The bloom is off the rose my friends. With the tablet market starting to level off, I can now tell you that these miracle devices are indeed the wave of the future. Whether or not you ride this wave, or wait for the next one though, is ultimately a personal choice that should be dictated by a careful look at your needs and wants.
As an avowed techie, first as hobbyist and now as a professional, I am the type of user ripe for the hype market that surrounds these glorious devices. Literary critics be warned, my mixing of metaphors here is apt and intentional because the tablet world is a mixed one with differing visions of what these devices are, what they can do, where they should be, and what role they should play.
I recently had a chance to spend a week with both the Galaxy Tab and the 2nd generation iPad. This was my first experience playing with either device, though I own both an iPod touch and a Samsung Charge.
The experience with each device was, in all reality, about the same. I found so little difference in the devices, that I will not dwell on this subject here, leaving such expounding for more dedicated enthusiasts.
While I have my preference, my issues are minor quibbles that come down to personal preference and a pickiness for interface, rather than inherent flaws or capabilities. I consider these devices to have become commoditized in much the same manner as netbooks as of two years ago. Similar specs, similar looks and similar capabilities. My review then, is of tablets in general. If it helps, envision the specific tablet for which you lust as I comment generally.
As I got the box, I lovingly caressed it. Carefully unpacking it, I ooed and I ahhed as I turned on the device for the first time. I felt the heft in my hands. I played with the increasingly smooth touch screens, enjoyed the popping colors and wondered just what it is this little marvel of modern science can do for me.
I spent the first hour trying to make it mine, downloading applications, configuring numerous email accounts and gradually importing my digital world onto this new form of connectivity. I found apps for websites I regularly visit, a few games that I knew I would like, some IT tools that might be helpful and assorted other applications of varying and, in some cases, dubious usefulness.
As I played I smiled; “this” I thought, “is surely the future.”

Reality Check

So why is it that, a mere three days later, the device sat on my desk gathering dust and rapidly disappearing under a pile of papers in an ancient analog tradition that no digital scythe can cut through? It is because I didn’t find the device useful for my work or my play on a daily basis. While this revelation is personal, the lesson is broad.
At work, I move between workstations. I am quite literally, surrounded by dozens of desktop computers. The web tools that I can load on such a portable device for my work are not any different or more useful than what I already have on my smart phone, a device I already carry with me.
As for office productivity, I really don’t need it. For the quick jaunts to other desks that old yellow pad and pen serve me well. I type up my notes when I get to my desktop. I’m not really fond of typing on touch screens, so note taking just doesn’t work for me.
For play, I like the device well enough. The app readers are great. But I only need them on my commute and I have my phone for that. At home, I’m already in front of my computer. For gaming I have my PC and a host of consoles. Aside from the larger screen, I don’t find much appeal in the glorified flash games that are produced. I don’t watch many movies and I don’t need to watch them on the go. The device doesn’t fit for me, and so it goes mostly unused. Pulled out to kill time in the waiting room, or for the odd job where the advanced wifi scanner is useful.

But Tablets are a Panacea Right?

So do I hate tablets ? Nope. I love them. Marvelous toys full of cool things, with great potential. But I want to make sure that you buy a device that fits your needs and will help you be more productive at work and happier at play. These are not cure all devices and if 450 dollars is an extravagance, make sure you really need the device and that you really will use it.
Here are a few things you should consider when looking at a tablet:
– Talk to your IT people. Do they have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy? Will they support the tablet? There are reasons it might not be allowed. You might be ready to revolutionize your work, but you don’t want to have to go it alone.
– What appeals to you about the format?
– How do you envision yourself using it?
– What can it offer you that your current set up can’t?
– Are you prepared to rework your methods to make the best use of the new device?
– Is this for work, for play, or for both?
– Do you mind carrying around the extra weight?

Road Warriors

If you are looking at a tablet as a travel solution, think carefully about what you need to accomplish on the road.
-Do you need a full suite of office applications?
-Specialty software?
-Are any programs you use resource intensive?
-Are they even available in the format you are considering?
For light email a tablet is fine, but if you need to do real office work on the road, a laptop might better suit your needs. You can consider tablets with detachable keyboards, but those options are significantly more expensive, and the software considerations remain. At the same price point, you can get a much more robust laptop. If you find that you also need to take a laptop with you, why bother? The $600 dollar question is this: can this device do what you need it to do?

Final Thoughts

My final advice is this: before you buy, do what I did. Borrow one. Test drive it, play with it. Hold it. Feel it. Use it. Learn it. Know what it can do, and what you can do with it. See what you like about the display and the interface.
– Do you understand it?
– Is it intuitive for you?
– Is it easy to use?
– Does it feel right in your hands.
-Can you get the software you need?
-Does it meet your company’s security policies?
Like any device, you will make compromises. But just like any other expensive device, you need to take your time and study your options. If you are considering this for an entire organization, then the importance of the above is exponentially greater. Get these devices in the hands of the people who will use them before you change your IT policy. Spend your money wisely and enjoy the future.