I recently read an interesting article on TechCrunch which talks about the 6 or so operating systems geared towards tablets which will soon have to face a battle for who gains the most popularity in the limited market of tablet PCs.
Linda Lawrey posted this article on her Google Buzz which sparked a discussion about who might be coming out as winner, but it also generated a conversation about why anyone would want a tablet in the first place. I think 3+ million iPad owners would have something to add to that conversation, however, my post is not about that.
I personally believe tablets are useful for certain things today: While not exactly great for use on-the-go such as mobile phones they are useful as a replacement for net-books, say, for use while having a coffee at Starbucks, for taking notes while at meetings, or as a bed-side computer to check mail and browse the web before bed. But my thoughts about their usefulness are centred on the future: Internet-powered centralised intelligent home & office devices.
I can see them integrated to each room in a house, possibly on the wall, where one can quickly browse their calendar, program their alarm, control the lights of the house, communicate with the house’s security system, view CCTV video from other rooms and program DVR recording, control other digital devices from their room, etc.
Imagine: You’re going to bed so you go to your wall and program the alarm clock for 8 AM, you also program your children’s alarm clock for 7:30 AM, activate the home security system, and set up chilled-out relaxing music for the bedrooms in the house. You also program the device to start up the radiators at 6:00 AM and the hot water at the same time. At the same time you set up the A/C to maintain a certain ideal room temperature during the night. John, your kid, doesn’t like the music so he gets up and sets his own device to mute for his room. You wake up to the sound of music, increasing gradually in volume in each room, as a start to a great new day.
You might have a party that evening and you are having a discussion about a certain word definition, or the location of a country, so you get up, unplug the tablet from the wall, and perform a search on Wikipedia, bringing the tablet to the table and sorting out the discussion in moments.
In the office, you create a powerpoint presentation with interactive graphs and cool pictures on your PC. You store it on the local network, pop in to the conference room, take a tablet down from the wall, then you can discuss the points and make changes directly on the tablet, making the meeting a more productive one than the usual guy talking in front of a projector while people take notes. Not good enough? Connect a pico-projector to it, then you can have your boring meeting with the capability of making changes or taking meeting notes directly on the tablet, which makes the use of paper basically redundant.
So how useful do you believe they are? Useful enough right now? Or more useful in the near future?