Sunday, August 05, 2012
7-inch tablets: the end of the laptop

It took three goes and a week and a half for Google to furnish me with a Nexus 7 without problems.

But now I've got one with the screen actually attached, I'm really impressed. The form factor is great, the design is pleasing to the eye as well as touch, the software is zippy and smooth, battery life and connectivity is world-class, and the screen is bright and pin-sharp. The only problem is Android, which can be head-scratchingly bizarre, but the device is crazy cheap for what you get.

I use the Nexus 7 for everything I used to pull out the iPad for. Sofa surfing, reading on the tube, checking my feeds in bed, looking up recipes, and watching films have all happened via the keen little tablet, while my iPad has enjoyed a well-earned rest. (I think my iPad was upset with me after I dented it walking through a tube ticket barrier, so we probably needed a break from each other anyway.)

But the Nexus 7 is charging at the moment, and my wife is working on my MacBook, so I retrieved the iPad from the cupboard to check my email.

And then I realised something.

While you can see things on a Nexus 7, you can do things on an iPad. The screen is big enough to show you the entire Internet, rather than make you feel like you're peeking at it through a letterbox. The keyboard is large and accurate, unlike the Android keyboard which has all the buttons in the wrong place and translates your typing into a language somewhere between Norwegian and Martian. The sheer number of apps available on iOS means a much wider world of content than Android (no Tunnelbear? Seriously?).

As Apple continues to update its OSX operating system to be more and more like iOS, tablets will start to feel less like an overblown mobile experience and more like a streamlined desktop one. Microsoft's Surface tablet promises a 'real' computing experience too, with built-in keyboard and ability to run a desktop-grade operating system.

Where are these larger tablets used? On our laps. I'm writing this blog post on my iPad now and, since I'm used to the cramped confines of a Nexus 7, the iPad is a joy to write on. Things we once did on laptops will be done on tablets but better, because tablets have three times more battery life. Our laptops will stay on the desk, for when we need multiple screens, limitless electricity, and cups of tea.

So the 7-inch tablet is now the sofa surfer, the 10-inch tablet is now the laptop, and the laptop is now the desktop. All computer manufacturers now need to do is invent a laptop designed for a desk - with a separate keyboard, mouse and screen - and we've got everything we need to get stuff done.