Tablet Thoughts

It seems we're on the verge of a tablet revolution. CES starts today, and there's been a lot of buzz about tablet form factor computers.

Apple and Microsoft have dabbled with tablets before. Microsoft with their Pen Computing and Pen Windows, and Apple with the Newton, and really to a lesser extent, the iPhone.

The big question about a tablet is, does anyone really want one? A few years ago, the answer was pretty clearly "no". But a few things have changed in the last few years that have opened up an opportunity for a tablet form factor computer.

Think about how you use computers at home. If you're reading my blog then you've probably got a laptop. Maybe it's not your main computer, but you've probably got one. And where do you use your laptop? I'm guessing, on the couch.

A lot of computing these days happens on the couch. And what are you doing on the couch? Surfing the web.

Laptop devices are pretty good for this. The keyboard part serves as a base for the screen so you can read without having to hold something. But then again, people have been reading books on the couch for years without much complaint so having to hold something doesn't seem like a problem as long as the thing you're holding is light enough.

Tablet PCs to date have been too heavy, and too hot (with whirring fans) to be comfortable to hold for a long time. That's changed - we can now build tablet PCs that will be light enough and cool enough to treat like a book.

A tablet would be a data consumption device, not a data creation device. It's an e-reader, maybe a TV guide browser for an updated Apple TV, a recipe finder for the kitchen (where a laptop on the counter is just awkward but a tablet on a stand would be perfect), and a web surfing device for the couch.