Monday, October 18, 2010

Attack of the Pads

We've been awash in new tablet announcements in the past few months. Now the frontrunners have finally emerged, and it looks like a giant Apple iPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tab vs RIM PlayBook vs HP Slate smackdown. Are you ready to rumble?

If you're interested in tablets, Gizmodo made a pretty nifty analysis here, so I won't repeat it. Just hit the link. But I do have one point to make. Allow me to give my wordy two cents.

I hate sounding like an Apple fanboy because really, I'm not. I'm just as disappointed as the rest of you by the iPad's lack of Flash support, the absence of true multitasking, the iPad's shortage of RAM, and having that lumbering beast called iTunes shoved down my throat. But one thing I keep finding myself saying is "Apple's got it right."

One look at Gizmodo's little comparative analysis and you'll see that Apple's not the frontrunner on the hardware front. And if we bought these gizmos by virtue of specs, the iPad definitely looks like it's coming up short.

My point is simple: the iPad's size is right. Actually, I think it's a wee bit too small, because the Holy Grail of tablets is an A4-sized device. But the other guys? They're even smaller.

We live in an A4 world. Whether this is good or not is the subject of another blog post, but that's the fact, jack. We do far too many things on A4-sized (or Letter-sized) paper. And it's these things that are trying to make the jump onto tablets. Download a simple PDF reader app and you'll quickly realize that most of the PDFs you have are A4-sized.

Magazines, comics, PowerPoint presentations, documents -- they are all created in A4 as default. I think of all the things I do on my laptop or my iPad and I can imagine how much of a pain it will be to do on a device with a 7-inch screen. Though the Galaxy Tabs and the PlayBooks of the world do get the nerd in me excited, they fail to live up to the promise of tablets replacing paper. So once again, I think Apple got it right. It's not about the hardware. It never was. It's design, baby.

Maybe I'm being old-fashioned here, thinking people want to see old media like books and magazines make the jump to tablets. Maybe all people really care about is a Flash-enabled browser. And if that's the case, then maybe these iPad challengers are for you. As for me, well, I like to keep my eye on the prize. Paper is dead! Long live the tablet. So give me an A4-sized one, please. Pronto.

UPDATE: Check out this Steve Jobs interview where he calls 7-inch tablets "DOA". I said it first, Steve.

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