There is a yearning, or unsatisfied itch, which is driving renewed interest in the tablet. It was probably earlier, but I will say it started with the release of the M1 iPad on March 21, 2021. It may have been the result of an unforeseen consequence as the intent may have simply been to move the iPad to Apple siicon. But - eyebrows were raised.
The thing everyone is not talking about is the desire is to offer the everyday consumer the ability to change their computing technology, at will, to meet the needs of the moment. And by doing so, the user experience improves.
If I were to rank personal computing devices based on their ability to allow for versatility the ranking would be as follows.
The mobile phone is without question the swiss army knife of technology devices. Call, text, navigate, photograph, entertain - it does it all. The only drawback is in some circumstances the screen is just too small. The tablet fills the too small void but in some circumstances it's too small. Laptops are simply mobile desktops and desktops are for those who need screen real estate and power.
The question becomes, why now, what changed?
The size of the mobile processors continues to shrink and its computational and graphic capabilities continue to grow. The iPad Pro comes with the Apple M2 processor. This is the same silicon used in the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro 13. It benchmarks about 18% better than its older sibling, the M1, and competes with the new Intel offerings. The M1 is currently in use in the iMac and until recently in the Macbook Pro 14, 16, and the Mac Mini. The point is, this is a processor considered powerful enough to be used in everyday and professional circumstances.
The Android ecosystem lacks a counterpart. The Samsung Galaxy Tab runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, which is also found in its smartphones. It's rumored the Google Pixel Tab, coming soon, will feature the T2 processor as in the Pixel 7 phones.
Historically, tablets have been referred to as media consumption devices and the bar for media consumption is set by mobile phones. Apple gets it and their Liquid Retina XDR display does not disappoint. Samsung gets it and their Super AMOLED display does not disappoint. Lenovo is following Samsung’s lead with their recently announced Tab Extreme. I’m not sure Google gets it. Whereas the Pixel 7 has an AMOLED display, their tablet is rumored to only have a 2560×1600 LED display. If this is true, it’s hard to imagine folks getting excited over this device if the user experience is better on their phone.
Software has long been the achilles heel of the tablet market. Apple has addressed this by tailoring a version of iOS specifically for the iPad. The recently released iPad OS 16 offers improvements in multitasking, a window manager named “Stage Manager”, and a preview feature to the Apple Pencil. Software vendors are beginning to see the vision. Blackmagic Design, the creators of the popular video editing software DaVinci Resolve, has released a version tailored to the iPad. I find it interesting that the pencil in some cases is used like a mouse and can be very useful when precise movements are required.
Google has been adding multi tasking capabilities to Android which play favorably on a tablet. Samsung tablets have a feature called DEX (Desktop Mode) which changes the visual appearance to be more like a desktop.
This is where the magic happens. In order to turn your tablet into a laptop, a keyboard is required. To turn a tablet into a desktop, an external monitor is required.
Apple offers a keyboard for the iPad called the Magic Keyboard and a 5K monitor marketed as Studio Display. Samsung and Lenovo offer similar choices.
After adding the accessories, what is the cost? I will use Apple because there is always sticker shock.
Well, that turns out to be a lot of money! The cost of the iPad can be reduced a little by opting for less storage. However, It is important to note in tablets the amount of RAM is often linked to storage. For example, to obtain 16GB of RAM in the iPad requires selecting 1TB or more of storage. By choosing a monitor from a brand such as Dell, there is potential for further savings.
Although more expensive than a solution targeted to a single platform (e.g. tablet/laptop/desktop), it’s less expensive than purchasing a separate solution for each platform, which is what many of us do.
What’s the benefit? Reduce your hardware overhead and gain the ability to change your computing solution, at will, to meet the needs of the moment resulting in an improved experience.
How will we know if this is the trend? Tablets in 2023 who do not subscribe to this model will simply wither on the vine.