Old Articles About Me
ALAN ZISMAN ON TECHNOLOGY
It’s the post-PC era…
...so how come I’m typing this article on a laptop?
By Alan Zisman © 10 August 2013 - also posted in Columbia Journal and Low End Mac
Apparently, the thirty year reign of the personal computer, Time Magazine’s ‘person’ of the year for 1982, is ending, with sales – especially sales to home users – declining, as people increasingly opt for tablets (and to stick with their current desktop or laptop).
Even Apple is seeing declines in sales of its Mac computers – which had previously held strong while Windows-based PC sales waned. (Luckily for Apple, its iPad tablets are strong contenders in the post-PC space).
Over the past year, I’ve gotten a regular stream of queries along the lines of ‘Can I replace my laptop with a tablet’.
But that’s not a simple yes/no question. Although I own both an iPad and an Android-powered Google Nexus 7 tablet, I’m typing this on a laptop, an 11" Macbook Air.
An equivalent question – Can you replace your car with a bicycle? A bike is great for a quick trip around town – especially on a sunny day. No problems parking a bike. And you can use a bike to transport a week’s worth of groceries or to travel long distance, but these take a bigger commitment to cycling than many of us are prepared to make.
Similar issues arise when you compare a tablet with a more traditional personal computer. There are things I’d rather do on a tablet. Like a bike, it’s more nimble than a larger computer, making it a handy thing for quickly checking email or Facebook or going online to Wikipedia to see how old Truffaut was when he directed The 400 Blows – in other words, for a large percentage of the things when I might want to do on a computer.
A tablet can be a great little device for watching video clips on YouTube. My two-year old grand daughter does that every opportunity she gets and I don’t mind if the robust $200 Nexus 7 tablet gets covered with blueberry-stained fingerprints or dropped.
A tablet is far superior to a personal computer as an e-book reader. (The question I’m asked second most-often these days is whether to buy a tablet or a dedicated e-book reader). In most cases, it’s what I recommend people take along when travelling.
Some things we might take for granted on a personal computer, however, are at best awkward and at worst completely un-doable on a tablet. Printing from an iPad or Android tablet is more possible than it was a couple of years ago – but not every app or printer supports it, and even when supported it’s clumsy, takes longer, and sometimes simply fails to work. Scanning a paper document? Forget about it. (Though I do appreciate being able to take photos of documents using my smartphone’s camera – an always available (though a bit fuzzy) alternative to scanning).
You can add a wireless keyboard to a tablet, though toting a tablet plus keyboard starts getting close to just toting a laptop. I don’t do that – I find typing on a tablet’s virtual keyboard is enough better than typing on a smartphone. And I have written entire articles like this one using a tablet’s virtual keyboard.
But if I have a choice, I’ll opt to do it on a real keyboard. I type faster that way, make fewer mistakes – and don’t have to stop and correct the tablet keyboard’s autocorrect.
And for major projects? Laying out an issue of of a print publication or updating the publication’s website? Forget about trying to do it on a tablet (or any of the upcoming post-PC devices: smart watches, glasses, and the rest).
So does a tablet replace a notebook?
Some of the time, yes. I find myself using a tablet more than any other tech device these days. (Apple-fan alert: for the past year or so, I’ve been almost always using the Android-powered Nexus 7 in preference to my 10″ iPad).
But for the ‘heavy lifting’, I appreciate having access to an ‘old-style’ personal computer.
Alan Zisman is a musician and technology blogger based in Vancouver (Canada). Follow him on Twitter. A version of this article appears in the September 2013 issue of Columbia Journal.
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