As recently as last week I was talking with some friends about how I’d be interested in buying a tablet computer – but not the ones on the market today. Yes that includes that Apple iPad 3. It’s not as if my current laptop isn’t a relic from another age. My Lenovo (nee IBM) ThinkPad has been a workhorse for me for a long time. It’s been far too long actually.
Regular readers of this blog are aware that I have an Amazon Kindle Fire and my wife has an iPad 2 (there was no reason at the time to wait for the iPad 3 which came out within weeks of our iPad 2 purchase). I like my Amazon Kindle but in no way is it a replacement device for a laptop. And Apple acolytes can crow until they are blue in the face about how their iPad has basically replaced their laptop, but I don’t agree. Quite simply, typing on a tablet is not a good experience when compared to typing on a keyboard.
Well over one year ago I had heard about a projectable keyboard that would come out of the device itself. It would project a full keyboard on any flat surface. There are products on the market like Magic Cube http://bit.ly/LivM5l from Celluon which is a step in the right direction but still requires a separate device to carry around. I have yet to try it myself so I cannot offer an opinion on how well it functions.
On Monday June 18th Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer announced the launch of the Microsoft tablet named Surface. It will be built on the new Windows 8 operating system and is a watershed for Microsoft since they are making something akin to computing hardware which will put them in direct competition with hardware companies for whom Microsoft provides software. An interesting quote from Gartner’s Michael Gartenberg – “What can I say? Hell froze over — this is totally antithetical to their core business.” They’re taking their destiny into their own hands. It’s a bold move, but it’s a very risky one. This could turn into Microsoft’s next Zune or its next Xbox.”
In particular what caught my attention is the feature that the MS Surface’s cover serves as a full keyboard with a track pad. While that’s not the projectable keyboard I had wanted as part of a device it does remove the need for a separate projectable device which (from the photo of the Magic Cube) to me does not look all that easy to tote around. The Surface cover/keyboard combination could be a winning one – if it works the way a conventional keyboard works (without the tappity-tap).
I think for most people it’s safe to say that the era of laptop computing is coming to an end. I’m quite certain the smart people at Apple are working on their own solution to the tablet typing problem and chances are it will be nothing like Microsoft’s Surface.
Finally, I have also posited that improving voice recognition technology could lead to people not needing to type at all. However when sitting on a plane or train or in any public place the last thing I want to hear is somebody dictating an email (or even worse a Facebook update) to their tablet computer.
Long live typing! Here’s hoping it never becomes a lost art.