I've been thinking about getting a tablet for more than a year now and the main thing that always stops me is the thought of something better right around the corner. I realize this is silly for most consumer electronics and I have absolutely no issue slapping down money on a new smartphone or the latest video card that will be outclassed 6 months from now without any regret. The tablet purchase is different. though, I know I will use it regularly enough to justify the purchase, I also know I won't be doing any heavy lifting with it, it will be more of a couch browser that goes on the occasional roadtrip; and with that in mind I want to get one that will be relevant for a very long time.
That notion has lead me to the question, are we at the point where tablets are mostly how they will be for the foreseeable future, what more can the manufacturers do to improve them?
The latest tablets have screens that rival HDTVs and are better than the average computer monitor.
The actual physical size and weight are limited to what is practical to hold without being too flimsy or fragile, the 10 inch form factor seems to be ideal.
Speed, browser speeds seem to be an issue, this is a concern, I know that the browser in my Nexus S isn't fast enough, I don't know how that compares to the latest tablets. I haven't read enough about the processor technology for tablets, but isn't there a practical limit to how small/dense a cpu can be made, I thought I read it was 20nm and we are at 32nm now so fairly close.
Battery life, it seems like this is the one area that can really be improved, also not very important to me.
The point at which hardware remains largely static, that is when I want to buy in, when most of the performance gains will be on the software side. Are we at a point where there is no longer a need to upgrade yearly and Apple/Google/MIcrosoft will start selling the next OS the way they do now with PC owners?
What do you imagine tablets will be 10 years from now?
They will replace laptops for a lot of people. You don't really need a keyboard unless you're working, which can be bought separately and hooked up to your tablet. I think it's just a matter of time.
I sure hope we haven't seen what tablets can truly do. That would be depressing.
My main hope and what I really want from tablets in the future is better software. iOS is still just a phone OS for example. That is why I'm excited for Windows 8 because it does look really neat on tablets and more like a full fledged OS. To me tablet manufacturers still haven't cracked the code. I fully believe that tablets can be better at certain things than "normal" computers and that touch gives amazing possibilities. We still aren't there yet tho.
I hope and really want tablets to evolve and become as powerful as normal computers but different. By that I don't necessarily mean hardware either, I mean software. Right now a lot of the development seem to be going in the opposite direction. Many tablet apps (and OS:s) are getting dumber, focusing on simpler functions.
In 10 years we probably won't be carrying around tablets anymore. You probably will have a single phone-sized device with you at all times which you can interact with on numerous different screens and surfaces. For example on a pocket-friendly bendable screen, or a window and so on.
Here's a list of things I have done with tablets over the past year and a half:
If that's where the tablets are just now, I'm pretty to psyched to see what'll happen in 10 years.
The hardware isn't peaking any time soon I reckon (turns out there is a lot of money in tablets!), but this is not a bad time to be jumping in. The devices are more than capable in their current form for my use, and I would argue that even in their current form they are a hell of a lot more productive than people give them credit for. As to whether or not these are still annual products, I think that's down to you and how you use tech. I know of many people still happy with their first generation iPads despite being two generations behind, but I also have just as many friends who need the next thing when it arrives.
The cost for the average consumer will fall through the floor and every tablet maker will be lamenting that fact just like desktop computer manufacturers are now such as dell. Apple will continue to rake in the doe because of their apple tax.
@Lashe: See that's pretty awesome. I feel like when I'm not at my desktop with two monitors and hardware keyboard that I'm inefficient. I'm assuming you use an iPad but do you hook up with a hardware keyboard of just use the onscreen? I mean I can use the onscreen but I feel like I'd go mad without having sometime of tactile feed back (not to mention not having the ridges on the 'f' and 'j' key to find home row for touch typing).
In response to the topic:
I think the tablet form factor will just be more integrated. Right now the software on the tablet side is pretty paltry by comparison to "normal" computers. You can get lower functionality Office like apps (QuickOffice, Pages/Numbers/Keynote) and other such apps that replace your desktop programs, but to truly replace a Desktop/Laptop you're going to need some more powerful apps.
My biggest wish for tablets would be good handwriting recognition. I know people are very anti stylus, and that's a good thing when it comes to navigation, but when it comes to a student using it (more specifically this student) or a business person (more specifically me in my head walking around a corporate campus like a robot) hand writing would be a huge bonus.
I think they'll also have a better handle and much more robust cloud services. Like PhotoStream, iCloud, Skydrive times 10. Being able to have an extremely seamless expereince, not necessarily between your tablet and PC but from tablet to tablet and tablet to phone.
I'm also a big believer in motion based interface. I think things like Kinect are going to take off and revolutionize the way you experience the 10 ft interface on a TV. In my head it's not a huge leap to have a tablet hook up to TV over a very high bandwidth connection (newer type of bluetooth, or a new iteration of WiFi or the like) and be able to control the tablet using motion.
Most importantly though, going with what I just said above, the interface will change. Right now you're using an OS that, by the standard set a decade from now, will seem primitive. Think of how you feel going from Windows 7 to Windows 3.1. I think you'll see a change on that order. That was 17 years (Windows 3.1 - 1992, Windows 7 2009) but at the current rate of growth that type change will take half the time.
This all of course means implicitly that the large gap between software and hardware will have to get smaller. Things should become more optimized. It'll be a balance between cost to produce versus gains on the outset.