Since the release of the iPad only a few years ago we have seen a phenomenal growth in tablet usage leading many commentators to suggest that we are entering the post-PC era. Microsoft on the other hand believes that there is no such thing as the post PC era and insists that tablets are actually ‘tablet PCs’ (with Microsofts own Surface RT tablet you only have to scratch the thin veneer of the ‘Metro’ operating environment to find a traditional Windows desktop underneath).
Although this is most likely a question of how we define ‘personal computer’ and ‘tablet’ I believe that the mixed messages about how tablets should be used and integrated with our other digital devices is stopping us from seeing the potential of our tablet devices. Rather than think about the PC tasks that you can do on your tablet, think about the tasks that you have traditionally filled with paper. I would argue that the current breed of tablets are only 50% like a PC but 95% like paper. This is because a tablet will do about 50% of what you can do on your PC and often do it badly. Conversely your tablet can do about 95% of what you do on paper, and most often do it better.
My own view is that although we are going to continue to see a convergence of tablets and PCs we currently face some fairly significant limitations in regard to screen size, input methods and (less significantly) computing power that means a ‘post-laptop’ era is still a few years away. In the meantime tablet users should rest assured that their devices can be used to fill a fairly significant technology gap.
There is a very good chance that we will reach the post-paper era long before we reach the post-PC one.