Although many IT analysts have predicted the demise of laptops in favor of tablets, laptops are far from being extinct. While there is no denying that tablets can do some pretty amazing things, there are some solid reasons why laptops have not yet gone the way of the dinosaur.
1: Hardware keyboards
One big reason why laptops aren't extinct is that tablets lack a built-in hardware keyboard. This simple fact makes tablets impractical for any task that involves a lot of typing. Sure, some tablets include docking stations and many tablets support the use of USB keyboards. But if you have to lug around a docking station or a keyboard, you have undermined the benefits of having such a small, light, portable device.
2: Compatibility with Windows applications
Another reason why laptops are still heavily used is that many people still need to run Windows applications. Granted, most tablets can establish an RDP session to a computer that is running Windows, thereby allowing the user to access Windows applications through the tablet. Even so, there is something to be said for being able to install applications locally on the device.
3: Applications that aren't touch-screen friendly
Not all tablets suffer from the inability to run Windows applications. Some tablets are specifically designed to run Windows. However, one thing that I have found from using such a tablet is that some Windows applications are not well suited for use on a touchscreen. For example, some of them have menus that are so small, it's difficult to tap the menu option you want to choose.
Of course, Microsoft is designing Windows 8 to run on both PCs and tablets, so many of the applications that will be built for Windows 8 will have an interface that is optimized for touch screens.
4: Raw horsepower
Some applications require too much computing power to be effectively run on a tablet (at least that holds true for most of the tablet currently on the market). For example, some of the CAD applications tend to be very CPU intensive. Likewise, I know several gamers who like to play first-person shooters on their laptops. These types of games require high-performance 3D video cards that can't be found in any tablets I know of.
5: Built-in peripherals
Most of the tablets I have used don't include many peripheral devices. It has become standard for tablets to include a Web cam, but it is a lot tougher to find tablets with premium sound or high-end video adapters. In contrast, such devices are commonplace on laptops.
6: Mass storage
Although there are exceptions, the vast majority of the tablets in use today rely on solid-state storage. As such, tablets have very limited storage capacity compared to what is available on laptops. For example, my tablet contains a mere 16 GB of storage space, whereas my laptop contains 1.5 TB of storage. While I realize it's trendy to store everything in the cloud, there are some situations in which it is advantageous to be able to store large quantities of data locally.
7: User upgrades
Perhaps another reason why laptops are not yet extinct is that laptops tend to be a lot easier to service or upgrade than tablets are. For example, if you need more storage space in your laptop, you can just purchase a bigger hard drive. It's easy to remove the old hard drive and replaced it with a new one. Tablets don't typically have such an option. So if you purchase a 32 GB iPad and then decide that you need 64 GB, there's no way to do an upgrade. You simply have to purchase a higher capacity model.
8: Screens for the visually impaired
Another advantage to using a laptop is that those who are visually impaired can opt for a larger screen than what is generally available on tablet devices. For example, my tablet has a 10-inch screen, but my laptop has a 17-inch screen. Even though seven inches might not seem like a big difference, my laptop has a lot more desktop real estate.
Not only can you get bigger screens on laptops, but some laptops are beginning to ship with 3D monitors. Such laptops are capable of playing 3D Blu-ray movies and rendering DirectX graphics and 3D.
9: Choice of operating systems
Yet another advantage to using laptops is that you are free to install your choice of operating systems. I run Windows 7 on my laptop, but I could just as easily have installed Windows XP or Linux. Unless you purchase a tablet with an x86 or x64 processor, you are generally locked into using the operating system that was installed at the factory.
10: Integrated removable storage
Finally, there is something to be said for having a built-in Blu-ray drive. A few weeks ago, I was in Belize doing some extreme caving. Someone else in the group took some pictures and video and burned them onto a DVD for me. All I had with me at the time was my tablet, so I had to wait until I got home to take a look at the pictures.
There are plenty of things that tablets do better than laptops, and no single item on my list is likely to be significant enough to prevent the eventual demise of laptops. Collectively, however, these items make it clear that there are still plenty of uses for laptops.
Do you think laptops will become extinct anytime soon? Join the discussion and share your predictions.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.