Tablets

10 reasons why laptops aren't facing extinction

Is it possible that rumors of the laptop's demise have been greatly exaggerated? Here's a look at why laptops may continue to prevail.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Your take

Do you think laptops will become extinct anytime soon? Join the discussion and share your predictions.

About

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.

29 comments
planetcapri
planetcapri

Well all comments are valid but what percentage of people really want to play high end games or type hell lot of text? Only a small percentage of people using the options you highlighted will use laptop. Probably they'll own both, a laptop and a tablet; and carry either of the two according to the day's need. Subsequently, a laptop will be what a desktop is today. used by very few for specific applications.

kraabeasa
kraabeasa

I've never understood the whole tablets vs. laptop/desktop mind set. They are two different tools for different types of computing and uses.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Technology is a field in which logic is the prime factor. Clairvoyance should never play a part in the possible future of IT. It cannot be predicted, merely calculated, as Moore's law might suggest. Jason Hiner is possibly the biggest culprit for a hasty prediction. Caught-up in the Apple storm, perhaps? Not everyone can afford to replace their almost new device with the very latest every few months. I agree with everyone here - there will always be a market for laptops due to connectivity and the power-to-portability ratio. As for desktops, there will always be a market for those, too. How many businesses would you expect to take their office staff off the humble, affordable desktop for a diddly, expensive tablet? The replaceability of parts increases the longevity of the desktop and reduces the cost. The option to have a larger display also helps - we have users with 19" displays at 800x600, could they work at a greater resolution on a smaller display? The enthusiast market is also a major player for desktops - getting exactly what you want in your system matters to the self-builder, and there are a lot of us.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

I think that tablets are a new trend, and that it will grow larger over the next few years. The convenience and the instant on are a big advantage. Desktops and laptops aren't going anywhere for all the reasons mentioned by the commenters. -keyboards -horsepower -screen real estate -etc..... But, a lot of people are finding they don't need a PC at home. They don't do a lot at home, except browse a bit, check email, play simple games, and watch the occasional video. Those who do more need more (obviously), but even though I really really need a desktop at work, I could get by with a tablet at home, except for my occasional foray into games that won't be coming to tablets anytime soon. I'm waiting for Mass Effect 3 at the moment. Other than that, I only keep my desktop for the screen real estate. I cannot imagine giving up my 21" monitor for a 10" tablet. But, I am not most people and neither are most of the commenters here. Get ready for it, Tablets are here to stay.

programit
programit

We have been trying out tablets for work for some months, both iPad2 and Acer iconia and generaly found that we still have to have the laptop (or desktop) and the tablets seem the primary cause of frustration for many. The iPad basically is treated as a toy and had limited business use due to its Apple dependencies. We primarily run Windows 7 and a linux server. the Acer though a little more useable, due to the android openness, is still too limited in practical use. On all tablets we found that data entry, storage, printing, disply etc just too limited. What takes 5 minutes on a $600.00 laptop can take excess of 20 minutes on a $1000 iPad. (Yes iPads are over a $1000 in Australia) The $550 acer was still 15 minutes with customised apps. Multiply that by 10 times a day and you soon see the problem. Finally comments back from users, who are not particularly tech minded, has that even though the tablets seemed "Fun" for mucking around on, they were awkward to use in a business setting. And nearly everyone hated the tiny 10" screens for general documents and diagrams - quote from one "Forever zoom in, zoom out, turn sideways, turn back etc etc" Lastly you can't rely on mobile internet in Australia and so data needs to be stored locally. Basic laptops have 500GB storage, tablets 16 to 64GB ? (At least the Acer allowed USB storage but still slow access.)

adornoe
adornoe

that the tablets themselves are having laptop-envy, and thus, they're being "upgraded" or improved, to the point that, tablets are becoming laptops. Sure, tablets that are growing up to become laptops will be lighter and smaller, but, they're essentially becoming laptops when they need to get added equipment, like attachable keyboards or attachable larger screens, and more main memory, and much larger storage, and ports for connecting other devices. Essentially, the laptops already have the advantage, where, they're actually, already the competition for tablets. In order to remain a competitive form-factor, tablets are having to grow to become laptops. And, hey, with the newly released ultra-laptops/ultra-notebooks, the tablets are becoming less of an option.

donpro1
donpro1

As an IT guy, I often have occassion to want to test out some solution or other that I'm working on, as well as testing new software and/or OSes. The perfect solution is to run a VM (virtual machine for nontechies). Although a tablet may have the horsepower to run a single VM, I often need multiple ones to test server based tech as well as desktop tech. Tablets simply don't have the RAM or CPU capabilities of either a desktop or high-end laptop. The fact is that tablets were made for the average person who wants content over productivity. (The one notable exception to this is the folks in sales. They typically can run whatever apps they use from their tablets. My son is in sales and he uses his IPad almost exclusively for all his needs). They weren't meant to replace laptops or desktops, but rather act as a carry around for some of the things you can do on a laptop, but don't want to lug one around.

rwbyshe
rwbyshe

Generally I think that with all those shortcomings of a tablet, you'd make a good lawyer for the laptop, and even the desktop industry. However, keeping portability in mind you've made many good points for laptops over tablets. I continually get hardware ad's for things like "only $70 for a small keyboard that will plug into your tablet"; or as you mentioned, "docking stations". I simply don't ever see myself opting for a tablet when I can spend about $100 more and get a fully equipped laptop (hardwarewise) that will run all the software I need. I do agree that tablets do have a niche in the market but I personally don't ever see them fully replacing laptops. The tablets have a long, long way to go before they can ever come close to replacing a fully capable computer. That's JMHO !!!

jfuller05
jfuller05

Tablets for now are nothing more than a rabid craze of a new technology, which will eventually fade. What will be left remaining in the dust of the rabid craze? Good ol' laptop and desktop. Am I saying tablets don't have some niche purpose in business? No. I've defended tablet use in the business environment and even useful for content munchers only. What I am saying is that for the most part (pure assertion mind you) the tablet technology is the new craze/fad/whathaveyou and it will eventually die, then people will go back to using their laptop and/or desktop more than the tablet. Most folks I've talked to at work and in my personal sphere have told me the tablet just can't replace their full computer mostly for reasons you've mentioned in your article. Response for keeping the tablet around is for use as a "in-between" or "on-the-go" device mainly for content munching. My question is: why pay the apple price for on-the-go content use when the kindle fire is cheaper?

mckinnej
mckinnej

Nice job showing how mobile devices are not really going to take over the world. I'm getting pretty tired of that hype. They're carving out a nice niche, but they are not going to replace laptops or desktops anymore than a screwdriver will replace a hammer. Different tools for different jobs.

dbhat
dbhat

I dont think laptops will be dead in fact I think they will be growing market.... Tablets just arent meant for the stuff that a laptop does. On other hand, desktops are clearly dying and there will be a shrinking market for them... With the advent of USB peripherals for everything and docking stations, desktops clearly have lost appeal. I only have laptops now and dont feel the need for desktops at all.

John_LI_IT_Guy
John_LI_IT_Guy

While we do have an iPad 2, I still prefer the horsepower and versatility of a laptop. The iPad is great for checking e-mail, surfing the web. It's great if I need to quickly check something online because it is almost instant on at the push of a switch. I find the tablet lacking when it comes to productivity apps. It's annoying trying copy and paste. It simply doesn't work well at all with Google apps. There is a huge lag when trying to type a document. I heard the Android tablets have the same issue. Bottom line my laptop and desktop win performance wise hands down.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Everything still applies, along with the option for a larger monitor and ease of component replacement or upgrade.

wwgorman
wwgorman

I have two laptops. A High end unit I use as a desktop with external keyboard and mouse as well as direct backup storage and network back up. We have one true desktop my wife uses for email -----an HP all-in-one, The "lesser" laptop is a Netbook which has literally been around the world as it is our main traveling computer. We use it to keep up with email and finances and need a keyboard for data input. The all-in-one will be a dust collector but I look to enhance the desktop replacement laptop and the Netbook for faster and larger storage with more functions. Laptops are not dead or even in the critical stage yet.

Bishop234
Bishop234

"This is such a weak article it reminds me of those shows on early evening Saturday night TV. "The worlds 20 worst canoe disasters" and such like." Harsh, man...harsh. I have had more than one person state that they were going to get a tablet so they could get rid of thier laptop. I asked them a few questions. Is your music/video/photo and docs stored somewhere else? What happens when you decide to switch from one music genre to another or watch that entire season of "The Unit" you so painstakingly ripped to .mp4 format? I prefer to keep my data on my own server, not too trusting of the cloud. Point is - yes, i ramble - you can have a tablet as your main device, but you also need either a desktop or a laptop as well. I don't know of ANYONE that is "pure tablet". So let's make that reason 11 why laptops arent facing extinction: No one - or at least there are very few - "pure tablet" users.

Justin James
Justin James

"1: Hardware keyboards" Many tablets (particularly the iPad) have Bluetooth KBs available that are built-in to a case for the tablet, making it more like an ultrabook with a full touch screen and with an optional keyboard. Many people with tablets use these and they seem to work very well. "7: User upgrades" That is a VERY niche market, to be honest. "9: Choice of operating systems" One of the factors that people use to pick a tablet in the first place is the OS, people don't buy an iPad and wish Android or Windows was on it... the iPad experience is tightly linked to iOS. J.Ja

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Laptops and desktops will be around for many years to come, as they are needed for the intense data entry tasks required by businesses. (As for a tablet with a separate keyboard, that is a "two-piece laptop.") Voice recognition could become a factor for initial data entry, but keyboards will be needed for the editing and revisions that inevitably occur. Tap, tap, scrap...on touch screens can handle some aspects of business applications; however, hardware keyboards will remain the center of the action for serious data entry.

Bitstreams
Bitstreams

This is such a weak article it reminds me of those shows on early evening Saturday night TV. "The worlds 20 worst canoe disasters" and such like. Please, if an article is worth writing then spend a little time on it. It's going to be easy to write 'thousands of articles' if you use as little effort as you did on this one.

GSG
GSG

I just moved from a laptop to a desktop at work. I admit that I kept my laptop since I still have to be somewhat mobile, but I went to a desktop when I'm actually at my desk for the larger monitors and the computing power. I need that real estate and power for the large, intensive apps that I use. Most people will be able to use laptops exclusively, but there is still that subset of people who will need desktops.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Capability of running anything and not limited to just some applications.

bboyd
bboyd

They are pretty focused devices.

bboyd
bboyd

While most users are likely not to upgrade a laptop, Memory being the likely exception, a user can easily replace the HD with a SSD and most people can replace a damaged screen with a screwdriver. As to 1: keyboard quality and size has always been a big sticking point. A poor keyboard is a struggle and can easily make or break a laptop purchase. The wee keyboards that most more compact devices offer are not a good substitute. Lastly for 9: I've rescued several old laptops for people by converting them to Linux variants or down grading the windows OS to older versions that have lesser requirements. Personal favorite being Mint. Pop out the old HD, mount it in a 6$ enclosure for later access, pop in a drive much larger for 40$, install OS...

rwbyshe
rwbyshe

Excellent point to focus upon the need for a meaningful input device. For the NON-BELEIVERS I recommend that that make a trip to Staples, Walmart, etc. and spend up to an hour using one of the newer All-In-One touch screen desktop computer. The trill of the touch screen dissipates very rapidly and it proves totally impractical for many applications. This does relate to the iphones, android, and tablets too. There are several other hardware shortcomings with any of the products that is less than the full up laptop. I know size and portability are a common complaint/issue, but that is easier to find your own workaround than it is trying to generate a trip report on a table that must be in to the boss tomorrow morning! Just some thoughts... I completely agree with TsarNikky!!!

vancevep
vancevep

Some of us just don't need to be as mobile as others do. In those cases, the bang for your buck is much better in the desktop arena. You can typically get/build a higher-spec'd desktop for what you would pay for a lower-spec'd laptop. When I do need to be mobile, my biggest needs are usually access to email and basic browser needs (i.e. a quick lookup of something). For that, my smartphone has things covered.

Gisabun
Gisabun

"most people can replace a damaged screen with a screwdriver" - You sure on that? First where would people get the replacement part? Do you see parts that individuals can buy on Dell's or Toshiba's web site. Second, you need the right toold. I remember a Dell laptop which had 3 different screen manufacturers. So you needed to know which screen manufacturer to request. Two used the same bezel but not the third.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They sell to individuals, and the repairs require a couple of small bit screwdrivers.

bboyd
bboyd

I find the part number commonly available and always find multiple sources to purchase from. As to using screwdrivers, a small Philips head screwdriver has got me into pretty much any laptop and removed any of a dozen or so screens that I have replaced. I'm not a professional computer tech at a repair station. I've see Torx head on other parts in the case but anyone can get a 5$ tool set with most small to mid sized Torx and other special bits. I would agree with your assertion for Laptop mainboards.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Actually, most don't require a special tool. I just replaced the inverter board on an old Dell, with nothing more than a screw driver. But, you are right about the different screens, and many of the parts cannot be bought from Dell, you have to find a third party vendor, and then it is hard to know you are getting the right part.

Editor's Picks