Hardware optimize

Poll: Will you or your users really give up the keyboard for a tablet PC?

The TechRepublic Microsoft Windows Blog member poll: Will you or your users really give up the keyboard for a tablet PC?

In his Tech Sanity Check Blog post, Jason Hiner uses studies by Barclays and Gartner as a basis for his prediction that 2011 tablet PC sales will reduce sales of Intel and Microsoft Windows-based personal computers. The Barclays study suggests that, rather than Tablets supplementing keyboard-equipped PCs, they will actually supplant them. Sales of Windows-based keyboard PCs will be reduced, and they will be replaced by the Apple iPad and its ilk.

While I agree there are going to be millions of Apple iPads and competitor products that follow in its wake sold in 2011, I do not believe that really means users and the information technology professionals who support them are giving up their keyboards?

OK, I admit I have a bias here. I have used the Apple iPad and I really don't understand what the appeal is. It does have a nice screen, but so does my notebook. It can play videos and music, but so does my notebook. I can check my stock portfolio, baseball box scores, and e-mail with a tablet, but I can do that already with my notebook. Tablets PCs don't do anything I cannot already do.

On the other hand, I have a keyboard on my notebook PC, which is vital to all my interactions -- tablets have clunky simulated keyboards that allow only the basic two-finger typing I stopped using way back in high school. With all due respect to Steve Jobs, there is nothing magical or revolutionary about the iPad or any Tablet.

I mainly use computers for two things -- writing and playing computer games -- both of which require a keyboard. And I don't mean games like Tetris, I mean serious hardcore games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Civilization. Tablets like the Apple iPad just don't cut it.

So the poll question I have is: Will you or your users really give up the keyboard for a tablet PC? Can you or your users really conduct normal day-to-day business with a computing device that does not have a keyboard? Will the tablet move beyond the niche markets where it has been proven to be effective to a broader user base? And if that does occur, are you ready to support it?

Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

117 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

Thankfully I have a REAL Tablet PC that is a convertable model! It works great, and you will only be able to pry it from my cold dead hands.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

If by "convertible" you mean that it can be attached to or detached from a keyboard and AC power, then for only $69, the iPad is also a convertible model. Unfortunately, what I don't see available (on the Apple website) for ANY Apple product is an external optical drive. So apparently if you own any Mac and your internal optical drive pukes on you, you're screwed. What that also means is that even though Apple claims, "The 9.7-inch high-resolution screen makes iPad perfect for watching HD movies," the only way to watch your favourite movies is to either rip them from DVD to your Mac or PC (which is illegal, by the way), or to stream or download them from a service like iTunes or Netflix, which would undoubtedly degrade them to a less-than-HD quality, although on a 9.7 inch screen, you wouldn't notice the degradation. Maybe that's why they say it's "perfect."

JH_Chicago_Suburbs
JH_Chicago_Suburbs

No. I learned "touch typing" in high school. I typed my papers in college. It suits my relative lack of fine motor skills perfectly. Detail work with a mouse is frustrating. I was at a meeting last week and tried out the presenter's iPhone and iPad. I found them to be slower for me than the BlackBerry Curve I had in my last job (both now gone). Our 17 year old daughter learned to keyboard in elementary school. We had the consumer version of the software at home on our computer. She has become an excellent user of the keyboard and prefers it for its speed. I recognize that there are a lot of people of all ages who did not / could not learn to touch type / keyboard. Tablets/slates may have value for them, but not for me. As a touch typist, I always prefer to have a full size keyboard available. When it is not, e.g. BlackBerry for mobile communications, I try -- if at all possible -- to only read what is on the screen, and to avoid as much as possible the need to hunt and peck to enter information to be transmitted!

jfuller05
jfuller05

unless physical keyboards are nonexistent one day and I'm forced to use a tablet or virtual keyboard.

widd11e
widd11e

I will not give up the keyboard because I refuse to sit and constantly tap a virtual one. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. And while we are on the subject of what I will give up or not... I wont give up my desktop either because notebooks are not as secure, and I always know where my desktop is. And no one can walk off with it as easy as they can a notebook/laptop I also hate the built in mouse.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

...have much faith in Gartner's ideas. Maybe Barclay is better,... dunno.

kevsan
kevsan

No one knows what technology is around the corner. Never say never. Voice recognition technology is probably more important to the future than anything else. It will be the only true way of freeing ourselves from the keyboard.

dukethepcdr
dukethepcdr

No way. Those simulated on screen keyboards are too small for efficient typing. I can't type very fast with just my thumb or a stylus. Now, if they will ever get voice to type recognition to the point that it can really understand normal speech, I'd trade that for a keyboard for sure. Programs like Dragon are getting better but they still take a lot of training and require you to speak so unnaturally, that you have to concentrate on speaking so hard that you forget what you were trying to say.

EPIKService
EPIKService

Like most specialized features, my organization has a number of niche users with repetive tasks that would cheer for tablet/touch. Perhaps 2-5%. For the vast majority, the keyboard will remain a staple for the forseeable future.

riaan.jonker
riaan.jonker

I can see many applications and users that don't use the full keyboarxd. As a programmer, my users ask for point and click applications. (They don't want to type a thing,)The mouse suplimented the keyboard and touch screen took the keyboard away from Point of Sale applications. The Tablet will expand this into other realms. But for the keyboard to disapear al together. Maybe when mind controlled devices have been invented...Oh, wonder what colour she's wearing...(Nah, the keyboard will be with us for a long long time.)

john3347
john3347

I don't see me ever giving up a keyboard for anything whose name starts with a lower case "i". If the producer of a product doesn't even understand the rules of capitalization, how could one expect them to build a device whose user is expected to use those rules???? In addition, I have a PDA (whose name does NOT start with a lower case "i") that has an onscreen keyboard and I don't like it even a little bit. You are reduced from two finger typing to single character selection.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

...because occasionally I am, but I foresee this lower-case-i-named thingy being a big hit with people (mostly young people, I expect) who simply must have the latest gadget, even if they don't know anything about it. And from all the posts I've read on other sites - and hardly any on this site - most of those people couldn't care less about capitalization... or spelling or punctuation. They type in Gibberish. I just don't see a very big chunk of the business users jumping at it. Just imagine going to see a client, and they hand you a DVD saying, "here, take a look at this." Then you sit there red-faced and say, "hang on a sec, I have to get out my laptop for that." And then there's the on-screen keyboard. Apple uses the phrase "expansive onscreen keyboard" (notice they do not hyphenate "onscreen," which is in itself sub-standard English grammar). It wouldn't matter if the keyboard took up the entire screen - it's still only seven and a half inches wide. And it's omitted some keys to squeeze it in there. My laptop keyboard is a challenge because it's so compact. My hands would never fit together in a seven and a half inch space. Take a piece of printer paper and just try to cram your hands together leaving a half inch exposed on each side of the paper. Any way you slice it, that is NOT expansive. Maybe they meant to say "expensive." True, there are some uses presented here that have merit, but for me to spend nearly twice what I paid for my laptop (that's including the $69 for the iPad's keyboard dock), and wind up with a machine that has only 64GB of storage (not expandable), and doesn't even have an optical drive, one of those uses would have to be that it cooks me breakfast every day.

melias
melias

I think a more important question is, will they give up their 22" Flat Panel they screamed/schemed/begged/murdered for? "You're gonna replace my monitor with THAT!?" Wanna make a bet? :)

bwexler
bwexler

When they can have a natural language conversation with the computer, like SELMA on Time Trax, or the computers on Star Trek.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

Hell no! I can only assume that this topic question also includes ditching mice as well? I think I mentioned this in a previously similar topic posted here, but there are too many applications where a touch screen device such as a tablet PC is far too impractical due to the lack of input precision. I do alot of Photoshop and 3ds Max work and there's no way I'm about to give up my 24" monitor, my keyboard, and my mouse for some little tablet screen that I have to manipulate with my fingertips. Like, no F'ing way. (I also have a 3DConnexion Space Navigator that I've already arranged to be buried with when I die.) Besides clunky input, the second reason I wouldn't switch to a tablet device is that the screen area is too small. If it's not at LEAST 22" diagonally, I don't even want to see it, let alone use it. In fact, the idea of giving up a keyboard and mouse for ANY touch screen device has got me wondering... why is this question even being asked???? RIDICULOUS!! May as well ask if we'd be willing to give up airliners for rowboats to get across the Atlantic Ocean. (Oh, wait, I suppose if you slap an Apple logo on the rowboat, call it the iRow, then a certain segment of the population would be willing.) *ahem*

john3347
john3347

"(Oh, wait, I suppose if you slap an Apple logo on the rowboat, call it the iRow, then a certain segment of the population would be willing.)" There surely would be certain people standing in line to buy this iRow the day it hit the market. They would buy it without even bothering to ask how they have to hold it to keep from sinking. Does that define Sheeple or what!!!!!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The study referred to in the blog post suggests that more people will be buying tablets and giving up their keyboards - I was skeptical and polled for your thoughts - that's the only reason the question is being asked. Thanks for answering - I tend toward your thinking - I like a big monitor - perhaps more than one.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

It wasn't my intention to make it sound like I was flaming the poll here, although I realize that I may have. My apologies. I'm more responding to the broad notion that may come down the pipe from the industry in general as this isn't the first time I've seen it suggested. I can already imagine that certain marketing groups might blow the success of the iPad (or even other touchscreen devices) out of proportion and making some kind of wild assertion that it's "the new direction" that PC users would like to take. But again, that's just crazy talk! :)

Slayer_
Slayer_

Cant imagine playing a game like Oblivion on a tablet.... How would I run, jump and shoot at the same time?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Like car nuts talking about what they got out of the last engine modification. My youngest is big on MMOs, and helps mod one or two forums. I get to hear stories about stupid posts from gamers. Don't know what to say about the rest of it, except to remind you that you're more than welcome to keep returning to TR.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I do know about em, I don't have an account though. It's not as interesting there. Games make lousy conversationalists. And its extremely irritating always hearing about how so n so's rich ass bought the latest greatest [insert hardware here] and got [insert framerate here] in [insert game name here]. I left several gaming clans because of that sort of chatter.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Average users? No. Do you know about Extreme Tech?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Some of us even use em for business. A computer that can play Oblivion at max graphics will have no trouble speeding through a spreadsheet or leaving treadmarks in photoshop. Most of us can run as many VM's as we want and our hardware (provided we don't overclock) will often last far beyond the 4 year point, as I said previously, it's not unreasonable for gaming hardware to survive 14 years before complete failure. (usually power supply or video card will go first).

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I think your phrase would be more accurate if put as "We are the majority of high-end PC users..." You do have a valid point. TR primarily focuses on the average business or personal user.

Slayer_
Slayer_

the cloud, tablets, netbooks, linux, all useless to us gamers. We are the majority of PC users, but we are treated like a minority.

Slayer_
Slayer_

The discussion is what will replace keyboards and mice. A tablet just happens to have an interface that does not require either. As for wireless, the 56mbps is far higher than the average WAN speed anyways, so unless there are multiple computers playing on the wireless network, you should be fine. I used to play that Rakion game on hotel wireless. A few times I was just barely getting a signal, just enough to play. I would get ingame lats of well over 10k and yet in lobby rooms where their is minimal data being sent, my lat was about 100-200. It really pissed off the other players. The Peer to peer connection really favors the laggers. People would see me somehow shoot 10 arrows at once (backlog of data) and all hit them somehow (If I see a hit, they get hit, no matter what) and I reappear on the other side of the map. Awe those were the days....

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Would you really want to play on a tablet screen, or over a wireless connection?

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I can't believe I missed that point in my initial response. I'm also a hardcore gamer besides the digital artwork that I do. I play games A LOT and there's a whole galaxy of reasons right there why tablet/touchscreen interfaces would never replace the keyboard and mouse. (Some realtime strategy games and/or empire building games MIGHT be more fun, however.)

Jayedw3
Jayedw3

I use a desktop at work but i need digital manuals at my sites for different equipment and i use a laptop for convenience. A tablet would work, but i can't see the need to spend the extra on it when a laptop works just as well for the purpose for much less cost.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

If one is a serious data-entry person, one will never give up the keyboard in which all ten fingers can be used. Using "hunt and peck" with one or two fingers (stylus?) just doesn't cut it.

TreyDurden
TreyDurden

The Tablet has it's Place, just like the keyboard Pc. They will always be in the market place together.

amulroya
amulroya

Maybe when they develop a touch screen that really works the way it is supposed to.

jcommunications
jcommunications

QWERTY for life when it comes to work. In regards to the authors reference to gaming, outside of PC gaming I have a similar devotion to the 2 thumbstick, 4 button/2 trigger controller, which is the pinnacle of the evolution of video game controllers. They can keep all that motion capture Wii crap for the kids.

8string
8string

It's surprising the strange choices you folks in the press have of coping with the success of the iPad. You claimed there was no way it would be successful before it was released. Now you are doing silly polls like this. There is no *giving up of the keyboard* anymore than you did with the cell phone. It's there in the device, and you can dock it and use a keyboard in the dock. I don't have to "give up my laptop" hell I have two and two desktops. I didn't "give one up" to own a cellphone. Would I like to read blogs, newspapers, web sites, etc, online without having to carry around a stupid 4 pound laptop with limited battery life, long boot times, or try and read that stuff on a cell phone? You bet. Is it worth $400? That's the real question. At what price would you add it to your tools?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have no problem with the iPad selling well and finding a market. If it works for you, that is great. However, you are correct when you say that "I don't get it." I don't - I admit that. What I am saying is that, so far, no one has persuaded me that an iPad does anything special. The problem may be that I don't feel the need to be connected to the Internet at all times. If I am standing in line at the DMV, I don't surf the Web, play Tetris, text message - I could with my phone, but it just doesn't even occur to me. Perhaps that is the difference - when I want to get email I am getting email. I am sitting at my desk getting my email, checking the bank account etc. I would never do that at the local coffee shop.

david.hunt
david.hunt

You have put your finger on one of the key differences in perspectives on these mobile technologies. There's a big difference between having a mobile device that performs the functions that you really need when away from the desk and organising your life appropriately, to that of being endlessley connected to virtual friends and colleages. Today's younguns spend so much time communing with PCs and SmartPhones that they are losing the ability to communicate and socialise with real people. An example is the local news agency which received a job application (on paper) written in SMS shorthand! My cell phone, PDA and PCs are tools that enable me to accomplish things when I want to do them. I'd like to think that they are not my master, albeit that my wife may feel that they gain the ascendency from time to time ;-)

gueibor
gueibor

Would you give up your steering wheel and pedals for some virtual whatchamacallit on a touchscreen? Please. I never cared for Apple products much, and I used to be content with my perceived neutrality in the Mac vs PC intifada situation. But this whole "iPad as a game changer" hype and Jobs' Messiah complex can turn anyone into a rabid opponent. The guy is an innovator who makes verrry pretty things indeed, but the Answer To Every Need Known to Man, his gadgets are not.

shawn.conrad
shawn.conrad

I will not since I am a hard core IT Professionalin this era, but our up coming IT Professionals who grow up with tablets and so on will find it easy to transition to the non physical keyboard.

gitmo
gitmo

With a REAL keyboard, a typist can feel the delineation between one key and another. With a virtual keyboard, there is no physical boundary between keys and the user has to continually look at the keyboard to assure they are on target. The efficiency loss is severe. Also, the ergonomics of a virtual keyboard will lead to injuries and lawsuits.

kevin_cshank
kevin_cshank

Thats a big one. In addition the POST routine i'm guessing may have to be changed radically imagine the drivers to load a safe boot for onscreen tablet. Tablets seems to be right for designers, graphic artists and the like

scott.newman
scott.newman

I own an iPad and love it for surfing, calendar, to do, and emails. The small form factor for the keyboard prevents me from any real writing or coding. I like elbow room and use a ergonomic split keboard for anything more than a few sentences. I think the tablet pc will replace netbooks and laptops for people who only surf and consume content. Anyone who needs to DO work will keep a keyboard. On the flip side, give me a blue tooth ergonomic keyboard and see if I change my tune....

tweakerxp
tweakerxp

I still feel that this is just a passing fad (again). I can see maybe some doctors or nurses maybe teachers using it but mainstream, I just can't see it.

eric2820
eric2820

I think that you've missed the mark here.... Tablet 'computers' are content delivery platforms for adults and especailly for children. I'd say that 85% of the iPad's sold went to family's with children! At least during the summer, who do you think is going to use a tablet system more?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

How did you come to that 85% number. In the study Jason cited the topic seems to be more about business use.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

I don't disagree with the argument, but I would be interested in where that number came from. If there is another study that provides backing for that 85% estimate, I'd like to read it. I do think an inordinate number of tablets will be for kids and college students, because they are bigger than an iPod, but they are considerably lighter than a laptop. They're ideal for a portable way to watch movies, if they are stored as files. But with the smaller drive space, the video files would be best stored on an external drive. That could actually be a deterrent against young people buying them. As far as what percentage will go to young people - that will depend largely on the software. If there is appropriate software for reading barcodes, for instance, then tablets could well replace those bulky pistol-grip scanners. Wal-Mart's automotive department uses little computers out in their shop to enter codes for work they perform. People can use tablets for inventory counting and control. The uses for business are virtually limitless, as are the uses for education, or for personal use. A student could use his tablet for as an electronic book, as many books are available as ebooks nowadays.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Motorola's Symbol MT2000 series (http://tinyurl.com/3yxy6vo) comes in at less than a pound and has an 802.11 a/b/g option. But the 2000 is just a scanner and requires a host PC and application support. My stores currently use the MT9090 (http://tinyurl.com/33qg52b) which is only 24 ounces. Motorola calls the 9090 a 'scanner-equipped mobile computer' and it can run applications locally, store the data, and upload/download later.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

I've used those scanners, and they are indeed ideally suited for one hand operation, leaving the other hand free for manipulating the elusive bar codes or for picking up and moving many parts, such as checking in small parts in a receiving department. But there is always pressure to upgrade when new technology appears, so we could see improvements in either software or design, while still retaining the one-hand-operation design. The best improvement I can think of would be to make the scan guns lighter.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]If there is appropriate software for reading barcodes, for instance, then tablets could well replace those bulky pistol-grip scanners. [/i] Those bulky pistol-grip scanners are designed the way they are for a reason. The scan gun is the most efficient and effective form factor for what that equipment is designed to do. And making it less bulky makes it more susceptible to damage. There are less expensive alternatives to the scan guns, but they are not as robust, they're not stand-alone, and they're not as effective. But all the good ones use a pistol grip and resemble a handheld weapon. Could there be a reason why? "We come in peace...shoot to kill." ;\

jfaris
jfaris

I've always wondered what happened to the convertible tablet. I happen to own 2 of them and think that they offer the best mix of features. Of course if someone came out with a new convertible with a great non resistive touch screen, an awesome battery, a SSD and an OS that could fast boot, all at a decent price point, then I would have a 3rd. I always wondered why this hasn't been done yet, I have a feeling it has something to do with manufacturers wanting you to buy 2 devices to get what you want instead of one. Ah well, let the keyboard vs non keyboard debate continue. :)

mlou35758
mlou35758

I agree that the convertible tablet was great. Mine was pretty finicky about updates and having new software installed. Because of that I chose to go back to a keyboard (I can't afford 2 machines for separate purposes). Improvements in the convertible would allow me to choose it for my next purchase but as the world stands right now, give me a keyboard.