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Tablets, it is all about the analog

I worry about the state of tablets. When I talk to others about the potential of the slate, I run into resistance of what they cannot do, or questions of transferred functionality:

  • I can’t work on my spreadsheets on this! (Yeah…)
  • Psst! Multitasking is where it’s at! (Maybe)
  • Give me Adobe Photoshop on it! (umm… no)
  • How do I print from this? (SERIOUSLY?)
  • What’s the point? (Now we can talk!)

I guess the best way to approach this confusion is to remind the curious what the tablet is trying to replace.  It is not the laptop or netbook or good heavens the desktop.  No, the tablet’s evolution comes from the good old paper notebook.  With that in mind let’s rewrite those bullet points again:

  • Spreadsheets on paper was never a good idea
  • Multitasking involved flipping between two or more sheets of paper (Interesting…)
  • Photoshop? Artists have created incredible works in layers of chalk and pastels on paper (The process is still the same)
  • PRINT FROM PAPER?  No, you write, read and ANNOTATE on paper
  • The point of the paper notebook is for content creation, extension and capturing thematic collections

The iPad comes close to mirroring the paper analogy but still fails in the most basic feature, natural capture of content creation (touch keyboard is not it, though apps like Notes Plus with a stylus comes close).  Oh did I say I use a stylus with the iPad?  Well yes, how do you write on your paper notebook?  That is where Steve and Apple failed when they shun the stylus and where the other Steve and Microsoft almost had the perfect device in the Courier but walked away.

The market is going to be flooded with tablets soon using Android, Windows 7 and WebOS operating systems but we must remember what we are hiring this class of device to do.  It is to extend what we did with paper, allowing us to annotate text, capture notes and finally the ability to share our ideas collaboratively in real-time on a familiar format.  Remember the joy of sharing your paper notebook with a friend, colleague, or loved one?  Do you remember the feeling of intimacy, knowledge and insight from reading notes?  Heck do you remember the number of tic-tac-toe or dots games you played with your friends?  That is the analog we must remind ourselves when we look for in a tablet.

Do you like my drawing for this post?  Regardless it was fun creating it on the iPad using Adobe Ideas.  This is what makes the iPad and similar tablets relevant, the possibilities are limitless, like a blank sheet of paper.

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