Do you remember what kind of computer you had about 10 years ago?

As young as I am, I’ve been the same nerdy (and lovable) person for some time now.  I learned how to build computers back in high school and I’ve been keeping track of tech since then.  I didn’t have the sophisticated RSS reader with all the major tech blogs pumping me info 24/7 that I do now … but there were enough magazines and random stuff on AOL (don’t you remember AOL) to keep me interested.

The Story Up Until Now

I used to crank away on my desktop computer.  It didn’t fit in a backpack and couldn’t move around the house unless there was another desk and another plug to use.  When I needed to use the computer, I went into the computer room and used it.

Then I got a laptop when I started undergrad.  It was great.  I kept my desktop for games and things that needed “real computing power”, but I used my laptop on a regular basis.  I thought it was great that I could have this device, in addition to my desktop, that I would take notes on or do some work in the library with.  The chain to the desk had been broken.

Jump forward a few more years, and my laptop is my life.  I still have a desktop … kind of.  It sits under my TV and really is only used when I need to download Bittorrents legal movies.  It’s connected to my Xbox and laptop and mainly acts as a big network storage.

I assume by now you have heard of that little iPad thing.  According to Mr. Jobs and Apple, it has single handily revolutionized computing as we know it.  It has given us this beautiful, fun, and entertaining device that can also deliver real business need to people.  Not only can you watch netflix on it, but you can also put together a powerpoint for your meeting in an hour or redo a document that your coworker sent you.

But … tablets aren’t new.  Microsoft and windows have been here before.  They put out these touch based computers that allowed us to use our fingers or pens instead of a mouse.  At the time, they were the future of computing.  Who wouldn’t want to control their computer with their hand?  Sadly … we all know how that played out.  It just didn’t work.  The user experience wasn’t great, it didn’t add a lot of benefit, and they didn’t sell well.

The Future (Maybe)

Why are tablets different now?  Why is their a slew of manufacturers running to make the same device that flopped a few years ago?  Why is it that the iPad is selling like crazy, when you couldn’t give away those Windows Tablet PCs a few years ago?  Why is it that companies like HP are going back to making tablets with Windows on them?

Tablets today are a different beast.  I see a few solid reasons why the tablet of today can succeed where it’s ancestor failed:

Why Tablets Work!

Tablets today aren’t just PCs

If you think back to those old Windows tables, they were just laptops with touchscreens.  A lot of them had convertible keyboards, and the smallest ones were 13 inches (I think … don’t quote me on that).  But more important, they ran a full fledged operating system with minimal enhancements.  The idea we see now is, less is more.  Since smartphones, we are comfortable with a device that does less, but gives us what we really need well.  The popularity of smartphones is helping drive this move to tablets.

Tablets are cheaper than PCs

After the netbook craze (which just gave us small and cheap laptops), tablets make sense now.  The original set of tablets that came out were more expensive than laptops.  It was very hard to justify the added benefit of a tablet PC over a regular laptop given their premium.  By getting tablets down to 50% of a laptop and lower, the case becomes a lot more compelling.

Tablets don’t run full operating systems

I know this isn’t completely true given HP’s and others plans to put Windows on tablets, but their technically called something else.  But, by putting simpler Operating Systems on these machines that are optimized for the subset of operations that a tablet is good for, you are going to get a better experience.

My prediction on tablets

I think tablets have potential, but I don’t think they are truly going to be the revolutionary game changer that people are claiming.  I don’t think I will replace my laptop with a tablet.  My laptop is my main computer and I am a heavy computer user.  Would my mom, sure … she currently doesn’t have any computer at all.  But call … me skeptical of the revolution.

Tablets are good.  I want one … and YES … you should care about tablets!