February 08, 2011, 1:31 PM — Like it or not, the PC is going to become more like a tablet. I'm not just talking form factor or whether they have touchscreens; I'm talking about the very way you interact with your computer. And that's a good thing. But for some of us, depending on how things shake out, it could also be a bad thing.
About a year ago--on the eve of the iPad's introduction to be exact--I wrote about why tablets never really caught on. I explored various reasons to explain why there relegated to niche status--kludgy hardware, no killer app, the added cost of buying a tablet PC over an ordinary laptop. But the biggest hinderance to tablets to me has always been the software. Windows-based tablets run a mouse-driven user interface on a touchscreen device. The end result is something that it clumsy at best, and downright unusable at worst.
The same can be said of touchscreen-inspired interfaces on a desktop or laptop.
(Note: I'm using the term "PC" to mean any desktop or laptop that runs a mouse-driven operating system. This includes Macs as well as machines running Windows or Linux. Also, I do use some Apple- and Mac-related products as examples to illustrate my points, but the points I bring up are equally applicable to Windows as well.)
Why Tabletification Might Not Be So Bad
Before we jump into that, though, let's be honest; there are tricks a the PC can learn from the tablet. OSes built specifically for tablets are significantly lighter weight than desktop OSes, which usually take up several gigabytes of disk space. Tablet OSes also represent something of a clean break from the traditional desktop OSes, so they don't carry as much digital baggage.
On the hardware side, there are definitely areas where PCs can learn from tablets. Imagine, if you will, a compact, ultra-lightweight Windows 8 notebook built around a system on a chip instead of a traditional PC processor and motherboard. It would be light, reasonably powerful (or at least powerful enough for most tasks), and feature solid-state storage and extra-long battery life. Think of it as the evolution of the netbook/ultraportable, but with the guts of a tablet.
The Trouble With Tabletification
But while it makes sense to bring tablet components over to PCs, the software side may be a little more dicey.