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VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the respect-your-elders dept.

Handhelds 185

snydeq writes "Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of the PC revolution's killer app, weighs in on the opportunities and oversights of the tablet revolution. 'In some sense, for tablets the browser is a killer app. Maps is a killer app to some extent. Being able to share the screen with other people — that it's a social device — also might fit the bill. I think that for tablets, there isn't and won't be one killer app for everyone. It's more that there are apps that are killers for individual people. It's the sum of all those that is the killer app. This has been true since the original Palm Pilot.'"

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185 comments

killer (2)

pinfall (2430412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365465)

The Palm was the killer app. They sold the company right around the time they killed it.

First Post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365473)

Woohoo!! It only took me like 10 years

Re:First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365545)

Oh bitter, bitter ironies...

#39365465 - timestamped 1 minute earlier

Re:First Post! (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365695)

Irony huh... let's see.

*sings* It's like getting the see-heecond post, when all you wanted was the first.

Yup, irony.

Re:First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366873)

Obligatory Oatmeal [theoatmeal.com]

Re:First Post! (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367107)

Hmm, how ironic :(

Re:First Post! (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366259)

ha, ha! I read that as 'oh bitter, bitter onions..."

Re:First Post! (3, Funny)

IwantToKeepAnon (411424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367835)

Oh bitter, bitter ironies...

#39365465 - timestamped 1 minute earlier

From Dilbert Newsletter 49.0 -- InDUHviduals Humor Break [freerepublic.com]

I've also learned recently that "ironic" means anything you want it to mean. Example:

Me: "I heard that Bob was killed by a meteor."

Induhvidual: "Wow. That's ironic."

Me: "Why is it ironic? Was he an astronomer?"

Induhvidual: "No, it's ironic because, you know, what are the odds?"

Me: "So anything unlikely is automatically ironic?"

Induhvidual: "No, it also needs to be bad."

Me: "This conversation is ironic."

Talent. (3, Funny)

knuthin (2255242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365481)

If the guy who gave people a reason to buy a computer says this, it must be true.

No, its still an expensive toy. (0, Troll)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365535)

Tablets don't deliver novel features. They are the following: slightly less complicated to use for simple applications, and still a novelty. They are pretty much doomed in the middle term.

There isn't a "killer app" because they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices. Every app a tablet could run, a PC could already run, and the good ones are already invented and quite refined for existing UI paradigms.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365655)

I don't think they will be doomed. Eventually the processor, the display, and everything else will be "good enough" for anything anybody wants to use a tablet for. The the prices will start to come down. Already you can get some seriously overspec'ed tablets for $300. What happens with the iPad 3 level of tablet only costs $300, or even $200. It will end up becoming something that just about everyone has, like a DVD player, or an MP3 player, or a TV. People will just buy them because even something really cheap will be something that accomplishes quite a bit.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365743)

Eventually the processor, the display, and everything else will be "good enough" for anything anybody wants to use a tablet for.

You're forgetting input devices and UI. Go ahead, try and write a thesis on your iPad. You'll see why PCs will always be superior pretty quickly.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365847)

You're forgetting input devices

What, did all the world's manufacturers suddenly stop making bluetooth keyboards and mice?

You're missing the point. You can connect all the peripherals you want, when you want them. When you don't, you can carry the device around without them.

That seems to be the model people want. Tablet sales are increasing dramatically year over year, while PC sales have stagnated. It's widely expected that tablets will outsell PCs within a decade.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (4, Interesting)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366901)

For mobile computing the form factor just isn't there at a 10" screen. If I'm out and about, I'll be using my phone. The screen is small, but it's portable. If I'm at home want to get something done, I'm going to set my phone on the desk and link it wirelessly to a 24" monitor, keyboard and mouse.

The recent Ubuntu on Android demo is where I see things going. You bring your computer with you everywhere you go and use the touchscreen for convenience or use whatever input and output devices are around when you need more capability and a real OS.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367115)

The assumption that tablets will outsell PCs within a decade is based on current growth rates remaining steady. That's a pretty big assumption.

Because tablets are a relatively new device they are currently in a growth market phase of their life cycle. Once the market has reached a saturation point (and we don't know where that saturation point is), then it will enter the same type of market that PCs are in: where people are buying replacements when their old one wears out.

Of course you might be right in that all you have to do with a tablet is hook it up to a keyboard and mouse (whether bluetooth or something else) and you've got a useful, but if that's the case why not just hook up your phone to a bluetooth keyboard, mouse and display and have something even more portable?

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367925)

I'm very certain that will be the way of things eventually. Once bluetooth (or replacement) is reliable and fast enough, and small form-factor computing is powerful enough, we'll decouple I/O hardware from the computing hardware. Granted, this is all about the consumer computing market, which I and many others on Slashdot are in different computing demographics. I'll have a full workstation at home as long as I have real computing needs, but computing needs for most people are currently flatlining.

So as I see the future, the standard tech consumer will have:
  • portable computing device, probably stored in a wallet/purse
  • bluetooth handset and/or headset for verbal communication
  • portable screen connecting over bluetooth (or whatever wireless format enables this)
  • larger screen at home (TV?) that either connects wirelessly or allows the computing device to dock
  • other bluetooth I/O devices:
  • keyboard/keyboard replacement (decouple my hands from the same device dammit!)
  • sensors that will replace mice (kinect-like functionality)
  • sensors for monitoring things (the post-tablet "killer apps")

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367185)

You're missing the point. You can connect all the peripherals you want, when you want them

But you're still hobbled by a toy UI. Real work requires crossreferencing data, literature, documentation, and your own notes. This isn't feasible on a tablet.

That seems to be the model people want.

I'm not surprised that people want tablets. They're toys. People like toys.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367973)

Most people are not doing real work on computers. Most people let computers and the few of us that run them do that kind of work. For most people, computers provide information, entertainment, and communication. Order will vary.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365985)

I won't write my thesis on an iPad (although along with a wireless keyboard it has more memory, a better screen, better performance and more storage than the Otrona Attache that I did write my thesis on - ah, Wordstar....) but I would use it to look up patient med lists, vital signs and the like.

The electronic clipboard is really here. Don't underestimate clipboards.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366227)

thesis

Niche. For something that's not of a reasonable length for an average person, get an app for such (pages, google docs, etc) and a physical keyboard. Reality is that tablets can do 80% of what a pc can do. "Superior" is relative. For a thesis, or cherry picking other specific and exceedingly large writing projects that affect a small minority of people, a pc will be better almost every time for obvious reasons. But for something an average person may write on any given day, trade offs can make the tablet superior.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (5, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366591)

Unless a tablet can batch render to the same degree as my 128,000 node cluster I built in the basement, it's totally useless and of no use to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, EVER!

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (3, Informative)

PhillC (84728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367007)

I need to preface my comments with the face that I only have an Asus Transformer Android tablet. I don't have an iPad and haven't used one, therefore the following comment may be incorrect.

The problem with using my tablet for any serious content creation, like writing a thesis, is that the applications provided are, in my opinion, shit. My Asus Transformer has the keyboard and I use a bluetooth mouse. However, trying to use something like Documents to Go is a total pain in the ring. The spreadsheet side of things isn't any better than the word processer. Tried using the Google Docs App on an Android tablet? Also shit.

And browsers, which are meant for consuming content, also largely shit. I have Dolphin, Opera and Firefox Beta all installed. I have to use all three at different times to effectively load various sites. Then they will frequently crash, which is shit. They're also slow when compared to my desktop browser.

I use a product called Hootsuite to manage multiple social network presences, for work. In a browser this is a brilliant service. The App on Android is shit.

The best thing about my Android browser is the default mail client and its ability to connect to an Exchange server, which I am yet to master with Thunderbird. Skype also works better than Skype for Linux.

Overall, my tablet experience has been pretty poor, and I'm not convinced by the whole App mindset. My Transformer gathers dust most of the time, and may end up on eBay soon.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367137)

Thesis writing is a fair example of doing real work on a PC. You might be correct in that doing real work with a PC is a niche. But that doesn't help anyone argue that tablets are anything but toys.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366327)

When voice recognition gets a little better writing a thesis or book might actually work ok on a tab. Now CAD/CAM will be a little tougher.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367167)

Actually, I would think that CAD/CAM would be a perfect use case for a touch screen. The iPad might be a little small for most people (although I know a kitchen designer who uses an iPad) but for really industrial uses how about a Microsoft Surface?

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366985)

Go ahead, try and write a thesis on your iPad.

There's an app for that (at least if you're in math).

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tex-touch/id377627321?mt=8 [apple.com]

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367883)

Oops, it appears that one needs an external program to complie the source files.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367533)

You could write a thesis on a an iPad, you just need a bluetooth keyboard.

I have written research posts for an online university course (taking a masters degree) using the on-screen keypad. Granted, it took MUCH longer than it would have on my desktop with dual 24" LCD displays. It took about 3x as long as it would have on my laptop, but the form factor allowed me to work while my mother was shopping for shoes (my parents were visiting from Canada and she wanted to do some shopping). Plus, the battery lasted well beyond the 4 hour limit of my laptop. The point is that if your thesis concerns any sort of field work or if you need to get work done while traveling, it may be the best alternative for the situation.

I do agree, however, that the current word processing options for the iPad doe not offer any advanced formatting options, you're pretty much stuck with the basics.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365837)

Eventually the processor, the display, and everything else will be "good enough" for anything anybody wants to use a tablet for.

Some of the things I use computers the most for are writing books, software development and darkroom work.

I like to do these things when travelling too, but I can't see how a tablet would be well suited for either. Even with an external keyboard and mouse (and then, why not use a laptop?), the screen is just too small, if it's still going to be usable as a tablet.

Add that touch screens are not well suited to any kind of prolonged activity, no matter what it is. Remember the gorilla arm syndrome, and why tablet PCs failed the first two times they were introduced.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366021)

Eventually the processor, the display, and everything else will be "good enough" for anything anybody wants to use a tablet for.

...

Even with an external keyboard and mouse (and then, why not use a laptop?), the screen is just too small, if it's still going to be usable as a tablet.

Add that touch screens are not well suited to any kind of prolonged activity, no matter what it is. Remember the gorilla arm syndrome, and why tablet PCs failed the first two times they were introduced.

To paraphrase -- The killer app for the tablet will be an air keyboard.

The air keyboard will probably still be QWERTY still predominate. Input technologies are zombies.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366233)

To paraphrase -- The killer app for the tablet will be an air keyboard.

Only if you mean "killer app" as in one that will kill the popularity of tablets. Otherwise it's exactly the opposite of what I meant.

You want to rest your hands [zdnet.co.uk] while performing input for long periods, and get tactile feedback [overclock.net] from a keyboard. Neither is possible with an air keyboard, and you get both gorilla arm syndrome plus an uncertainty in typing.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

LDAPMAN (930041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366119)

You do realize that the new iPad screen is likely bigger than your home monitor? 2048x1536 is a lot of room...it's more space than any laptop currently on the market. And if the complaint is the physical size then send the display to an external monitor or TV.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366151)

I believe GP was referring to actual physical real estate. 2048x1536 is kind of useless on a 10" screen.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

LDAPMAN (930041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366225)

Thats where connecting it to an external monitor or TV comes in...it works wired or wireless. The point is there is plenty of room to get stuff done...especially if your comparing it to a netbook.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367093)

Thats where connecting it to an external monitor or TV comes in...it works wired or wireless.

Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a tablet? Why not just use a desktop?

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (3, Interesting)

damnbunni (1215350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366213)

A tablet is not suited to those things. However, those things are not what the vast majority of people use computers for.

Tablets are just fine for checking your Facebook, watching YouTube and Netflix, sending emails, and playing the sorts of games most people play.

I know a few people who have ditched their home internet and just have an iPad and a 3G wifi hotspot. It's all the computer they need, and it carries easily. Heck, it fits in a good-sized purse.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367057)

So most likely you'll have a tablet in conjunction with a desktop or laptop. Or maybe you'll have all three. What I wrote does not mean that people will stop buying PCs or laptops, but simply that eventually tablets will be good and cheap enough that a very large percentage of the population will have them. People didn't stop buying consoles when the home computer became cheap enough, and they didn't stop buying desktops when laptops became cheap enough. Many people just own all these devices. Tablets will eventually fall into this too.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (3, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366313)

I still don't understand why no one has done a thin client tablet, with the real horsepower being a server, or even just server software, sitting on your home network somewhere. Most everyone has a desktop or laptop with multiple times more computing power than a tablet. Use wireless N to get the speeds you need for input and display and you could have 10 tablets for $50 each running off a single PC shoved in a closet somewhere. Yeah, no portability, but portability isn't the be all end all for many users.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

dmacleod808 (729707) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366681)

I use RDP on my ipad on a daily basis... It is a little rough with 1024x768, but usable for the basic needs. I can set up a term app and do whatever I want in *nix with a physical keyboard.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (3, Informative)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366793)

VMWare View, RDP Lite, and iSSH apps lets you handle a real machines through a tablet but then that's just remote computing. There's also an iPad app that lets you use your iPad as an additional screen of a desktop system. I'm not sure I've seen anything that will let you work with local files on a tablet but do the crunching on a desktop system.

What I'd like to see is a tablet dock that includes GPU's, external monitors, full range of peripherals, and storage, but is still based on the tablet OS; not just sync'ing. That'd be cool.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367187)

Why use a tablet at all in such a case? I guess if you had ten users your setup might make sense, butwhy not just use desktops?

Yeah, no portability, but portability isn't the be all end all for many users.

Then why use tablets?

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (0)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365701)

Tablets don't deliver novel features. They are the following: slightly less complicated to use for simple applications, and still a novelty. They are pretty much doomed in the middle term.

There isn't a "killer app" because they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices. Every app a tablet could run, a PC could already run, and the good ones are already invented and quite refined for existing UI paradigms.

Came here to say this.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365765)

they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices.

That is exactly why they are NOT doomed. Most people do not want, and never wanted, a "multipurpose computing device". Most people wanted a limited, easy to use, safe content consumption device. That's what a tablet gives them.

Make no mistake: tablets will take over as the world's primary computing device. If you do not see this, you do not understand human nature.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366819)

Of course I understood human nature; I'm smarter than 99% of humanity and what I want is obviously what everyone else needs as well. 'Cause I is smart.

entertainment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366063)

The tablet form factor is here because we started consuming much more lean-back-style entertainment via the internet (facebook checking, casual games, youtube clips, photo browsing,...) and it's just not comfortable to consume that kind of content at a desk. And it's also not comfortable (enough) to sit on the couch with a laptop (or pc). Because you'll burn your testes.

So man created the tablet. And it is here to stay. It's complementary to a laptop and even a smartphone (less social because so small).

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366137)

The World Wide Web browser was the killer app that turned PCs from being novelties for geeks into something everyone wanted to have. "I don't know what the 'web' is, but I want to check it out." - common people.

I fully expect the same for the tablet, though I doubt it will ever be as popular as the Web on the cellphone which is nice and compact, plus always on your person. Tablets might find a niche for students taking notes, but I doubt it (it's easier to just use pen and paper especially for writing formulas).

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367749)

Tablets might find a niche for students taking notes, but I doubt it (it's easier to just use pen and paper especially for writing formulas).

For me, this is the killer app. For more than 30 years, I've organized my life in a little three-ring binder filled with 8.5 x 5.5" paper. Addresses, phone numbers, to-do lists, how-tos for things I do infrequently, key paragraphs for papers that struck me while I was sitting in the park waiting for a kid, and voluminous (in total) notes including formulas, sketches of graphs, line-and-box drawings. Notes from the doctors office. I'd really like to replace it with a tablet, since the tablet can also do other things. But I've got to have good digital paper, which implies really high-res touch (for my crabbed little handwriting) and a stylus.

The Microsoft Courier with its two displays had a lot of potential. I had visions of taking notes in the right-hand pane, and flipping pages by "pushing" the current page over to the more passive left-hand pane in order to get a fresh sheet of paper while still providing access to the previous page(s).

I'm getting old enough to begin to wonder if I'll ever be able to buy what I want.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366401)

Tablets don't deliver novel features.

To a certain extent, the form factor is more novel than the features.

Personally, I find it more comfortable to browse google maps when I can scroll and zoom with my fingers and be sitting in a comfy chair. Same goes for reading web pages. Hell, I once used mine to review a 1000 page PDF document for a proposal our company was working on -- and I did it in a lawnchair in the backyard for some of the time.

Being able to watch a movie on a plane is far easier with a tablet than a laptop -- I know this because my boss and I were on the same flight a few months ago, and when the guy in front of him reclined, there wasn't enough room to keep his laptop fully open. On the next trip, he'd gotten himself an iPad and is loving it.

Unless you think the smart phone is also a novelty because you can do the same and more with a PC, I fail to see why the tablet is any different. It's a scaled up version of the same thing. I don't want a smart phone because I already have a tablet, and I'm not that interested in one. I know people who already had smart phones who don't want a tablet for pretty much the same reason.

I can lie down on my sofa to play games, read an ebook in bed, surf the web from my lazy boy or my lawn chair. I can also get quick wireless in most airports and when I visit family. So, for just a quick email to the wife while I'm traveling or even checking my company email, it's very convenient.

I didn't buy it to do 'work' on; I've got a desktop and a laptop for that -- it's mostly an entertainment device, and most people buying them know that. If you don't expect it to do the same things as your PC, you don't really feel it's missing something. I find I use mine entirely differently than I would my desktop.

I predict you'll be proven wrong about the long-term viability of the form factor, because most of the people I know have some form of tablet (HP, Apple, Android ... you name it), and all of them get a lot of usage out of them.

I travelled for business about 9-10 times over the last 14 months -- every time I had both my iPad and my laptop, and in all cases I only ever used the iPad. Mostly because the iPad is much more portable, has way better battery life than my laptop, and lets me get to the things I need much more quickly (since it takes about 5 seconds to turn it on and connect to wi-fi).

Slashdot is a horrible representative sample for this kind of thing ... because most of us are looking to do much more exotic things than most consumers. But most people, most of the time, are much more passively consuming stuff and just noodling about on the web. For that, a tablet is a really good choice.

You are fundamentally clueless (1, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366589)

Tablets don't deliver novel features.

Touch is inherently a novel form of interaction with computers. Until now direct touch has been rare.

They are the following: slightly less complicated to use for simple applications, and still a novelty

Allow me to update your list:

They are the future.

They are pretty much doomed in the middle term.

Translation: The future will hit you like a Mac Truck.

There isn't a "killer app" because they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices.

Spoken like someone forcefully unwilling to see a fundamental change in process because you fear it..

You fear change, you fear a means of interaction that you find comfortable with going forward.

You don't think of it as fears but your post is full of the kind of denial only fear can bring.

The truth is that direct touch is a very powerful form of interaction with computers. It is more friendly for the average person and so tasks that people want to accomplish with computers will migrate to be done with touch.

What you really fail to understand is that touch is not "more limited". It's simply different. It does some things worse than a keyboard or mouse, yes, but on the other hand it does some things better.

And the thing is, people using computing devices through touch. Regardless which side of UI "wins" by any measure you care to put forward, it is irrelevant because people will buy touch devices and things that run on them.

If you have not seen an 80-year old, or a three year old with an iPad you are really missing a lot of understanding.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366613)

I kinda view them as a smartphone, only more cumbersome.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366817)

What you're missing is that a tablet is, by and large, an appliance. It has few user-serviceable parts, and its app ecosystem is intentionally locked down to make it hard for people to stray outside the lines of safe computing. This isn't true for any PC.

The reason this matters is that the average person is not that great at safely using a PC. Not everybody is a sysadmin; not everybody knows how to check the checksums of a downloaded piece of software against a known source of checksum info to determine if the app is a legitimate copy, read reviews of the app on various trusted download sites to make sure it isn't spyware, and so on. And a lot of people who do know how still don't want to have to bother with it. For folks in either category, the limited app ecosystem means that they don't have to worry about viruses, spyware (for the most part), or any of the other nasties that accompany the more flexible full-blown PC.

For people like you and me, tablets can be somewhat limiting. For the vast majority of my friends who don't work for a major computer company (and even a lot of the folks who do), tablets are a godsend. They free the user from having to think about the computer itself so that they can focus on getting the job done. Up until they need to do something that the tablet can't do (whether because the software doesn't exist or the OS doesn't allow it), the locked-down tablet will always be preferred to the PC simply because it doesn't break as often. More importantly, outside of niche markets, the majority of computer users never run into significant things that the tablet can't do.

And this is why in 2011, at 40.7 million units according to ComputerWorld, sales of a single tablet—the iPad—were almost 12% as big as the entire computer market by themselves, and growing. Turns out that the killer app is not being able to get killed by a killer app.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368031)

There isn't a "killer app" because they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices. Every app a tablet could run, a PC could already run, and the good ones are already invented and quite refined for existing UI paradigms.

The reason Apple is selling gads of iPads is that they address a question you don't quite understand. The question is: Does a tablet replace a PC (desktop or laptop). For you the answer is no because you have all sorts of uses that requires a PC. For people who don't use a PC other than surfing, email, and FaceBook, the answer is yes. For those people, they might want a new UI as keyboard and mouse is more difficult to use if you are not sitting down.

Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368113)

They are the following: slightly less complicated to use for simple applications

For the 99% of the population that are not Slashdot readers, this is a huge, huge deal.

the good ones are already invented and quite refined for existing UI paradigms.

Spoken like a true Slashdotter.

Face it, today is 1978, you're the mainframe operator looking at the 8-bit, single-tasking, single-user plastic box with 8K of RAM and a Panasonic cassette recorder for storage and you're thinking, "there is absolutely no future for this limited device. Real business computing requires real computing power."

New killer app for Bricklin... (5, Funny)

CaptainLard (1902452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365567)

I'm writing a new app that will revolutionize Dan Bricklin's life. It will randomly insert the word "killer" into every sentence he writes, thus cutting his workload in half!

Re:New killer app for Bricklin... (1)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366795)

Offer a Markov chain text gen on that shit and I'll pay $1 for the app as well

Angry Burds the mobile killer app? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365621)

Or more generally, smart phones have increased the number of game developers by a order of magnitude or two. Even if most of those games are not that good. In the past you need specialized game hardware or high end PC.

Re:Angry Burds the mobile killer app? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366285)

It had another unexpected side effect too. A lot of the really old games from the very first in the 70s to the early nineties, which had been assumed to have no further commercial value, suddenly took on new life as casual games on the new platforms.

Re:Angry Burds the mobile killer app? (2)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366849)

Am still waiting for Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

Re:Angry Burds the mobile killer app? (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367047)

That depends on what you mean by 'in the past'.

Anyone and their hamster could (and did) write games for the Apple II, Commodore 64, Spectrum, and the other 8 bit machines.

His stuff from Slate was quite good (0)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365627)

List (and discussion) of it here:

http://www.bricklin.com/tabletcomputing.htm [bricklin.com]

and I still miss Looseleaf Notetaker even when using EverNote or Microsoft Journal.

That said, I still haven't seen a tablet which displaces my Fujitsu Stylistic ST-4121 which has:

  - daylight viewable display --- I use it as a map reader on trips
  - handwriting recognition w/ a pressure-sensitive stylus --- I type quite enough at work, writing something, even on a screen is a pleasure by comparison
  - pressure-sensitive input for graphics apps --- I draw or sketch in ArtRage or AutoDesk Sketchbook or FutureWave SmartSketch (which was ported over to Mac and Windows from PenPoint and eventually became Flash by way of FutureSplash Animator), and work up drawings and letterform designs in Macromedia FreeHand
  - the ability to run pretty much _any_ application, directly on local files w/o jumping through hoops --- I use LaTeX and FontForge

5 years later (2, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365651)

5 years later, the first lawsuits began. They were small ones at first, easily dealt with. However over time, they began to merge, and become larger.

The lawsuit's content? Repetitive Stress Injury, from using a tablet for more than an hour a day. With a regular computer, you have a mechanical or membrane keyboard cushioning your fingers, allowing you to work for hours without ill-effects (allowing for a standard positioning of hands). Tablets, on the other hand, have a hard glass screen which you are tapping away at. It will later be revealed that the executives of these prominent companies had performed studies that showed RSI would become an issue after too much use, but went ahead with the product's launch anyway.

Among the suffering were legions of secretaries, data entry specialists, and college students. Programmers, despite their fondness for technology, were not readily known to suffer from this injury, as they are far enough off the fashion wagon to plug an ugly keyboard into a tablet when needed.

Re:5 years later (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366027)

Plus there will be lawsuits over eyestrain from trying to see a screen through a haze of french fry oil based fingerprints.

Re:5 years later (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366879)

Not to mention that weird nose handle thing on the eyeglasses everyone will need.

Re:5 years later (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366163)

5 years later, the first lawsuits began. They were small ones at first, easily dealt with. However over time, they began to merge, and become larger.

The lawsuit's content? Repetitive Stress Injury, from using a tablet for more than an hour a day. With a regular computer, you have a mechanical or membrane keyboard cushioning your fingers, allowing you to work for hours without ill-effects (allowing for a standard positioning of hands). Tablets, on the other hand, have a hard glass screen which you are tapping away at. It will later be revealed that the executives of these prominent companies had performed studies that showed RSI would become an issue after too much use, but went ahead with the product's launch anyway.

Among the suffering were legions of secretaries, data entry specialists, and college students. Programmers, despite their fondness for technology, were not readily known to suffer from this injury, as they are far enough off the fashion wagon to plug an ugly keyboard into a tablet when needed.

With the advent of things like Siri, you're making some VERY large assumptions that the main way of interfacing with these devices will continue to be something physical. If any generation of computer users is going to be able to kill the more traditional physical interfaces, it will likely be the tablet/handheld computing generation.

Re:5 years later (3, Informative)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366927)

*shrugs*

Voice / tablet interfaces are useful, but far less efficient for entering a large amount of information over short period of time.

Voice interfaces, for dictation or programming, need a tremendous amount of work. Command-voice interfaces, like Siri, have been around forever, and we already know they work.

Re:5 years later (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366181)

"Your honor, members of the jury, I have but two words to explain the plaintiffs' injuries. Just two words that describe the depth and gamut of his problems. These two words are not the fault or at the behest of my client, they are as a result of the defendant's own actions."

"Angry Birds."

"I rest my case."

Re:5 years later (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367271)

The lawsuit's content? Repetitive Stress Injury, from using a tablet for more than an hour a day. With a regular computer, you have a mechanical or membrane keyboard cushioning your fingers, allowing you to work for hours without ill-effects (allowing for a standard positioning of hands). Tablets, on the other hand, have a hard glass screen which you are tapping away at. It will later be revealed that the executives of these prominent companies had performed studies that showed RSI would become an issue after too much use, but went ahead with the product's launch anyway.

There's a little-known business phrase out there called 'best tool for the job'. Where I work, for example, many people have Wacom Tablets even though the vast majority of the world only has a keyboard and mouse.

I really don't understand this attitude towards tablets. We all love our smartphones to the point that we've maintained a flame war for 5 years, but a bigger version of that device comes, it turns out to be really popular, but no no no it must be doomed.

Nerd Hipsterism. Gotta love it.

i have a netbook? dont need tablet (2, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365669)

i have a netbook.
  it goes everywhere i go.
  i sleep with it.
  i shower next to it.
  i take it to the bathroom with me to pass the time.
  i can do anything i want on it

i can code a new OS or the latest game on my netbook
i can play real games on it
flash lets me surf the nastiest pr0n sites

why do i need a tablet?

Re:i have a netbook? dont need tablet (4, Funny)

CaptainLard (1902452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365791)

Do you need a tablet? Judging by your post, probably not. Do you need a girlfriend? Judging by your post, desperately. But whichever one you get theres bound to be drama when your netbook finds out...

Re:i have a netbook? dont need tablet (1)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366409)

You need to own a tablet to get a girlfriend? Weak. Your game sucks I take it.

Re:i have a netbook? dont need tablet (1)

dmacleod808 (729707) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366621)

I have a Tablet. it goes everywhere i go. i sleep with it i shower next to it i take it to the bathroom with me to pass the time. I can't do anything i want on it, but it is good enough for basic needs i can code a new OS (android/linux) or the latest game on my tablet (with a developer account for IOS or Android) i can play real games on it (with appropriate bluetooth controller, i used a wiimote to play emulated SNES and NES on it the other day) HTML5 lets me surf the nastiest pr0n sites why do i need a netbook?

Backup material from Dan (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365711)

Just FYI: My comments about "social device" in the InfoWorld interview relate to the fact that a 10" tablet is easily usable by one person while a few other people watch. It isn't "between" you and them the way an open laptop is or a phone held in front of your face. The actions you are doing (tapping, dragging, pinching) are easily followed by the other person unlike a keyboard and mouse where what you are doing isn't as obvious or direct. I first mentioned this in http://danbricklin.com/ipad1.htm .

The "lots of apps is a killer app" comment (and the reference to the Palm Pilot which was based on an interview I did with Palm's head) comes from the essay I wrote in 2006, "When the Long Tail Wags the Dog" (http://danbricklin.com/tailwagsdog.htm). It explains why "There's an app for that" was such an important selling point for Apple.

Finally, more recently (a little over a year ago) I wrote "Is the Apple iPad really "magical"?" (http://danbricklin.com/magical.htm)

-Dan Bricklin

Re:Backup material from Dan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366203)

Hey Dan-o, how did you like it when I gave you the bone hard and fast last night? I was the one in the sombrero...

All those things worked on tablets 15 years ago. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365761)

Tablets are not new. What makes the current crop different from the last one, or the one before that, or the one before that. Its like 3D movies. Every now and then the idea gets reintroduced and everyone raves about it, till we grow tired of the idea and move on. I still have a beta-max copy of the 1950's movie Cat Women On the Moon in 3D some place, right next to my Dauphin DTR-1 486 25mhz tablet running Windows 3.1 For Pens.

Re:All those things worked on tablets 15 years ago (1)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366393)

I'm pretty sure that Apple sells more iPads in a year than all Betamax decks ever produced.

Re:All those things worked on tablets 15 years ago (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366417)

I can see two crucial differences. Firstly, technology has improved. The tablets now are lighter, slimmer and have higher resolution screens than any before. The batteries last longer, and they pack the processing power to easily stream video. Plus we have wireless everywhere, which makes them more useful still, and they even cost less (Yes, even the iPad cost less than my old tablet of a previous generation!). Secondly, Apple... they are masters of marketting. They took the tablet, a tool for geeks, and made it cool. Their brand alone sold the iPad - had exactly the same product been made by HP or Dell, it'd never have caught on so well.It's possible that just the power of their marketing could get tablets established long enough to stick.

Re:All those things worked on tablets 15 years ago (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366875)

had exactly the same product been made by HP or Dell

Well, therein lies the rub.

We all saw the HP tablet -- it was a dog that eventually HP themselves was selling for about $99 to their employees to clear it out.

My brother's tiny little off-name Android tablet is cool enough, but has a fairly low-res display and seemed to have some warts (the clock stops when it's turned off, I kid you not; how hard is it to keep the clock going?). Can't speak to the Samsung or other Android based tablets since I've never had a chance to play with one.

My wife's Playbook -- well, the browser crashes all of the time, there's not much software available for it, and usually when she turns it on she has to wrestle with it to get it to connect to our wi-fi, or occasionally hard-boot it as the whole thing locks up. She's getting to the point where she might stop using it. Which is sad, because when I bought it for her at Christmas, it was a really sweet deal and thought she'd get some use out of it.

What Apple did was to actually produce a polished product that worked when they released it. Microsoft is playing "me too" as usual and trying to build something. HP released a turd and then discontinued it. RIM hasn't yet caught up yet. The Android marketplace comprises so many different devices that I'm not even sure you can compare them to themselves.

So, I'm just not convinced that another of the candidates could have released "exactly the same product" ... because they don't seem to be doing it yet. I will say this for Apple, by the time they release it, it actually has been tested and works. A lot of products get released which shouldn't be considered anything more than a beta release.

old tablets UIs too messy (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367065)

Designers thought of them as minaturized desktops.
Apples [perhaps accidental] innovation was to consider them enlarge smartphones.

Form factor the killer app? (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365893)

I find the form factor to be the "killer app". Holds/handles like a book, but does much of what you might want to do on a computer, without having the awkwardness of even an ultralight laptop.

I get into countless arguments with people who INSIST that a laptop/netbook/macbook air is "the same" but that just hasn't been my experience in trying to sit on the couch, fly on a plane, ride in a car, etc and use the same devices.

There's no debate that those platforms have greater computing potential (keyboard/mouse, OS choices, HDD, yadda yadda). But they all still need to be opened up, generally lack the battery life of an iPad (even my 2 year old iPad 1 still goes 2-3 days without needing charging) and just aren't as physically useful as a tablet.

Re:Form factor the killer app? (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366159)

I find the form factor to be too big for something that only does what my cell phone can do. They are poor e-readers compared to digital paper systems, so the only reason I can come up with for the larger screen is to watch movies, which is not something I find myself needing. If you like the size, more power to you, but I just dont see the use compared to an actual computer.

Not any more (1, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366725)

They are poor e-readers compared to digital paper systems

That was arguably true before the new iPad.

Now that is no longer true. The iPad is now superior to e-Ink, it has greater resolution, better color and much better touch interaction (which yes is important for the mechanics of reading on a text reader).

Re:Not any more (5, Insightful)

damnbunni (1215350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367469)

The problem with reading books on an LCD display isn't the resolution. It's the fact you're staring at a light bulb the whole time.

My e-ink reader is only 600 x 800, no higher a DPI than some of my LCD-screened gizmos, but it's FAR easier on the eyes.

Also, I fail to understand why 'touch interaction' matters. My reader has a button for next page and a button for previous page, well placed, and a D-pad for navigating menus. What more does it need?

It's your failure. (2)

Petersko (564140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367317)

Failure to envision appropriate and unique uses for the device is a failure of your imagination - not a failure of the device. There are plenty.

Re:Form factor the killer app? (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366273)

Of course, a tablet is quite awkward compared to a smart phone, yet does not do much more than one if you're comparing them both to a real computer.

For my personal electronics, if it doesn't easily fit in a pocket, I'm not going to lug it around. And at home I've got instant access to real computers at every location I spend a significant amount of time, so with the possible exception of bathroom visits I have yet to find a situation where a pad would be the most appropriate form factor.

Re:Form factor the killer app? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366625)

I seldom lug mine around with me on a daily basis, but in the living room, kitchen, bathroom the larger screen makes it much more usable than a phone is.

Unfortunately, with a wife, 7 year old and a 80 pound dog, having a computer in every usable location is not even negotiable in my household, let alone practical.

Re:Form factor the killer app? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367889)

One of the last shuttle flights, as the shuttle crew left the station and they were sealing up the airlock hatches, a black laptop was prominently on screen and open, taking up a lot of space. One the space station crew did something quick with it at one point, but as you'd expect had to carry it in one arm as he typed or trackpad-ed around with the other.

Right there is an example where a touch tablet would have made a lot of sense. Not necessarily an iPad, but certainly one without a stylus. Of course they'd have to run it through radiation and other hardening, certify it for spaceflight, etc.

Killer, until you need to type something... (3, Insightful)

gravyface (592485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365991)

...longer than a search query in Google. And then you reach for your terrible Bluetooth keyboard/dock with it's equally-terrible leatherette cover and try to juggle the thing on your lap, all the while wondering why you didn't just get a thin laptop or a netbook.

As long as they still even make netbooks (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366123)

A thin laptop (aka an "ultrabook") costs twice as much as an iPad, and netbook makers such as Dell have been discontinuing their netbook lines.

Re:As long as they still even make netbooks (1)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366573)

I see people typing on ipads in the class rooms taking notes. I assume they sync later to the pc or laptop in their dorms for real processing in Word or whatever. For some reason the small back pack trend of the mid-late 90's is back, and I'm sure tablets are to blame. Even guys are wearing half-size or small backpacks where tablets easily fit.

HELP!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366055)

Okay gents, apologize for being OT but I'd like some advice. Most of the time around midday the office clears out and I can relax some. The co-workers all having a spot of tea and the like. So happens today I felt the urge to break wind since my cubicle mates are all out. Lo and behold I think I overdid it and probably shat myself. As a matter of fact I feel the seat of my pants sticking to my chair.

Now my co-workers are all starting to file back into the office from being away. What should I do? I don't have a spare set of trousers to take to the restroom. But I know I must be reeking by now. How can I sneak out and past my boss, who is now starting to make his way to my desk?

HELP!!!

Re:HELP!!! (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366439)

There's only one hope left: The All Purpose Emergency Plan. Fake a seizure.

Gartner research on tablets (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366315)

"PC shipments will remain weak in 2012," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "PCs will face more competition as we see new media tablets based on operating systems from Android and Microsoft, as well the new iPad."

Consumer computing habits are changing as more applications shift to the cloud. Email, Web browsing and social networking, which once required a PC, can now be done on a smartphone or tablet.

Even content creation tasks like photo editing, word processing, and music creation are migrating to tablets. Though PCs are still the best for those kinds of applications, Atwal said consumers have shown that they are willing to make trade-offs for tablets' better content consumption capabilities.

Re:Gartner research on tablets (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366953)

Meh. Like anyone who's not on slashdot knows anything about... um... anything.

Visicalc in software history (1)

http (589131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366405)

Isn't Viscalc the first program with a license explicity noting, "We can't say it works for sure. And you can't sue us if it doesn't." IIRC, it was because of fears some P. Eng. would use it in designing a bridge or automotive brake.

I'm open to correction on this one.

Size Matters (3, Interesting)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366687)

A Desktop PC is like a big tool box, a laptop is like a tool belt, and a tablet is like a leatherman. What would you rather to carry around all day?

Re:Size Matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39367177)

Thank you

Re:Size Matters (3, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367759)

flaw in your analogy.

A tool belt will let me run around screaming, "I'M BATMAN!" while punching people in the face.

Re:Size Matters (3, Insightful)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367941)

For me personally, the Swiss army knife (smartphone) is just fine.

Will Metro solve for N? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366965)

I feel the same way Dan Bricklin does about Apple and Microsoft, solving for 1 and solving for n respectively. This is what makes Metro from MS so promising and yet so risky.

those horseless carriages are just overpriced toys (4, Insightful)

decsnake (6658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367757)

those horseless carriages are just overpriced toys and they'll never amount to anything. For serious work, I'll take a horse and carriage any day!

seriously, you guys ought to listen to yourselves sometime.

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