really want that?

Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira's help in straightening this out!

Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira’s help in straightening this out!

It looks like the PC versus tablet/mobile wars will continue to rage on for a while. I don’t think they’ve gotten that far in four years, but the few improvements made have certainly been in the right direction. We’re not quite there yet. I think RJ’s original thought that all apps need to be streamlined for mobile use was a great observation then, and it’s still one that needs to apply now.  If we are truly going to move towards the mobile age, bigger steps have to be made. These are steps forward, for sure. I think more has been concentrated on mobile phones, to be honest, since more people own them. And that seems appropriate. I don’t bring my iPad or my laptop with me everywhere, but I bring my phone everywhere. Then again, I’m not working on HTML code on my phone, so there has to be some sort of balance at some point.

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time, but it looks like we’ll have to be a little more patient before we see another big leap with technology. I know there are some “big” announcements from Microsoft and Apple about these tablet products sometime this week, but I’m not holding out for any big advances, even though they are certainly overdue.

What do you think? How will this lack of technology development–or the future of mobile technology–help or hurt tech comm? Include your comments below.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has most recently worked at MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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One Response to Will Tablets Replace PCs? Part 2

  1. Shay Shaked says:

    Microsoft has the right idea in mind. a Hybrid that is both. Did you see the new Surface Studio? What a piece of beauty!

    As long as voice recognition is not reliable, we need keyboards. Not just for word processing, but for any input that is more complicated than click and drag. Even when we have better voice recognition, some things just don’t make sense in voice just yet, until we develop the AI for it, Consider, for example, HTML or CSS code to manipulate web pages. We don’t even have to go that far, the AI needs to understand what options we have as we build an argument, in its most basic level.

    Google currently has the upper hand in this technology with the new Google Assistant which has a limited capability to under the context of a conversation, but this technology is still in its infancy. Once we truly get to the star trek level, where you can talk to a computer, we will still need keyboards. With all that said, I do think computers today should generally be created with a touch screen at least. Like I mentioned, Microsoft has the lead on that kind of hardware. Google is catching up too, with its fleet of Chromebooks, some of which are touch-reactive, and with the new Chrome OS coming out, Android apps and Chrome OS will be merged, which means smart-phone centered apps will run on a regular laptop. Apple does not seem to go this route, and still keep iOS and MacOS separate for whatever reason.

    There are hardware limitations to consider as well. True, most people are happy with the hardware squeezed into their smartphones, but when you need to do something a bit more complex or demanding, you need more processing power that is still not fully exist on tables, even though the IPad Pro is impressive.

    So,.. no, we’re not there yet, and probably won’t be for a very long time.

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