Tablet PC Primer

by Mike McEvoy on April 1, 2012

tablet PC, iPad, apple, android tablet, samsung galaxy tab, tablet computer

Tablet PC Primer

One of the fastest growing trends in computing is the use of the tablet PC. Tablet computers have been around for some time having been first introduced to the mainstream over a decade ago. The main turning point in terms of growth and popularity was the introduction of the Apple iPad. Tablet PCs have rode along as acceptance and interest in tablets has grown.

Tablets are also getting smaller, faster and more efficient. With location-sharing and geolocation based services starting to come into their own, more and more people are turning to tablet PCs for their flexibility, convenience and innovative uses.

What is a Tablet PC?

A tablet PC is a small, lightweight, portable computer which operates using a touch screen interface.  In many ways tablets are similar to smartphones, only larger and with a primary purpose of computing, not telephony.  Otherwise they are quite similar and include many of the same features. Some tablet PCs are more similar to a computer which runs a familiar desktop operating system, only in  aversion adapted for the smaller screen and “touch” environment.

The term “tablet PC” is often used interchangeably with “tablet.”  Traditional tablet PC operating systems include adaptations of Windows, Linux, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android, and Apple’s iOS.  Examples of tablet computers which you may be familiar with include the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab (an android tablet), BlackBerry PlayBook, and a range of tablets from many other popular tablet manufacturers including Acer, Fujitsu, Asus, and Toshiba.

Over the past couple of years, tablets have been evolving beyond traditional operating systems.  Tablets which run on mobile operating systems that fall outside of the old paradigm are sometimes called “post-PC tablets.”

Tablet PC Features

Tablets are quickly becoming a real option for people who want something larger than a smartphone but smaller and lighter than a laptop. Tablet PCs are fully functional computers within the constraints of their physical size; they allow consumers to carry significant amounts of their data with them and can connect to even more of their information stored in the Cloud. Tablets can be very functional for both personal or business use.  Here are some key tablet features and specifications:

  • Size and weight:  Tablet PCs are among the largest mobile computing platforms.  Most tablet screens measure 7 to 11 inches.  The heaviest tablets weigh about two and a half pounds, while most tablets fall within the range of 1-2 pounds.  Many  newer tablets weigh under a pound however, and are generally equipped with smaller screens (7 inches on average).
  • CPUs featured in tablet PCs include Nvidia Tegra 250, Intel Atom, and Intel Core.
  • Storage:  The vast majority of tablets feature solid-state disk (SSD) drives.  These drives don’t use mechanical parts for reading and writing data.  As such they are very fast.
  • Operating systems include Windows, Linux, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android, iOS and more.
  • Touch screen input. Tablets include touch-screen interfaces which enable a user to input data using a virtual keyboard. Touch screens are either resistive or capacitive. Resistive touch screens can enable a great deal of precision and usually require a stylus. Capacitive screens are more responsive, include multi-touch capabilities, and generally do not include a stylus for input.
  • Handwriting recognition.  This is a common tablet feature, but by no means a universal one.  If a tablet includes a stylus, it also will include handwriting recognition.  Non-stylus based tablets instead rely on the virtual keyboard for typing.
  • Tablets can sense direction.  Using technology called an “accelerometer,” many tablets can detect what direction they are facing and can shift the screen accordingly.
  • Docking stations may be included with newer models.  These docking stations give you the option to add peripherals such as a full size keyboard.
  • Tablet PCs tend to utilize either on-board flash memory or storage drives.  Additional flexibility and capacity is provided by card ports.

Potential Drawbacks to Tablet PCs

  • No keyboard is included.  Not having a standard keyboard isn’t a big deal for some people, but for others there’s just nothing like a physical QWERTY keyboard (whether full-sized or otherwise) to input words.  If you need to do a lot of typing fast, the touch-screen may not be what you’re looking for. Consider getting a tablet PC with a docking station for a keyboard if you really want a tablet PC and you type a lot.
  • The screen may be prone to damage.  With laptops and traditional PCs, you don’t actually interact with your screen at all except visually.  With a tablet however, you touch the screen frequently, increasing the odds you’ll eventually damage it.  While you can typically buy a replacement screen for a tablet, it will be expensive.
  • Security issues are prevalent.  Since you won’t always be on a secure wireless network when you use your tablet PC, you are exposed to greater risk.  You can take steps to protect your tablet PC however by installing antivirus and scanning regularly.

What’s Next for Tablet Computing?

Geolocation services are still in the early adopter stages for the tablet PC but are growing fast.  What is geolocation?  Geolocation refers to the practice of collecting information about the physical location of a device.  Services which use geolocation include social networking sites like foursquare as well as geo-marketing campaigns which target users based on their location.  Location-sharing is something which you can opt into or not, but it’s only useful if you have a tablet PC or another mobile device.

What are some examples of geolocation services and how they can serve you?  Picture going shopping, and opting in to receiving targeted advertisements as you walk down the street.  The advertisements which reach you will be relevant to you based off of the information you’ve shared, and will direct you to places to shop which are nearby.  This can save you time and result in great discounts.  Also imagine being able to share your location with a trusted circle of friends and see where your friends are at the same time.  If you’re in the same area and not busy, you can meet up.

As location-sharing grows, we can expect to see tablet PCs surge in popularity.  The Tablet PC ha its disadvantages, but it also offers flexibility and ease of use, and can be adapted with additional peripherals if necessary.  With growing trends in geolocation services, they should soon be able to offer more innovative applications to the consumer than ever before.

The areas of Tablet PCs is evolving rapidly. New and improved components, new operating systems, batteries that are lighter and have longer life, and new tablet manufacturers, all add up to ongoing change. And plenty of benefits for consumers.



David May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Very interesting thoughts on the Tablets. As an ipad2 owner I can say there are certainly great benefits to outweigh any negatives. ;)

Have a good one!

Nolan May 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for the comments. I am interested for several reasons: the ability to take my computer with me virtually anywhere, including a train trip north. My PDA finally bit the dust and I need a replacement. I like using an ebook reader in that a variety of reading materials are readily available in one place. I also like being able to use quotes from my reading. However, I am unhappy with my current reader and am looking for something better. Finally I like to follow the stock market. Using a phone to do so just makes no sense when it comes to graphics, etc. Finally I am getting more interested in using GPS.

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