This Article was written for the February/March edition of New Kulture magazine, a new Nigerian magazine.
Many pundits in all possible corridors have heralded that we are in the post PC era. Regular PC sales have been on a steady decline and the introduction of the iPad and other Tablets into the market has only accelerated this trend. It therefore comes as no shock to most that even Microsoft, a firm that has never made a computer before has desperately jumped into the field with its new and trendy Microsoft surface line of tablet Computers. The world is truly at a turning point with regards to how people understand and use computing devices.
What makes a tablet in its current iteration better than a regular computer? If practicality would have it, all a tablet has going over a PC is its portability and long battery life. The compromise here is that most tablets lack the ability to improve productivity. Productivity in the sense of traditional work practices; typing up a report, graphics design, viewing spreadsheets or responding to loads of email amongst many other scenarios. Tablets nonetheless make great consumption devices. The average individual uses their tablet devices to play games, watch movies, browse the web or as a companion to their TV’s. Even with it’s shortcomings, most consumers are making their exodus from traditional laptops and PC’s to tablets regardless of whether or not it meets their productivity needs. For one, Apple is to blame for such an uptick in desire for tablets. On the other hand, there is an increase in professional establishments adopting tablets for specific work scenarios that benefit from their strongest selling points of portability and battery life.
Why are tablets very different from PC’s? This is an age old question. There is a school of thought that Tablets are very much PC’s built to address different tasks. I mean, the first Tablet ran Windows, the archetypical PC Software, and it was a tablet from basically a form factor perspective. A PC is a computing device and what else does a tablet do but compute? You cannot change the fact that Akara and Moi Moi [Nigerian Meals made from ground/grinded beans] are both beans even though they look different and to a large extent taste different. Since the launch of the iPad, Apple has successfully sold the idea of the Tablet as a different device. Tablets do not run Programs, they run Apps. Tablets do not need other physical components like a hardware keyboard or a mouse. Your screen is your gateway to everything. Tablets are all about touch. These are the fundamental selling points given by Apple in selling the iPad and they have ultimately led to a schism between what a PC is and what a tablet is.
Fundamentally, the true difference between a PC and a tablet is more internal than it is external. This difference lies in the heart of any computing device; it’s micro processor. When the average Joe goes into a store to pick up a laptop, he might ask “Is it intel or AMD. Me I want Celeron or Pentium o”. On the contrary, when such an individual goes into a store for a tablet, he might inquire “iPad or Galaxy. Please give me iPad”. It is subtle, almost subliminal but the core architecture of a tablet is what separates it from a PC. Tablets use Integrated Circuits called System on a Chip. I will not go into the technical details of these chip setups but they, unlike the Intel or AMD chips in your PC do not require fans, they are always on and they are extremely low powered. To be exact, they are pretty much your mobile phone Chips powering a bigger screen. These chips, produced by companies such as Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments use a totally different set of rules and as a result cannot run software initially created for your PC or Macs out the gate. They are a new breed of computing. They define mobile computing.
Why should you care? It is a good idea to understand, and recognize such differences before making a final decision to purchase a PC or a tablet. It is also important to realize that these lines are getting blurred. With the introduction of the Microsoft Surface and Intel making its own brand of Mobile computing styled chips that run your regular PC programs, the line Apple successfully created, differentiating a PC from a tablet is getting blurred. Questions you must ask yourself before picking one or the other should border along the lines of; Why am I purchasing this device? Is it for work or for school? Is it just to watch movies and Play games? Is it because everyone else has it? Whatever reasons you have, rest assured, as tablets grow in volume, variety, power and flexibility, tablets will become the New PCs. Welcome to the Tablet PC era.