If the latest hype is any indication, students and business professionals are abandoning their laptops and smart phones in droves for tablets. And with the iPad2, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer and Blackberry Playbook, choosing can be mind-boggling.
The advantage of a tablet over a laptop — beyond the cool factor — is size (smaller) and weight (lighter). Then there are all those apps. Apple and Android offer literally thousands of options for the classroom or office.
You can digitally transcribe dictation from lectures or meetings with Speaknotes, create organizational spreadsheets with Numbers, and construct polished presentations — including animated charts and graphs — with Keynote.
GeorgeEaston, a professor of management information systems at San Diego State, said that iPads and iPhones are some of the most craved devices among his students. Last year,Easton made iPads part of one of his own courses — an upper-division MIS projects class in which students created their own iPad or iPhone apps using the devices.
"It's tough to say if they are the superior products," Easton said of the Apple devices. "I think that some of that perception is the glitz that was initially associated with them that is still there, and the slick way Apple markets their products."
Many future college students will be well-versed in tablets by the time they get there thanks to schools like Monte Vista Christian in Watsonville, which became one of the first schools in the nation to use iPads in the classroom when they were introduced in 2010.
The test year proved so successful that every MVC high school student will be issued an iPad for the 2011-12 school year, followed by a similar rollout for every middle schooler.
"This is the device educators have been eagerly awaiting for generations. This is the stuff of 'Star Trek' made real, and not just in terms of cosmetics, but in terms of functionality," said Thomas White, the school's iPad integration coordinator. "Tablets are the future of mobile computing, especially in an educational environment. The iPad is the right amount of machine for the pre-college classroom. The laptop is too much machine and does not lend itself to the mobile environment of a high school or a middle school. The smart phone, though powerful, is not enough. The tablet is just right."
Research on mobile connected devices recently conducted by the Nielsen Co. shows that tablets are making big inroads. The study found that 35% of tablet owners who also own a desktop computer report using their desktop less often or not at all, while 32% of laptop owners say they use their laptop less often or never since acquiring a tablet.
E-writers are also making their way into classrooms, aiming to make pens and pencils obsolete while saving paper. Products like the e-Note writing tablet and e-Boogie Board offer the potential for note taking and list making, but major drawbacks include not being able to save or transfer your scribbles.
While these trendy devices are selling like gangbusters, there are still plenty of holdouts who prefer old-school technology.
Stephanie Wan, a sophomore at Tufts University in Boston, is one of many who still aren't sold on the latest generation of electronic gadgets. "I like that my laptop is bigger, it's easier to look things up on and I like having a keyboard rather than a touch screen," Wan said.
And she doesn't like downloading e-books. "I like being able to touch the pages and manually turn them," she said. So for now, Wan is happy with her textbooks for reading, laptop for emailing, and smartphone for texting.
As it stands, tablets offer the conveniece of portable computing in a mobile-driven world, which can make the average business professional much more versatile.
However, they don't offer the durability or compatability of a notebook computer, so if you're a student, having a laptop as a backup is always a good idea.