Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 3, 2012

What good is a tablet computer?

The very first thing about tablet computers is the computers part. They are computers. Theoretically, they can do anything a so-called desktop computer can do because they have similar internal components. A better comparison is between my desktop computer, in my case an iMac, and my laptop computer, a MacBook Pro. The main difference between the laptop and the desktop is the size. Both have keyboards, both have monitors, both have a variety of external connectors, both have approximately the same speed of processor, and they both run exactly the same programs. In fact, they both run the same operating system (except I have upgraded my desktop to Mountain Lion and haven't gotten around to it yet with the laptop). If you were to go buy a MacBook Pro today, you would get the following processor:

2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache or a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache

If you decided to buy an iMac today, after decided the amount of memory and screen size, you would likely get the following processor:

2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with 6MB on-chip shared L3 cache

So, surprisingly, you would get a faster processor with the MacBook Pro than you would get with the iMac.  So the size of the computer has little to do with its speed or capabilities. If I can get a faster computer with a MacBook Pro, why should I even buy a desktop, why not just have the MacBook Pro as my primary computer? That is sort of a difficult question to answer. It is like asking why do I need two cars and why do I need a summer home and other related questions. I usually answer that question by looking at my 27" display on my iMac. But even then, I could hook up a 27" monitor to my MacBook Pro. On the other hand, I actually often use both computers at the same time. OK, so the point of this discussion is that there are personal reasons for choosing a desktop over a laptop or both.

That brings us to tablets. If you are comparing a laptop to a desktop, there are really few differences. You can usually add more stuff to your desktop, but in the case of my MacBook Pro, they have the same connectors, but internally, I could have more storage memory and RAM in my desktop. If that is important.

Tablets are really limited small computers with a completely different type of user interface. With both the desktop and the laptop, I have a key board. With a tablet, I use my fingers to smear commands on the screen of the computer. Clean hands, clean computer. For me, with my clumsy finger, entering information into a tablet is slow and painful. Hmm, but you say, why don't you buy a keyboard for your tablet computer? Hmm, I say back, why don't I just use my laptop? In other words, adding a keyboard to your tablet computer essentially turns it into a laptop. A really shrinky laptop with a messy screen.

I control my laptop and my desktop with a mouse (not touching the screen) and a touchpad. Using the touchpad is like operating the tablet computer, without touching the screen. I use the same gestures and things move on screen in the same way. But wait, there is another major difference. The tablet computer doesn't have the same operating system as my other two computers. It has a shrinky operating system that uses dinky little programs to do stuff. For example, I use my computer to edit huge photographic image files. There is no practical way to do that at all on a tablet.

So, the tablet computer is not like another type of latptop, it is different machine with its own advantages and limitations. Now another issue. I can do almost everything (and more) on my iPhone that I can do on a tablet computer. So my iPhone, it turns out, is really a very shrinky little tablet computer (with a telephone). What does the tablet have? A larger screen.

What about connectors? Neither my iPhone nor my iPad have a lot of connectors. There are some adapters and it is possible to hook up keyboards and external monitors, but the point is? Do I use my tablet computer? Yes, I figure I use, on the average, about 25 different programs on the tablet computer every day.

Are there things I do with my tablet computer that I don't do on my laptop or my desktop? Yes, certainly, like carry it around all the time and use it for finding directions and etc. and etc. I also read books on both my iPhone and my iPad, something I don't do on either my desktop or laptop.

Do I do my genealogy on a tablet? The real questions is could I do my genealogy on a tablet? The answer is a very qualified yes. There are some things I can do, if I add a keyboard, but then aren't I really using it like a laptop? Isn't there really an unbroken spectrum of computers from tablets to laptops to desktops? And can't you choose to operate at any point on the spectrum? And can't you operate at more than one point on the spectrum?


  1. I have a desktop computer, laptop, and tablet. While they all have their place, I prefer my desktop computer when I need to do any type of typing. The keyboard has a better feel to it and I am not hindered by a touch pad being in the wrong place (I need it on the left because of arthritis in my shoulder.)

    I don't think I could ever replace my desktop for tablet unless the keyboards improve. Don't get me wrong. I love my tablet. It's great for playing games, watching videos, listening to podcasts, keeping up with social networks, moving around websites, and reading blogs and articles. But, I'm a terrible one finger typist. I'm much better with all 10 fingers. I don't see me depending on it for serious typing. It's too frustrating.

  2. Tablets take their primary input from their touchscreens. many people can find the thin and sleek appearance of a tablet to be more appealing than that of a laptop.
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  3. People have to be paid to discuss the actual Ipad tablet including its some incredible capabilities. Android usually takes a lot more users continuously specially as well as the actual incredible Google android apps produced by firms including Samsung and LG.
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    1. I discuss the iPad and I am not being paid to do so. Sorry, I disagree with your comments.