Tablets are toys. But I dream of a world where they are tools...

Ok, so I think we can all agree tablet computers are cool, fun and are a great for the web, but I can't help but think they are doomed to fail in the long run.

Why? Because, they are only cool, fun and great for the web. (I know, I know it's a generalization)

When computers first started popularizing humanity, it helped get work done. They helped us be more efficient, complete complex tasks and interact with things in ways humans can't. Years and years later, computers started to be fun, cool and connect the world on top of all that.

Tablet computers seems to have started it's life on the other side of that. Viewing websites, ingesting content and playing around with apps that were created on other actual computers. Also, tablets have a tough time existing by themselves. Music, movies and photos are often copied to it from a computer. (But that aspect of tablets is improving.)

What I really want to see happen is to make a tablet computer a much better tool to make our lives easier. Not just easier and fun to ingest content.

So how does this happen? I'm glad you asked. Well, what's the most useful part of a tablet? The screen! And our ability to touch it. So, in order to take advantage of it, I think a tablet needs to have a MUCH larger ability to become a control surface. And because it's a screen, the interface for the computer functions is infinitely adaptable. Then what's needed is some kind of standardized way of communicating with other devices. Either through USB or some kind of wireless connection. Basically, I want to see "Control with Android Tablet" or "Control with iPad" branding on hardware and software.

Here are some general ideas:

 

  • Tablet is used just like a Wacom drawing pad for a desktop computer. With the ability to see your colors and such on the tablet.
  • Any video editing, 3D modeling, photo editing, word processing application on the desktop could take advantage of the tablet and display some touch friendly controls. Infinite possibilities.
  • Tablet used as the audio board. Infinite number of controls. Obviously needs some kind of dock where the actual audio cables plug into.
  • Universal television home theater remote.
  • Tight integration with phone functionalities. Notifications, SMS, phone, etc.
  • More, more, more..... you get the idea.

 

In the end, I think we are just a long ways off from really getting some use out of these tablets. Tablet makers and developers may already be working things for this to some degree, but I think they should really focus on making these things do some real work and help create some really cool stuff in order to really take off in the long run. That, and I don't think very many people could survive, in a digital sense, with just a tablet. And until a tablet can either be my primary interaction with the digital world or it can prove to be a very useful tool, I think they will forever be... just a toy.