Consider this quote from a notable Microsoft CEO: “When the tablet PC is available next year, people will be able to choose from an impressive array of form factors designed both for specific purposes and general use. Since the tablet PC is an evolution from today’s laptop PC, Microsoft has already been in discussions with every major laptop manufacturer. Leading OEM’s are designing and developing these machines right now.” Interesting, no? Now consider the fact those words were spoken by then-CEO Mr. Bill Gates in 2001. There are probably 5000 reasons why that tablet didn’t emerge from Microsoft in 2002, not least of which is the glaring reality that we weren’t ready for it. Moreover, technology wasn’t ready for it.

Past, Present and Future of the Tablet

Past, Present and Future of the Tablet

A Touchscreen is Born

The first touchscreens were developed for experimental use in air traffic control during the 1960’s. Fairlight CMI made the next leap forward with their re-synthesis workstation, but the ‘touchscreen’ was really utilized by light pen technology, not the touch of a finger. During the early 1980’s, Sony came up with a way to use infrared transmitters to detect the position of a non-transparent object on a screen. In other words, true touchscreen. Sega tried the technology with Game Gear, but it was too expensive. Eventually it was Nintendo DS that made it work with their 2004 release.

Introducing the iPhone

By the release of the first iPhone in 2007, the general public was at least nominally aware of touchscreen technology. Some voting stations had employed touchscreens, as well as some libraries, automatic teller machines and ticketing kiosks. Yet it was Apple that made touchscreen technology workable for the mainstream. Everyone else followed suit over the next few years, and the words of Bill Gates actually came to fruition a full ten years after they were spoken. The laptop and touchscreen smartphone came together with sweet love and produced the tablet.

Back in May of 2010, The Nielsen Company conducted a survey of tablet owners and the impact of their tablet use on other digital devices they own. Now, take these statistics with a grain of salt as all those surveyed are new tablet owners. And we all know how much we love to play with new toys for a while before getting bored with them. The results found those who had purchased a tablet, but already owned a desktop computer, used the desktop 32% less than before. For laptop owners, it is 30%. Netbook owners use their netbook 23% less than before owning a tablet. Temper those statistics with the results for people who use their existing devices the same as before owning a tablet: 50% to 56%.

Now let’s consider the respondents reasoning for decreased or unchanged use of their PC’s and laptops. Only 31% reported they like the tablet for its portability. Does that mean 69% don’t like that particular form factor? Only 10% like the actual features of the device, such as applications. What might be the most surprising result, however, is the percentage of respondents who use their tablet versus a laptop because they prefer the convenience: just 12%. Doesn’t all this information beg the question, why are tablets so popular? Why do people purchase them if only 12 out of 100 users actually like the overall design? Is it because the tablet is the latest shiny new gadget?

The Future of the Tablet

Although the tabletdoes have a specific set of highly useful applications, it does also have a much larger set of not so useful applications. Be that as it may, there are still millions of people out there wholly smitten with their tablets. Anyone who travels or commutes on a regular basis loves the tablet’s portability. Those who are frequently tasked with giving presentations, particularly interactive ones, find their tablet an invaluable tool in making a connection with their audience. At the bequest of the client, all data, research material, forms, pictures, contracts can all be manipulated right there and then; and immediately sent off via email, internet fax or the cloud. Yes, the tablet definitely has its place. What lies in its future is debatable, but as long as the human psyche is wooed by the sparkle of technology, new generations of the tablet will be devoured.