Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Thoughts on Tablets
I've recently spent a couple of weeks trying out an iPad 2 followed by a couple of weeks testing out a Motorola Xoom tablet. Despite my dislike for Apple's technology and business models, I have to say that the iPad 2 is definitely a much more functional device at this point in time. However, neither device was really satisfactory from my point of view.
If I wanted a device of tablet size for web browsing, email, calendar, video calling, and ebook/PDF reading, then I'd buy an iPad 2- it does all of this just fine. Now that IOS 5 goes tetherless, I could use an iPad without needing to keep a Windows machine around to run iTunes- this is a big plus.
The Xoom also did web browsing, email, calendar, etc. However, it just wasn't as well polished and not nearly as fast- the performance of the Xoom was quite disappointing. I had hoped that Google integration on the Xoom would be better than on the iPad, but it really wasn't any better.
I've given both of these borrowed devices back to the people that I loaned them from, without any regrets.
I'm quite happy with my current Android phone. It's always in my pocket, and does almost as much as an iPad or Android tablet while being vastly more convenient to carry around. Until the tablets offer a lot more functionality, I don't think I'm going to acquire one.
The biggest things I want that I'm not seeing in the current generation tablets:
1. A stylus for handwriting with reasonable resolution (this is particularly important because I hand write a lot of mathematics, particularly in my teaching.)
2. Flash and Java applets. Neither are available on the iPad, and Java applets don't run on Android. Android support for flash is somewhat limited. Of course we hope that HTML 5 will kill off flash once and for all, but there doesn't seem to be any reasonable replacement for Java applets on the horizon. Unfortunately, lots of good educational software uses these technologies.
3. Wireless display to computer projectors (for presentations and teaching.) Apple has a new offering in this direction, but I'm looking for a more open standard, such as Wi-Di.
For this list of features it appears that Windows Tablet PC's (an old class of machines dating back 10 years!) are still the best way to go. These are heavier devices than the Android and IOS tablets, but they feature much more powerful processors and more interface options. A few years ago these were two thousand dollar devices, but there are some reasonably good models out now in the 1,200 dollar price range. I was particularly impressed with how well Microsoft's OneNote software works on a tablet PC.