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We need to talk about tablets

We need to talk about tablets


‘What’s a computer?’

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Late last year, Apple ran a video ad framing the iPad Pro as a Real Computer, a narrative it has pushed since it first launched the tablet and smart keyboard coupling — but it’s one that hasn’t stuck. Apple did this not by hitting viewers over the head with the specs of its big tablet or fancy pencil, but through a bit of reverse psychology: at the end of the ad, the young iPad Pro user asks innocently, “What’s a computer?”

Point being: the whole notion of a “computer” is being redefined for generations of people who are being raised on (or by) touchscreen devices with desktop-grade processing power.

The thing is, the tablet market is actually on the decline when you look at global shipments, and it has been for awhile. There are different ways to categorize tablets; research firm IDC differentiates “slate” tablets from “detachable tablets,” which means you can say that one of these categories has slowed but the other is on the up-and-up, and it would be true.

There’s a convergence happening, for sure. It’s a place where tablets now have very powerful processors and laptops now have touchscreen and stylus pens. But none of these things make it any easier to say definitively what a computer is in the modern age. People tend to hang on to their tablets longer, and replace them less frequently, which aligns them more with laptops; but slate tablets also run on mobile operating systems, which means few people are thinking “Let me edit my entire feature-length film” or “Let me work on that massive Excel spreadsheet” on them.

I can’t promise that we manage to come to a conclusive answer in the latest episode of Versus, but it’s a topic that’s at least worthy of a good debate. And isn’t that what Versus is all about?