ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

The End of Post-PC Era

1/23/2013 6:57:59 PM

pcs
Photo by Yutaka Tsutano

In 2010 Apple introduced the first iPad and basically created a new segment of devices – tablets. iPad wasn’t a full PC replacement (and still isn’t) but was considered a big step towards the real post-PC era. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that at some point in the near future iPad (and possibly similar competing products) would replace PCs for most purposes, except maybe some very specific areas. That said, to this day it’s pretty much inconceivable for someone who ever really needed a PC to be able to get by without one. Starting with school kids, to students, to “knowledge workers” its either impossible or, at the very least, less productive to use a tablet instead of a PC.

Android device manufacturers tried to compete with Apple on the similar 10” field and pretty much failed. Then they moved down to the 7” form factor and things started taking of for Android tablets. 7” tablets don’t have an ambition to replace PCs. They know their niche as a portable universal consumption devices and are fine with it. It’s possible to imagine doing actual work on a 10” device, but 7” is definitely out of the question. Steve Jobs famously dismissed 7 inch tablets as dead on arrival, but in 2012 Apple caved in and released iPad Mini. All the people I know personally and virtually who owned a big iPad and bought an iPad mini love the little one and basically stopped using the 10” tablet.

People love their 7-8” tablets and I take it as vote for placing tablets in a special separate niche (like mp3 players) and abandoning the ambition of dethroning PCs as the most important computing devices. And larger phones are pushing the tablet category from the bottom with 5”+ phones making 7” tablets irrelevant for their owners.

As of today I think there are 3 categories of potential tablet users:

  • people who never needed PCs (mostly elderly people) or who don’t need a PC yet (small kids)
  • people who actively dislike large smartphones
  • people with first-world-problems (aka excess money)

Everyone else is pretty much set with a large-enough smartphone and a PC. Agree/disagree?

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11” Tablet is Bigger Than 17” Notebook

1/10/2013 5:26:09 PM

TL;DR – jump directly to the explanation of the title to skip the pre-story.

So here’s the deal. I spend 95%+ of my “computing” time at my desk in the office. Let’s say 4% consuming content at home on a tablet (or a shared living room PC) and 1% on the road with a laptop. That 1% forces me not to own a notebook. On the other hand I use that notebook so rarely that it would be a waste of money and it’d be always “out of date” when I need it. So here’s my setup today:

WP_20130107_001

Ever since Windows 8 was announced I was dreaming about replacing that laptop with a powerful tablet. My thesis was that since I use that table keyboard 1% of the time there’s no need for it to collect the dust on my desk. Most people found that to be a weak reason to suffer with a Bluetooth keyboard in that 1%. Oh, well. I still wanted that tablet/PC. I wanted to take a lighter (even though that ASUS ultrabook is pretty light) tablet home, sacrifice nothing at work and didn’t mind using external keyboard in rare occasions when I need the full notebook experience.

V700-photo-gallery-04Windows 8 arrived and it seemed like most OEMs shared the vision that there’s no need for a really reasonably powerful tablet/PC. The only device that even remotely satisfied my thesis was Acer Iconia W700.

Unfortunately it was quite substantially underpowered: Core i5 max, 4gb of RAM max, 128gb SSD max. Additionally its docking station has only USB and power cord ports. You still need to plug your monitor, headphones, etc. separately when you bring it from home.

So I was waiting for someone to come up with a similar but more advanced model (or Acer to introduce higher end versions of W700).

Then at CES Lenovo introduced ThinkPad Helix:

This is full power (to a reasonable extent) PC and a tablet. Perfect! Even though it doesn’t address my “dust thesis”. One of the “crazy” features of the Helix is that you can detach it’s “head”, use it as tablet or attach it backwards like this:

ThinkPad-Helix-Convertible-Tablet-PC-Stand-View-2L-940x475

Many people got excited about the Helix but I haven’t seen anyone excited about this “backwards” mode. Tim Danton at PC Pro writes:

It’s harder to be convinced by Lenovo’s claims that there’s a genuine advantage from one of the Helix’s key features: that you can “rip and twist” the screen so the screen faces in the opposite direction to the keyboard.

… I’m doubtful as to how often most people will want to do this, but I’m happy to be corrected …

Most people on Twitter didn’t get it either:

My explanation was that my laptop keyboard just stands between me and the notebook’s monitor for no reason. Then I had another idea and did a little experiment:

WP_20130107_002

What you see here is 10” Surface RT placed at the front edge of my 13” laptop and photographed from my usual sitting position. It’s not difficult to see that the Surface fully covers notebook’s screen. I’ve calculated that a 9.2” tablet would be virtually bigger as a second monitor than a 13” laptop.

By the same logic (and math) 11.6” Helix placed at the front edge of a 15.6” random Lenovo laptop would have a screen virtually comparable to a 17.3” monitor attached to the end edge of said laptop. Here’s a diagram:

11vs17

So there you have it. Hopefully I didn’t mess up the math, but the diagram which is done more or less at scale confirms my calculations.

Is it a reason enough for me to get excited about the Helix and its “odd feature”?

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