Are tablets changing the way computers work?

The Tablet's Triumphs

Tablets are in use everywhere -- even on construction sites.
Tablets are in use everywhere -- even on construction sites.
Š Jones

Tablets, how we love thee. Let us count the ways.

Compared to laptops, tablets are easier to tote and much more portable, and they allow you do ditch the power cord and bag full of accessories. They're less costly than full-fledged laptops. The batteries last longer. They turn on instantly. And they are inarguably prettier and more aesthetically appealing than any regular PC.

Tablets are also benefitting from (and helping to perpetuate) the fast adoption of cloud computing, in which all of your data is stored online and, thus, accessible from any WiFi-enabled device. Why lug around a beefy laptop when an itty bitty tablet can access files from the virtually fail-proof cloud?

Of course, you already know why. Tablets in their current incarnation can't replace a robust traditional computer. A decked-out laptop or desktop has enough processor power to run dizzying circles around tablets. And although apps designed for tablets are great, they certainly can't match the flexibility of applications made for a "real" computer.

All of that aside, are tablets really changing computers as we know them? They sure are.

That's particularly true when you consider command input. Because there's no mouse or keyboard, the touchscreen becomes central to the tablet experience.

As tablets first became popular, many software developers were slow in adopting a touch-first mentality, and still thinking of software interfaces as working best via a mouse or keyboard. Now, developers are catching up and integrating all sorts of clever ways to make touchscreens easier to use. Many touchscreens now recognize multi-touch and gesture-based commands. A lot of tablets now recognize voice commands, too, and the accuracy gets better with every update.

It's touch, though, that's shifted our perspective on interacting with our technologies. So will touch take over every aspect of computing? Probably not. If you take a tablet and make its screen larger, you have to move it farther away from your body, which makes touching it a chore. And your fingers' oils will be much harder to remove from a screen larger than your smartphone's [Source: Pogue].

But touch, gesture and voice commands are probably going to get much better, very soon. On the next page you'll see how.