Tablets will replace PCs but not in the way you Think

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I’m fully convinced that mobile devices, especially Tablets, will eventually replace our traditional desktop PCs!

Crazy talk you say; we need full versions of Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Avid Studio and Final Cut Pro running on Tablets in order to do that, oh and plenty of USB ports on my Tablets so that I can plug-in my hefty Excel spreadsheets in order to work on them in the train ride on my way home from the office.

There are plenty of articles that include a long list of things Tablets still need in order to replace our PCs, here’s an interesting one that lists 8 things Tablets still can’t do, among them, the need for more storage (probably why Microsoft is putting USB ports on the Surface), not great for games (really?), printing problems, no optical drives (for backups I suppose), and that they won’t run power software, including Adobe Photoshop, Avid Studio, and Microsoft OneNote.

Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument.

I actually believe this quote gives us a clue of how this whole thing will take place:

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” – Marshall McLuhan

I think a more sound argument is that Tablets will replace our PCs because the mobile revolution is “redefining” the term productivity.

In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.

Perhaps the future isn’t about writing long documents using a full version of Word on our Tablets, maybe the future calls for shorter and simpler writing, and apps like Pages is all we need. And just maybe we don’t need to run the full version of Photoshop CS6 on a Surface Tablet via Windows 8, maybe the future calls for simpler edits to our photos and either Photoshop Touch or Instagram will suffice.

What are you thoughts?

Do you think Tablets will eventually replace our PCs?

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  • Peter Grainge

    I voted No but my thinking was “Not entirely”. If we get the tablet to do what it cannot currently handle, we’ve turned it into a PC. The reason the tablet succeeded was it was simpler and that was possible because stuff most people did not want was removed. That does not mean it will suit everyone though.
    The original Mini was a landmark in car design. Nothing can be chucked around like it. The modern version has way too much built into it, the fun has gone. The original Mini was great for fun stuff on small roads but it was not the thing for driving across the US or Europe, for that you want the S Class Mercedes-Benz. I wouldn’t chuck that around on ice though as when 2 tons goes, it really goes, believe me.
    Sure the role of the PC will diminish in percentage terms but I just do not see it going over the horizon any time soon.
    You refer to long documents and complex word processing apps. The early DOS programs were much simpler but business needs demanded more and we ended up with what we have now. Of course not everyone needs every bit but every bit is needed by someone. You’ll have us working with Notepad next! :>)

    • rjacquez

      Hi Peter, nobody really knows what the future will look like and while I don’t think we will go back to using Notepad, I’m pretty sure that neither RoboHelp or Flare will likely be the apps that will power the future of user assistance for mobile. Mobile changes everything including how we look at TechComm today.

  • Darrin Hayes

    Great concept here. Another impact, over time, will be to the physical workspaces. People won’t have to live in their cubes in front of their desktop monitors to get their work done, they can do their work anywhere. So designing workspaces of the future will hopefully change.

    • rjacquez

      Absolutely, Darrin. I’m with you on that. Mobile changes everything and forces businesses to reinvent themselves, including those who make traditional office products like chairs and desks and stuff. I love saying that one of the killer apps of mobile is that it sets us free. thanks.

  • Interesting viewpoint here, but I can’t say I agree. I responded “No” in your poll, but it was more “not in the way you’re saying.” Here’s what I mean:

    “Maybe the future calls for shorter and simpler writing, and apps like Pages is all we need.”

    The problem here is that there will still be books. Novels, for one important example (I’m a writer), aren’t going anywhere any time soon. In fact, the tablet revolution has actually INCREASED reading. I can’t foresee a world (at least not in the next 50-100 years) where movies and blogs replace books.

    “And just maybe we don’t need to run the full version of Photoshop CS6 on a Surface Tablet via Windows 8, maybe the future calls for simpler edits to our photos and either Photoshop Touch or Instagram will suffice.”

    Art does not confine to technology. Technology conforms to art. If the technology opens up, then art will conform and expand, but it’s not going to be confined. It’s not going to limit itself. As long as there are people who want to express their artistic vision through photos, then programs like Photoshop will exist.

    I’m sorry, I don’t see people suddenly saying, “Ok, I’m going to do less just because.” They may say, “Ok, I can live with doing less because there isn’t an option to do more,” but they won’t just stop doing more. Can’t see that.

    • This comments pretty much sums up my view too. yes tablets will redefine how we work, but i cant see people accepting reduced functionality

      • rjacquez

        See above, Andrew. Thanks.

    • rjacquez

      I actually think that mobile means more not less. Everything just gets reimagined, that’s all. Thanks.

  • Nolwenn

    Very good article. I’d love to know your thoughts about ebook readers vs tablets. Should the tech writer write for tablets and writers for ebook readers? Or is this distinction already outdated?

    • rjacquez

      Hi Nolwenn, I spent many years focused on Technical Communications while working for Adobe and I feel that every industry is having to reinvent itself because of mobile, and techcomm is no different. Traditionally documentation has been long and complex from the early days of building large books in FrameMaker. I feel that mobile is about simplicity and thus create a big impact on the future of user assistance. Most mobile apps today don’t come with a traditional tri-pane help, instead they have an elegant ‘swipe-able’ how-to screens at the beginning of the app and for the most part that’s all it takes. I’m not trying to minimize the importance of good technical writing but I feel that this trend is telling and the profession needs to reinvent itself as the world becomes increasingly mobile. Have you taken a look at iBooks Author for example? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • I can’t see the desktop disappearing, as long as me need powerful programmes for productivity, the tablet will always lag behind. I like the freedom the tablets brings to do certain tasks but the desktop is my tool of choice, followed by the laptop (at a push).
    I’ve reduced my time on the iPad, due to severe neck pain, headaches etc. I can’t be the only one to suffer?

    • rjacquez

      I hear you, Grumpty. I think we are still in the early days of this revolution. I’m always pushing the limits of what I can “create” on my iPad before moving on to my Mac, mostly because I want to experience first hand the feeling of creating and not just consuming content. For example I now find myself starting everyone of my blog posts on my iPad and sometimes finishing them up on my Mac, but this is changing too. Thanks.

  • sheila

    I have to disagree with what I see as your basic premise: that mobile is “better” across the board for all purposes, and that we should make decisions about how to work – and what to produce/create – based on the limitations (which some see as benefits) of mobile devices.

    Shorter and simpler documents? That’s probably not going to work for academics, scientists, novelists, lawyers… and countless others. Simpler edits to our photos? When I’m creating something that’s very visual, I want the photo to be perfect for my purposes – whatever level of editing that requires. I don’t want to have to settle for what a lighter app can do.

    Certainly we all should be constantly re-thinking our processes, our products, and our priorities. But I don’t think the re-thinking should be dictated by what mobile technology can and can’t accomplish. Instead, mobile technology should be adapting to what people want from that technology.

  • Terry

    Well written article with some great points RJ. But, and there is always a but, I ask the question “Why would we want to replace our PC?” Sure, mobility is great! There are times I like to pull up a chair in front of my monolith and work in the comfort of my home office. You are correct in saying technology will change us. But, nostalgia keeps me home.

    Thanks for the article RJ.

  • Stu

    Yes, tablets (or devices similar to them) will indeed replace the desktop, but only after the Cloud environment matures to the point that users can run their memory-hog applications (Microsoft suite, Adobe apps) from the Cloud. That capability, along with your assertion that users will re-define the concept of mobile productivity, will combine to generate the PC-to-Tablet revolution that you foresee.

  • Paul

    I have tablets and a big desktop PC. Each has its role. Want to do a quick browse of some websites? I pick up my tablet. Check an email? Tablet again. But for heavy duty content creation its the desktop everytime. Even writing a long email on a tablet seems a hassle compared to my lovely comfy keyboard and triple screen monitor set up.

    So the idea desktops will disappear entirely in the near future is silly. But no doubt tablets will take over a lot of the lighter work done by desktops and there will be less desktops in the home as a result.

  • I think they will never replace all the PC’s , I work in an office environment, with office workers, call centre workers and production workers on the factory side, these people need to use their hands a lot, operate machines, answer phones, stuff envelopes, carry things around etc, .. If you mean put a tablet with a mouse and keyboard attached, on a desk, you might as well keep a PC, they are a lot cheaper. Plus all the bespoke software they use, and the security of locking away all the tablets at night, or physically attaching them to desks, keeping them charged are just a few concerns. Some of our users have 2 monitors over 20″ so they can use Autocad, Sage, Office, and our systems at the same time, they need screen estate not small insane PPI screens like retina, a 24″ tablet is not the answer. They are good for people who work away from an office, estate agents, site surveyors, photographers and so on, they will become invaluable tools for them. The cloud solution is a no go for our company for a long time, it costs us about £20k a year for a 10 meg connection, even though I get 60mb at home for £30 a month, businesses pay through the teeth. We have a gigabit lan in work and that’s slow, lots of scanned paperwork flying around eats up bandwidth. We have field workers, and they are often out in the sticks with no internet available of any kind. So they use laptops that replicate the data when they get home at night. They also work up ladders measuring things, so they have no hands free to hold a tablet. Directors will want them to look cool and flash in meetings but a pen and paper works quicker when taking notes.( I Think it will be while before speech recognition can cope with 8 people all talking at one in a meeting) Just my thoughts.

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