The iPad rose and rose. It won legions of admirers because of its simplicity: No windows (no pun), no file system, no cursor keys (memories of the first Mac). Liberated from these old-style personal computer ways, the iPad cannibalized PC sales and came to be perceived as the exemplar Post-PC device.
But that truly blissful simplicity exacts a high price. I recall my first-day disappointment when I went home and tried to write a Monday Note on my new iPad. It’s difficult — impossible, really — to create a real-life composite document, one that combines graphics, spreadsheet data, rich text from several sources and hyperlinks. For such tasks, the Rest of Us have to go back to our PCs and Macs.
We might have overestimated the eventual role of tablets and underestimated the role of phones — and the whole argument is further muddled by the industry-wide move toward 5-inch-ish phone displays.
Update (2014-04-26): Benedict Evans:
This chart, and dozens of others from every possible source, makes it very clear that the iPad dominates tablet web traffic in a way that it does not dominate smartphone web traffic.
The classic negative view on iPads was that they couldn’t compete with PCs because they lacked multitasking, keyboards, Office (until now) etc, etc. But that’s an incomplete response, because PC sales are suddenly weak too (and only part of that is Windows 8).
So, looking at tablets and smartphones as mobile devices in a new category that competes with PCs may be the wrong comparison - in fact, it may be better to think of tablets, laptops and desktops as one ‘big screen’ segment, all of which compete with smartphones, and for which the opportunity is just smaller than that for smartphones.
Update (2014-05-01): Dustin Curtis:
Mobile phones and tablets are already becoming less differentiated over time, and within a few years I think they will converge into one multipurpose, pocketable device. Screen and battery technology are improving fast enough that even needing two devices will soon be pointless; why carry both a small-screened and a large-screened device–both of which are otherwise essentially identical–when you can pull out your mobile phone and have a screen that, for example, expands to tablet-size when you stretch it?
The tablet is really just a temporary evolutionary sidestep that overcomes screen and battery technology issues in mobile phones. There is no such thing as a tablet in the future.
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