Making Space for Tablets
With the recent rush of electronics makers hoping to replicate Apple’s success with the iPad, there are now dozens of tablets on the market, performing an ever expanding range of tasks. A recent article by Ziba Creative Director Ryan Coulter points out some surprising ways in which this new platform is fundamentally different from its predecessors, the smartphone and laptop, and how its adoption will radically change the function of both.
Unlike smartphones and laptops, which replaced analog phones, typewriters
and filing cabinets, the tablet is pure abstraction — the love-child of two
Let’s call 2011 the year of the tablet. In the last several months, virtually every major electronics manufacturer has introduced a hopeful competitor to Apple’s iPad, and the aisles at January’s International Consumer Electronics Show were crammed with dozens of variations on the rounded rectangle.
But the idea of a portable touchscreen computing device is nothing new. You know that thing you sign when you get a package from UPS? The touchscreen tablet with a card reader that speeds you through checkout at the supermarket? Those are tablets, too. The Kindle and the Nook? Tablets, albeit very specialized ones.
So why are they popping into the foreground now? For one thing, technology. Improved flash memory, cheaper high-quality displays, more accurate touchscreens, and faster processors are converging to give us unprecedented computing function with few moving parts. Low power requirements are making technology more portable. Furthermore, the ability to stream movies and other content without actually using any memory makes the tablet the ideal mobile media-consumption platform. You don’t have to be an early adopter to see its appeal.
But the most interesting thing about the current fervor is that the tablet is one of the only consumer electronic devices with no analog predecessor. Unlike smartphones and laptops, which replaced analog phones, typewriters, and filing cabinets, the tablet is pure digital abstraction — the love-child of two digital devices. The clay tablets of biblical times were primarily designed to create content, not consume it, but the digital tablet’s onscreen keyboard barely functions. It’s no replacement for a paper notebook and sketchbook, but it’s a trade-off we accept. So why do we need a new product in our digital lives that only consumes?
Read the entire article at Fast Company Design.