Evan Koblentz of Law Technology News asks today Will Tablets Replace Laptops? I think the answer is yes for some and false dichotomy for many.
I was a late tablet adopter, buying an iPad 2 in September of this year. A year earlier, at ILTA, I talked to a lot of my friends about tablets because the iPad 1 was so hot then. Based on my conversations there, I held off buying one. I realized that I create a lot of content, working frequently and intensively in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Full-featured desktop applications and a 19″ virtualized external monitor are keys to my productivity. Tablets won’t do for that.
Not everyone, however, is a content creator. Many partners in large law firms, for example, are more content consumers than creators. They, like many experienced professionals, mainly review documents, comment on those document, send relatively short e-mail messages, and reply to e-mail. If those are your primary tasks, I think you can get by with just a tablet. At minimum, a tablet will serve you just fine while traveling – you may still want a notebook at home or in the office.
So, how do I use my iPad? When I am away from the office for a day of meetings, I find the iPad _very_ useful. If I have an hour break, I can read and reply to many e-mail, read my RSS feed, and read the daily news. All this is _much_ easier on the big screen of tablet than on a smartphone. Carrying the iPad is much easier than carrying a PC.
It’s true that coming generation of PC Ultrabooks may serve this purpose. Ultrabooks are an emerging category of notebooks, designed to mimic the Mac Air in thinness, lightness, and fast boot-up. But they will be expensive to start and I’d rather not buy the first generation. Moreover, when my only task is reading documents, handling the iPad is much easier than a PC. I can be sitting, lying down, or even standing waiting for a train and use a table. I’m not persuaded that Ultrabooks will substitute for that.
So my own answer to Evan’s question, for the next two years at least, is “No, tablets will not replace PCs” for users who need to create a lot of content. Content creators will still need a full-fledged PC, at least in the office or home.
Tablets may replace PCs for users who mainly consume content. In the legal market, however, where time is money and partners at least can afford multiple devices, I think they will co-exist.
[End Note: Although I am pretty good at typing on the virtual screen, I also have a Bluetooth wireless keyboard, Apple brand. To me, the minimal extra weight and space is worthwhile for the faster typing on an iPad.]