back to article PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users

"Everything points to a boom in the landfill business" – The Register, 2012 Are tablets the new netbooks – a flash in the pan? Or perhaps even the new picture frames - a one-season fad? I don’t think so, but sales are flat, and the numbers look ominous for any global technology company hoping they’ll provide a long-term money …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tablets are neither phones nor PCs

    I suspect the numbers make sense. I really don't think people use tablets to replace other devices, so the netbook analogy, as an adjunct to "proper" tech, is probably accurate. The result is that of people have a tablet, it needs to work well enough, rather than there being any compelling need to upgrade every year. Of course, fans of particular brands may well upgrade on cue, but that group is not in the majority. Yes, people buying tablets now are buying much better kit than a few years ago, but they're also doing the same job, in much the same way, as a few years ago. You can still browse, check email, stream video or audio and play the odd game on a tablet a few years old, so there's little attraction to fork out more for the same.

    1. RISC OS

      Re: Tablets are neither phones nor PCs

      > It lost billions more making boutique own-brand hardware which nobody wants.

      I think people would want them, just not at the apple level price range, MS is more like walmart, apple is more like Harrods. Selling a walmart product at harrods prices is never going to work, and then not subsidising touchscreens for all laptops with windows 8 was dumb.

      I have a kindle fire, never used a tablet before, never will get another. It has become a replacement for the magazine rack in the bog... apart from that, I have no use for a tablet.

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: Tablets are neither phones nor PCs

        No. The it's the Apple product that introduced the Wal-mart price tag. There is a natural price for these things and Apple found it. They also figured out what kind of cheap hardware they need to put into it in order to make the price point. Since they didn't have a decades long desktop monopoly, they weren't tied to the x86. As a failure at the desktop, they were free to ignore it.

        There simply may be no "Herrods" niche when it comes to tables. The same goes for video streamers. Google tried selling a "premium" product and got slapped down in the same way Microsoft did.

        It's possible that the price collapse in PCs got everyone used to the idea that hardware should be cheap making it an uphill battle for ANY "premium" option.

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Tablets are neither phones nor PCs

      True. And what tablets *have* done, is demonstrate that for certain values of "PC User", a tablet is quite adequate.

      Take my wife for example (I wish someone would ;) ). Totally non-IT person, but uses email, and browses a lot, and likes Amazon. When the only tool we had to achieve these tasks was a PC, she used a PC. However, after locating a decent high-spec 10" HDTV android for <£200 at Christmas, she hasn't used the PC once.

    3. auburnman

      Re: Tablets are neither phones nor PCs

      Another reason that there is little need to upgrade every year is that the software / UI side of tablets is still constantly evolving, backed by interests that want the ecosystem to be so comfy you don't want to leave. So most tablet users are getting incremental improvements anyway without shelling out for the latest shiny.

  2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Ah, but what about Chromebooks? The future might be laptop + phone; but it might not be a Windows laptop.

    1. Vector

      "The future might be laptop + phone..."

      No, although I know most of you refuse to believe it, the fact is that the future is phone, period.

      There is currently no technical reason why a phone cannot be connected to a larger screen, a keyboard, a mouse, etc. The barriers to this scenario are all artifices, built primarily to protect media interests. Eliminate those barriers and you have a platform that could handle the productivity needs of at least 80% of today's market (those that do email, internet and an office suite). As the power of the processors grows (as it is at an astounding rate), the platform will cover the needs of more and more of the market until the idea even of lugging an ultrabook around (and having to deal with what files or documents are on what device) will seem absurd.

      At the moment, phones and tablets are considered toys. Phones get less of that moniker because they are useful as communications devices, but neither is considered a viable platform to get "real" work done. Looking back in history, the exact same argument was made about the PC (though in that case, it was the lack of power, not the interface that drove that point of view). Yet today, the PC is king, ruling over both the home and the workplace. Phones and tablets are powerful enough and can eliminate the need for an additional computing device and that's all that's required to start a revolution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Future might be laptop + phone

        Even this is wrong. The future will be watch and TV/Monitor.

        What a top end Smartphone can do now a watch will be able to do in 5 years. Add in speech and you don't need a keyboard. For "work" you use enhanced Bluetooth to a monitor or TV.

        In 10 or 15 years time the PC and laptop as we know it will be dead.

        1. ScottME

          Re: The Future might be laptop + phone

          The watch is not going to be the engine of personal computing without a small revolution in battery technology. It's bad enough having to recharge my smartphone's 2500+mAh battery at least daily and sometimes more often; how much of a drag will it be to have to unstrap a wristwatch every few hours to juice it up?

      2. Rampant Spaniel

        You can already do this. You can even get battery powered screens that hook up via mhl. If I can't be bothered to start up the pic for something basic I just hook my phone up to the TV and use a blue tooth keyboard and mouse. The move towards a true single edition of Windows across all screens with decent (hopefully) X86 chips should make this even easier. I don't doubt a Macbook air is faster than my note 3, but I think I wouldn't notice most of the time. Video and image editing are always going to be on a desktop rather than a phone but X86 phones running full Windows might just save Microsoft from complete humiliation.

        RT is an abomination, forcing desktop users to use a fairly decent on a tablet but hateful on a pc interface, and it seems they might actually end up in the right place. I don't see them beating Android or Apple, but I think they might just have a place in the market in the future as hardware advances enough to run a desktop os on a phone. They need to be severely beaten for their recent products though! Luckiest barstewards alive.

        1. Vector

          @Rampant Spaniel re: "You can already do this. You can even get battery powered screens that hook up via mhl."

          You can, but not all your apps will work as expected, though this is, AFAIK, mainly limited to media apps. Some apps just won't run or at least won't stream video if they detect an HDMI connection (Hulu) while others try to do something fancy with the "second screen" (YouTube). Again, this is all just artifice to try and protect revenues for the content providers. It's silly at this point when you can get a full-fledged Wintel (ok, atom but still) PC in an 8-inch (or less) form factor that has none of the restrictions put on mobile OSes.

          @Pascal Monett re: Yet today, the PC is king

          I don't know what world you live in, but in the one I see, the PC retains it's crown in the workplace at the very least. While you may see some tablets and such running around to meetings and on the go, there's still a PC or laptop on virtually every desk in the corporate world.

          The King may be dying, but he's not dead quite yet.

          @ Brewster's Angle Grinder re: "...why bother with a laptop- or desktop-sized 'dock' for your mobile phone? Why not just own another device?"

          Why pay for another computing device when the one in your hand can accomplish everything you need? And accomplish it without all the grinding to the cloud (which may fail you at the most inopportune time). The dock need not be desktop or even laptop sized. If there's a screen handy, it need only be the size of a keyboard (you pick the size keys you're comfortable with).

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Vector, perhaps thing have changed but hulu, Netflix and Amazon prime (using dolphin) all play on my TV via mhl from my note3. I don't doubt things will get locked down if it becomes more popular. Hdmi recorders are getting cheaper and more popular, especially given the ability to record clean output from certain dslr's so copying would be relatively easy.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Why pay for another computing device when the one in your hand can accomplish everything you need?

            Personal device and work device.

            Backup device in case one is broken / unavailable.

            Different types and amounts of storage for different purposes - conventional disk is still a lot cheaper than SSD. Different hardware interfaces, or differently-accessible ones. (My phone has a MicroSD "slot", but I have to take the phone apart to get to it. It's great for additional storage, not great if I want to read the SD card from my camera. I could carry around a USB SD reader, but then we're back in the game of carrying a bunch of hardware around.) Bigger batteries in the laptop form factor.

            If I'm going to use a phone in "laptop mode", I'll be using a full-size keyboard and screen. That's a laptop; it just has a detachable CPU with its own little screen, packaged as a phone. I don't see any particular advantage to that configuration.

            Today I have a work laptop, a personal laptop, and a phone. I don't want to replace any of those with one of the others. I like separation of concerns. That means I often carry three devices around, but apparently either I have superhuman strength, or a lot of people like to whine about what is really not much weight. (I suspect a little exercise might do them good.)

            Of course, I'm under no illusions that my preferences match those of any significant number of consumers. But every time I read one of these posts about how obviously everyone will be doing X in a few years, I really have to wonder whether the author has ever actually met other people. There are a bunch of us, and we don't all hold the same opinions.

      3. Michael Habel

        "The future might be laptop + phone..."

        Not to mention that that Phablets... Are also extremely low-power Devices when compared to say a PC. In fact I'm just chilling-out now till my Cable Contract runs out in December. Before I basically trash my HTPC (EasyVDR Linux / DVB-C & DVBS2), System for a smallish Android Box with XBMC as the Main OS installed. I expect this "Setup" will save me quite a few 100's over the coming Year. Not just on Cable Fees, but also on the 'leccy....

        1. JEDIDIAH
          Linux

          More of the ARM delusion.

          ARM devices simply don't have the horsepower either CPU or GPU to displace a real PC. At best you will be looking at some very severe compromises. You will just have to give up on doing some simple basic things that would be trivial with a more powerful machine.

      4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Yet today, the PC is king

        No it is not, not anymore.

        The PC has lost its crown, and most analysts acknowledge that.

        It will not disappear, keyboard+mouse is still the best interface there is for actual work, but the heady days where the PC commanded all the attention is gone and will never come back.

        And, of course, you can connect a keyboard and mouse to something other than a PC anyway, so the PC is going to end up relegated to the back office/content creation role it was destined for.

        Tablets and phones are good enough for 95% of users anyway. As long as they can Like that kitty video, they're good.

        1. Michael Habel

          Re: Yet today, the PC is king

          Tablets and phones are good enough for 95% of users anyway. As long as they can Like that kitty video, they're good.

          Again sad.... But true. Though the Gaming PC may yet live on as the Steam Box... If Valve can somehow manage to tweak the price down by quite a bit. But the day of the ugly beige tower(s) are behind us now.

      5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        @Vector I agree that mobile devices will usurp conventional x86 PCs. Equally, I think plenty of people will need keyboards. And if the hardware is cheap and iff all your work is in the cloud then why bother with a laptop- or desktop-sized "dock" for your mobile phone? Why not just own another device?

        Although maybe there is a case for having docks in public spaces as a service (e.g. on the train?) so that your customers don't have to lug around laptops.

        As for tablets, I thought they a were solution looking for a problem - too big to be easily portable but not as useful as a PC. So when my Dad got my Mum one, I didn't think she'd use it. But she uses it as a portable TV, dragging it round the house watching TV wherever she is; she barely watches the main TV. But she she still uses her main PC for email.

      6. Stevie

        Bah!

        "No, although I know most of you refuse to believe it, the fact is that the future is phone, period."

        I hope so, because then maybe some money and R&D might be spent on making these devices fit machines for making a telephone call.

        I don't believe the future is in any of the devices mentioned here. The fact is that the phone is portable but unusable as a workstation due to the tiny viewing area. The tablet is a marginally useful workstation that is only portable if you carry around a bag in which to port it. The "Pocket/Useful Screen" dilemma will not be solved by anything currently available.

        I suspect the answer will lie in a several-generations-of-development-distant descendant of Googleglass coupled with freehand micro-gesture capture and voice-interaction. When the input area is anywhere someone isn't standing and the viewable area is a virtual heads-up illusion the dichotomy will not exist.

        And Azathoth help us all then. One sneeze and the fridge defrosts all your Chipwiches into inedible sludge while you are twenty miles away at work, your Netflix account closes itself and your cloudy music library is erased.

    2. Col_Panek

      For me and many others, it's a Windows laptop with a decent Linux installed.

      Now if we could just get rid of the extra step of wiping Windows, and have Linux factory-fresh...

  3. James 51

    I quite like the idea of a 10" tablet with a removable keyboard that can run a full sized operating system. Preferably *inx but Windows would do. A lot of the time though it feels like companies put products out because they think they have to but don't want to compromise another area were they make more money without realising they are probably going to lose the business anyway.

    1. Robert Ramsay

      Asus Transformer

      ...is what you're describing. runs Windows 8.1, comes with Office, has an SD slot for extra storage...

      I don't work for Asus, but I do like the machine a lot...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Asus Transformer

        I guess it's a Surface Pro, not an ASUS...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Environmentalism

    Was the sideswipe at environmentalism really necessary? Regardless of whether or not the comment is correct, it has nothing to do with fashion-following in the IT industry.

    On a slightly different note, this week I had to configure a laptop for someone that came with Windows 8. I had forgotten what a piled high repository of shit the UI is on that thing. When I eventually got 8.1 installed, I concluded (as I had faced in the past with ME and Vista) that Microsoft's problem is still too much money and too many empires. Too many empires means daft ideas get promoted by someone, too much money means that they get into production.

    1. keith_w

      Re: Environmentalism

      This morning I rebuilt a Surface Pro 1 from 8.0 pro to 8.1 with all patches & firmware updates and all our apps in under 3 hours - What's your problem?

      1. ColonelDare

        Re: Environmentalism

        I´ve never had the pleasure of doing anything with Windows 8, but I do think that three hours sounds a bit of a pain. Re-installing (or upgrading) my OS of choice takes maybe 20-30 minutes max.

        Thank you Linus et al, :-)

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    I would agree with the analysis.

    I've got a Nexus 7 which is basically used for a bit of browsing, keeping an eye on emails and Facebook when I can't be bothered with a laptop (oh and iPlayer when I'm in bed). As long as it continues to do all that reasonably well I shan't bother to replace it. If and when it does eventually die it'll probably be replaced with the same again as I see no point paying a premium price.

    By comparison I did upgrade the laptop to a Dell PowerBook recently and the phone gets upgraded at each contract renewal.

    1. PaulM 1

      No need to upgrade your hardware if you buy a Nexus 7

      I also have a (2013) Nexus 7. It is well supported by Google. I am already running Android 4.4.4, which not many other tablets or phones are running. I understand that my Nexus 7 will get all of the security updates that I need for the next 4 years or so. My Nexus 7 will run any current game well. I imagine that there will be games that my Nexus 7 will not run well within 2 years time but I will delay upgrading my Nexus 7 until it no longer supports the current version of Android.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: GlenP

      Your post was full of sense until the very end.

      and the phone gets upgraded at each contract renewal.

      Why are you tied into a contract? What is the upside compared to being able to move networks and take your number with you on say a 'buy your own phone and have a one month £10.00 (or thereabouts) rolling contract type deal?

      1. Daniel B.
        Boffin

        I remember those days

        ... when I could bring up my old handset and have it linked to a new contract. This would enable me to avoid the compulsory 12/18/24-month period and be able to terminate my contract with only a 30-day notice. It's been years, maybe a decade since that ability went away as "bring your own phone" is no longer an option. I know, I tried to do this back in 2007 with my PAYG phone.

        However, one thing I do know is that you might sign up for a 12, 18 or 24 month mandatory term contract ... but this is a minimum length. You can hold on to your contract after the mandatory term ends, and you'll be able to do the 30-day termination notice if you hold to it. This is why my carrier starts nagging me around my "expiration date" offering free handsets just to get me on a new contract. I also get a plus as I rack up more "client points" which make my next upgrade choice cheaper, and I get out a longer lifetime out of my current smartphone. My previous one (BlackBerry Bold 9700) lasted me 3 years, and would've probably lived longer had I not made the mistake of upgrading it to BBOS 6 (it couldn't handle that OS). I'm probably going to go down the upgrade path early this time round, but mostly because my current phone was obsoleted earlier than expected. I hope my next choice doesn't go down the same route...

        1. Mark #255
          Facepalm

          Re: I remember those days

          ... when I could bring up my old handset and have it linked to a new contract. [...] It's been years, maybe a decade since that ability went away as "bring your own phone" is no longer an option. I know, I tried to do this back in 2007 with my PAYG phone.

          Err, what? EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3 all do "SIM-only" deals, on either 30-day or 12-month contracts.

  6. Anonymous Coward 101

    "Do give it a few seconds to adjust to the presenter's whiny voice"

    Christ, you weren't wrong about the whiny voice. Did someone digitally alter his voice as a prank?

    1. Turtle

      Re: "Do give it a few seconds to adjust to the presenter's whiny voice"

      "Did someone digitally alter his voice as a prank?"

      No, it's a symptom of helium addiction.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Do give it a few seconds to adjust to the presenter's whiny voice"

        I had to pitch shift down to -4 on the sound settings to make it bearable, setting back to 0 just before the end was a bit of a shock!

  7. Chika

    Told ya!

    Why am I not surprised? I have a tablet, but I have more than one computer. OK, that's not a normal state of affairs for the average home user but the question has to be whether a tablet can replace a normal computer as a general purpose machine. I've said in the past that it can't, and here's why.

    A personal computer, regardless of the make or type or operating system, is designed as a general purpose beast. It doesn't do anything exceptionally but it does everything well enough to be usable for whatever is needed.

    A tablet is not a general purpose system. The lack of human interface devices (as they call keyboards and mice these days) means that it is hobbled to doing one particular job very well but not really being suited to general use unless you start adding things, in which case it ceases to be just a tablet.

    Of course, the biggest problem has little to do with PCs or tablets per se, but with a market that is obsessed with people buying more and more without considering things like market saturation, natural end of life of product and usage. If you have a market where everyone has a PC that is working well, then what is the liklihood of being able to sell a new PC to these people? Or a tablet? Or an operating system?

    1. BobChip
      Holmes

      Re: Told ya!

      Totally agree. Desktop PC with large (non-touch) screen for productive work, and I'm looking hard at a Chromebook for mobile use. Covers all my needs, plus I can easily upgrade / rebuild my PC whenever technological developments justify it.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Told ya!

      Um, Microsoft has been selling new OSes to people who already them for decades, so I fail to see your point.

      Selling a tablet to a household full of PCs works quite well. Madame will enjoy a less cumbersome machine on the sofa instead of sitting at a desk to consult her favourite shopping sites, Junior will enjoy surfing in his room instead of the living room and Julie will adore spending hours lying on her bed in private with Facebook instead of enduring Junior watching over her shoulders in said living room.

      Because 95% of users don't actually need a PC - it's just that until tablets came out, it was all they had.

      1. Chika

        Re: Told ya!

        95% of users don't need a PC? Where did you get that figure from?

        Read what I said again. I didn't just refer to PCs but to general purpose computers. In particular, the last paragraph sums the problem up. OK, I said that "...everyone has a PC..." but that could just as easily read "...everyone has a tablet..." "...everyone has a netbook..." "...everyone has a smart TV..." or whatever. The problem with the market still remains, whatever the system is.

  8. jonha
    Windows

    I 'm amazed you resisted the obvious Sinofsky Hybridisation IT.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My impression was that many (most?) tablets and even notebooks have batteries that can't be replaced by the user. This would seem to be built-in obsolescence that will limit a device's life to only a few years. I presumed that was the manufacturers' game plan for a self-renewing market.

    A friend bought a Windows 8.1 notebook like that. She declined the offer of a W7 laptop on the grounds that W7 will be not supported after about 2020 - and she wanted a device that would last beyond then. I will have to keep my mouth firmly closed when her notebook battery dies - presumably long before then.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    One app for all?

    Maybe for some trivial apps.

    But small phones, large phones & small tablets, large tablets, PCs (inc Notebooks) and "Smart" TVs or any of above driving a TV at 1m to 3m viewing distance need 6 flavours of GUI.

    Some applications simply are not suitable all classes of device, even if the underlying API and tools let you write one app for all Java (despite some short comings) can either use Programmer's skin or the native GUI / Skin of the target. I've certainly done some applications in Java that are write once and work on Gnome Linux, windows and a mad 320 x 240 PDA device running Debian on ARM.

    So are yet again MS jumping from one extreme to the other? Pre Zune & Metro you had the stupidity of Win95 style interface on WinCE. 320 x 240 devices.

    So SOMETIMES you can write one app for all platforms. Other times really best usability is a different application for each. Absolutely though the different platforms need different GUIs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One app for all?

      Biggest sin... MS never employed programmers like you. Not even Samsung and the like who build everything from Phones to TVs... as they'd save a lot in unifying the OS/software (no need to port software, use same chips in all devices etc).

      But then again, perhaps they want built in obsolescence?

    2. Vic

      Re: One app for all?

      Some applications simply are not suitable all classes of device, even if the underlying API and tools let you write one app for all

      I've written apps for multiple platforms in the past. My tool of preference is Glade.

      This separates the application from the UI, meaning that re-skinning an app for a different platform or different role is simply a matter of re-drawing the UI in the RAD tool. As the UI is defined as XML, you can even hand-edit it for simple changes.

      Qt does something similar, although my experience so far suggests that the "load the UI directly from XML" feature is less well-used than it is for Glade :-(

      Vic.

  11. John Robson Silver badge

    Post PC

    For most people (i.e. the non el-reg readership) I *still* think that a tablet outdoes a laptop, and a desktop.

    Simple to use, no moving the mouse to move an arrow on screen, decent battery and screen. Pair a keyboard, or for true "hunt-and-peck" users simply install an alphabetic or semi-alphabetic keyboard on screen.

    Email, web browsing, writing a book, all things that are easily achievable on a tablet. Video editing might want more grunt, but that's as niche as compiling large software packages.

    I've stopped with smartphones now. If/When I upgrade my Nexus7 (1st gen) I might get something with 3G capability, but my feature phone shares it's 3G connection by bluetooth, so it's hardly a deal breaker. My mobile operator will do me a data SIM for the same cost as the data bit of my existing contract, so that's not a change either way. I don't buy into the phone upgrade every 18 months lark either.

    I like the 7" device size - it just slips in a pocket nicely.

    Tablet + feature phone (so it actually makes calls and the battery lasts me all week) is an attractive combination. Add a bluetooth keyboard and I've suddenly got everything I need with me - miniHDMI out would be nice for a second (or replicated) screen

    1. Irongut

      Re: Post PC

      "Email, web browsing, writing a book, all things that are easily achievable on a tablet."

      I disagree. Reading email and web browsing sure. Writing a short email, ok. But, if I want to write a longer email, that maybe includes a few web links and/or attachments, then I will put down the tablet and pick up the mouse & keyboard.

      As for writing a book? You really expect people to write 80,000 - 120,000 words on a software keyboard? Pull the other one, its less excruciating.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Post PC

        My wife did it. Her second book was written on an iPad. She's not particularly technical, so the "just works" element is very attractive.

        No I don't expect you to use the soft keyboard, any more than I expect you to click on the onscreen keyboard on a PC. She used a BT keyboard, and with Apple selling some rather nice models it's an excellent combination. An "origami" case protects the keyboard in a bag and provides a convenient prop for the iPad (with case) in and orientation.

        Tablets are perfectly good devices, and deserve well chosen accessories, just as your PC does.

        Oh, and I don't expect a hunt and peck user to type a full manuscript, so an onscreen semi alphabetic keyboard puts the keys in an order they recognise.

        1. keithpeter Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Post PC

          "My wife did it. Her second book was written on an iPad."

          Excellent and I hope it sells well.

          I'm *assuming* that the opus was continuous prose? Dawkins wrote The Blind Watchmaker on his BBC B+ (albeit with that large clacky keyboard). Lest we forget journalists phoned in copy typed on a TRS-80 via accoustic coupler over Strowger switched phone lines from various Front Lines a few decades ago. Joyce, Auster and Powell weaved their narratives on typewriters (similar ergonomics to a laptop or tablet/keyboard/stand).

          I suspect the future will include workstations and laptops for those of us who need to include significant graphical content with our writing and for those who need to edit and convert multimedia content or corral and brand data. These might well be niche products, one hopes with lifetimes measured in decades.

          Icon: Trench coat of course. Shorthand pad in one pocket and Talkman in the other.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Post PC

            Reasonable assumption, it was mostly prose - although as is pointed out in the article/linked review with Wacom inputs for a tablet they're moving rather well into the graphical space as well. I've not used a tablet-ised Photoshop, then again I rarely use more than the most basic of features in the GIMP either, so I'm relying on reviews rather heavily here.

            I believe I made specific mention that video editing was an exception - but that's more to do with sheer computational grunt than anything else. Yes the lifetime of workstations and "mobile workstations" will be measured in decades, if not more (unless pulling in remote CPU becomes feasible - and that feels a long way off, and running secondary++ monitors becomes the norm). Of course the Surface tries to accommodate this by being a full bown OS and docking in to a monitor at your home/office - so a high powered tablet of that kind could replace them. You might even be able to dock onto more CPU???

            What's the difference between an iPad running Pages and a mac running Pages?

            The OSX version has a few more formatting features to choose from, but it's the same(ish) keyboard into basically the same software. The iPad has a smaller* screen, but doesn't have lumps taken up with menu bars and docks etc. it's still perfectly capable of holding a decent amount of content on screen in a visible fashion.

            *Although not that much smaller than the portable end of the laptop/notebook range.

            Frankly I think the point is that peripherals are king (assuming that software exists to do what you want).

            The advantage a tablet has therefore, is that most of the time you don't need the peripherals at all, but they can be there when you want them - and for *most* people (i.e. non el-reg readership) that's a fairly rare event.

            1. Gray
              Angel

              Re: Post PC

              What's the difference between an iPad running Pages and a mac running Pages?

              About the same difference as watching the World Championships (name yer favorite field sport here) through a knothole in the fence, or having a mid-field seat along the sidelines. It's a question of screen space and work area.

              Put another way, the difference is like trying to build a boat with a Swiss Army knife, as opposed to having a shed full of dedicated tools.

        2. JEDIDIAH
          Devil

          Re: Post PC

          > No I don't expect you to use the soft keyboard, any more than I expect you to click on the onscreen keyboard on a PC.

          Then you simply distorted the tablet until it was something else entirely... a quasi-PC with parts from the last decade (or the one before that) and less choices about available software and less ability to directly control the system.

          You're describing a very dedicated attempt to slam a square peg into a round hole regardless of whether it makes an sense or not.

      2. Denarius Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Post PC

        @IronGut.. Have an upvote. Also doing decent passwords is a sod of job on tablets. Since most tablets I have fondled have a shiny slippery case they are too easy to drop. Ironically, I prefer a netbook and tethered phone for light travel because it is easy to use. Have to move it to a decent light linux soon though. Failing that a laptop that is structurally thick enough to not snap at first drop.

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Post Post PC

      The tablet world is the same as the PC world. We've all got one. We don't need two.

      It didn't take long to saturate the market, but they have. Bye Bye explosive growth.

      1. Chika

        Re: Post Post PC

        And therein lies the point.

  12. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    "Microsoft put Steve Sinofsky in charge..."

    Can the Microsoft decision to strategically halt their own direct sales of Windows 7 'FPP' (full retail, as opposed to OEM) be traced back to this hind leg balancing, mutant reptilian brain stemmed, decision-making-disaster-area? What a moron. I'd love to meet him someday...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In defense of Casio...

    I inherited 2 wristwatches from my father. One is a Rolex, the other is a stainless steel digital Casio.

    Guess which one he would let me have before he dies. That casio is the grandpa of nigh-indestructible Nokias 600x phones we hear around. I've crushed it on the car door...(with my wrist inside) and it didn't even scratch. They are only going bankrupt because their stuff is built to last 50 years. Which is another reason to buy their gear.

    I bought another Casio for myself just before inheriting this one... and the one I bought is just two notches short of Wonder Woman bracelet's sturdiness. I bet I will be able to add it to the family heirloom as well.

    I guess I won't be able to do that with any smartphone or tablet, but I wouldn't upgrade if I had all my usage fulfilled on the ones I have now either.

    1. Number6

      Re: In defense of Casio...

      I have a Casio watch that's now over 30 years old. It's an LCD watch in a plastic case and it still works provided I replace the battery occasionally. It's been retired in favour of a Pebble, but then the Pebble was a gift so it still goes down as the last watch I ever bought. It wasn't that expensive, either.

  14. Mark Jan

    The Reviewer is Great

    I really like the reviewer Linus, and have watched a number of his vids.

    He knows his stuff, talks sense and appears to be completely unbiased with regards to product recommendation. Only this week I bought the new LG 34UM95 34" IPS UltraWide QHD Monitor - his review swung it for me.

    1. jason 7
      Meh

      Re: The Reviewer is Great

      Dunno why he didn't move the Taskbar to the left or right hand side if the keyboard got in the way. I always move the Taskbar to the side on widescreens as it gives me more vertical screen depth.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: The Reviewer is Great

        >> I always move the Taskbar to the side on widescreens

        Me too - you can also make it fairly wide without losing usable space, meaning that you can actually see enough of the window titles to know what each taskbar button is. Useful if you have more than 1 window of the same type (RDP, MS-Word, etc) open.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Reviewer is Great

        That and you can run some software in a smaller screen res, and with boarders/taskbars etc usually end up getting the full software GUI and full OS gui all visible without having to swap full screen between them.

  15. chivo243 Silver badge
    Meh

    Take one and call me in the morning?

    I have an employer supplied iPad, it's been replaced by a newer model once. The thing primarily sits on my book shelve next to the bed. I might use it once a week to check work e-mail if I am already in bed and don't feel like heading back to my office to use a proper computer.

    Maybe if I had never used an external keyboard and mouse, I would pick up the usage faster, however, I've been using them for some time, and old habits die hard.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a PC (6 core 32GB beast for rendering), a 10" Android tablet, a 10" Windows 8.1 laptop and a 5.5" Android phone.

    I use all of them at different times, none can replace all the functionality of any of the others and will continue to upgrade/replace them as required.

    There's some cross-over between them but they each perform a different purpose.

    I also have an oven, a hob, a grill, a microwave and a toaster. Again, lots of cross-over between them but wouldn't be without any of them, each has its own advantages and best use case...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But everyone wants you to buy 7 of each to keep their profit margins afloat...

  17. NogginTheNog
    Meh

    The real things

    The R&D spending on what’s in the bottle is minimal, but huge expenditures are required to maintain the brand.

    Exactly this business model has served Coke and Pepsi very very well for many years.

  18. itzman

    What manner of beasts are these?

    Frankly apart from reading in bed All I uses is a desktop machine that doesn't run Windows more than once or twice a month.

    I dont want or need a slab, laptop smart phone or whatever. Friends come and show me all the wonderful things they can do. None of them are things I actually want to do.

    Consumer hardware is reaching its limits ; I guess thats what the 'internet of things' is being invented. To sell more chips.

    I cant get through to the inlaws. They have DECT phones and they are never where they left the handsets.

    Visiting is a nightmare. The lights have no switches but hand held thingummies that are again left in random places.

    My wonderful DSLR has replaced one focussing ring and a split screen focussing aid with three controls with a total of 54 different possible 'automatic' focus options.

    Is this progress?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Growth

    Can some economist type tell me why growth is the panacea for success?

    I've never been able to quite grasp this concept. If you're selling a ton of stuff and making a decent profit, then what's there to complain about? As any fule kno, growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. It's impossible, yet market bods consistently tell us that if you do not have growth, you're in the shit. I don't get it.

    Now, if your market is shrinking, that's surely cause for alarm.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Growth

      If you're selling a ton of stuff and making a decent profit, then what's there to complain about?

      Cost of capital.

      Investors want to realize a certain profit on their investments. They have an idea of what's a "reasonable" profit based on what the market is broadly returning. If they're going to buy equity (stock) or debt (bonds) issued by your company, then that has to pay off at around that "reasonable" level, or they'll take that money elsewhere.

      With stock, that means either investors have to believe the stock price will rise at that rate, or they have to get money back via dividends or stock buy-backs, or some combination of the two.

      The only way to keep the stock price going up, or to service that debt, is to grow. Your firm could stay the same size and issue dividends out of profits - become a blue-chip, in effect - but the lack of growth makes your stock less attractive to investors looking for big returns, which drives your stock price down, which means you have to issue bigger dividends (and pay more to borrow, etc).

      You could have an enterprise that doesn't issue equity or debt, of course. Then you're giving up on the leverage available from the financial markets, which means you're giving up a competitive advantage. There are privately-held companies that don't emphasize growth and are successful for relatively long terms, but they're the exception.

      Capitalism naturally favors growing enterprises over those that don't grow. It's endemic in the use of markets to allocate financial resources.That doesn't mean it's good (unless you subscribe to market religion); it's just how things are.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Growth

      Digression

      As any fule kno, growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. It's impossible, yet market bods consistently tell us that if you do not have growth, you're in the shit. I don't get it.

      Growth of the money supply can be sustained indefinitely(*). It's called inflation. And a steady-state economy would therefore "grow" forever at the same rate as inflation. Once every few generations there would be a "new" currency with a few superfluous zeros deleted.

      And so any company that grew 0% last year, in fact shrank by minus RPI% in real terms.

      The ups and downs of an economy are actually the working out of things which grew faster than inflation, and things that grew slower, and the fact that there are different rates of inflation for different sorts of goods and services.

      Small rates of inflation, up to 6% or so, serve a useful purpose. They "tax" unproductive money that is saved under the mattress, in bank vaults, etc. This prevents the mediaeval deflationary catastrophe where all the gold had migrated into rich men's treasuries, all the silver had migrated into merchant's treasure-chests, and the majority of the population were wage-slaves (serfs) who were lucky to see more than a few copper coins in a year. The only way to get such an economy moving was a large-scale war (pillage, ransom) or the black death (dead outnumbering the living, inheritances, labour shortages). Eventually, the Spanish pillaged lots of gold from the Americas and history shows how the (surprising?) result was to doom their own country, while exporting useful amounts of inflation to the rest of Europe for long enough for modern economics to get established.

      Do economists understand that the first thing they should do, is take the logarithm of every sum of money they are researching? I fear most of them don't.

      (*) hyperinflation excepted. That's the opposite death spiral to deflation. Left spiral or Right spiral, both end up as a smoking heap on the ground with scavengers crawling over it if the pilots can't break out of the spiral.

  20. Charles Manning

    Good enough is good enough

    The computer biz seems to still have their thinking stuck around 10 years ago.

    Remember then? Laptops and desktops were changing at a hell of a rate. I was buying myself a new laptop every 18 months for my consulting gig because the old one started to look tired and the new ones were way faster, had more RAM etc, and could compile code much faster.

    However in the last 3 years I have not been motivated to get a new one. Why? There's not sufficient improvement to make a difference. I'll only buy another one when my laptop dies.

    Result: My laptop consumption has gone from 0.66 per year to 0.2.

    The same happened to smart phones. Going from, say, iphone1 to 2 was a major boost. From 4 to 5... not so much.

    Tablets came along at a time when the rate of change of utility of chipset capabilities, batteries, screens etc has flattened off.

    Pretty much everyone who wants a tablet has already bought one. Tablets have a reasonable lifetime, partly because they are too big to carry about and are thus spared the rough and tumble of phones..

    That means that, for the most part, the market is saturated. No wonder the market is tanking.

  21. Ed Mozley

    I have tried...

    ...to use a windows 10" tablet with docking station when at home in desktop mode when at home and windows metro when out and about but windows 8 has so many shortcomings everything is a struggle. The idea in principle I think is sound but the execution is awful.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surface Pro 3

    I just received a work-issued Surface Pro 3, and I quite like it. It's significantly lighter than my laptop while being just as powerful, the display is very nice, the folding keyboard is finally usable, it has loads of space, the battery lasts much longer than my laptop's, etc. I've been able to completely replace my regular laptop, which was already a PC replacement at my work desk, and now I have greater portability to boot. There are, in my book, two things to dislike about the Surface Pro 3:

    1) The price. If work weren't paying for it, there's no way I would have one.

    2) Windows 8.1 is actually a pretty good desktop OS, but it is, ironically, crap as a tablet OS. A tablet has two virtues, portability and simplicity. The Surface Pro 3 satisfies the first criterion, but Windows 8 is just not as responsive as iOS or even Android. The soft keyboard, for example, will come up, and instead of resizing the window to fit the new screen size, Windows allows the keyboard to obscure the screen content. Hitting the "close keyboard" button does not actually close the keyboard, either; it presents instead a menu containing four incomprehensible icons and one useful function: Close Keyboard. The TIFKAM Start screen remains cumbersome garbage, but it's less cumbersome when using a keyboard and mouse than when trying to navigate with touch. Those are just a couple of examples; if I could be arsed, I could post a whole laundry list of irritants.

    Basically, it's a nice device, hobbled by price and a cumbersome UI.

  23. romkyns

    However, Win8 is pretty good on a touch laptop

    Agreed; I prefer laptop + 4.5" smartphone and don't feel the need for something inbetween.

    However, having recently migrated to a Yoga 2 Pro, which is a 13" laptop with an amazing touchscreen, I have to say: Win8 works brilliantly on it, and this experience managed to make me stop hating Win8 quite so much. I still won't upgrade my desktop to it until the desktop experience is improved, but on the laptop the trade-offs feel totally justified and bring actual benefits.

    It's hard to express to someone who hasn't tried it, but lots of things become easier on Win8 when actually combined with a good touchscreen, plus you still have that full, proper, desktop-based laptop behind it when you need it (which is almost all the time).

    1. Wardy01

      Re: However, Win8 is pretty good on a touch laptop

      My other half loves her Surface Pro.

      She's not exactly a high power user or anything mostly facebook and such but there are a few apps that she needs that require a desktop OS.

      Windows 8 is perfect for that, I guess it's like any platform though, you either embrace it as a whole or don't really get on board properly and will never see the benefits.

  24. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Don't want

    The only time I'd even think about a tablet would be if I could get one that I could easily install Linux on (and no, that doesn't mean andriod). But even then, after thinking about for a moment or two, I still wouldn't get one - I simply have no use for it.

    All the major producers are on the same treadmill. They are making more and more devices with less and less real-world improvement.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In using tablets, like some others ultimately I've found that I only naturally use them to read books and documentation, or watch netflix - mainly because when I fall asleep using it I know I'm not going to roll over and break the hinge. This is still far from the most severe handling imaginable for any device and, as I'm not invested in selling tablets, I'm ok with this.

    Even for my uses (and I've tried a couple others), they could leave the home - but usually don't. The reason being I only, and inevitably see tablets (whatever flavour) through a prism encompassing their limitations, evaluated against my already learned computer use and requirements - what's especially true and relevant to MS being the ARM Windows RT - through restriction _exclusively_* to the windows app store, meant at release throwing any incumbent UI or software advantage away, even for nerds - who are the most adaptable - but least likely to accept limited TIFKAM analogs. And as all such apps had to be new they're inevitably limited. No matter how good the developer, version 1 always sucks.

    That was never an amazing sales pitch to any part of the market, just an opportunity to gain some leverage simply wasted, in the search for the golden goose of (of course) a 30% App store cut on every software purchase.

    It certainly won't apply to everyone (some are in fact perfectly fine with typing on a BT keyboard within a crappy, laggy cloud app - if you're happy, I'm happy for you) but to me, the persistent irritation that I can't run putty, chrome, firefox, - pidgin, cygwin, irssi - or basically (to within a rounding error) - any program ever - and thus to not actually be able to use it like a small laptop is the ultimate problem, and to some extent it applies to each platform, no matter how determined you are - at least without cheating with rdesktop, which sure, might be a fine use-case for specific scenarios, but probably not one involving "being outside" or for that matter, "upgrades".

    The Surface Pro (x86) of course /can/ be used a small laptop, but (crucially) not at the tablet price point. I've had, and sold a Surface and if actually undecided, I still find the form factor dubious. I'd rather have an ultrabook - which with the same 4th gen haswell cores has as long (longer, if we're counting) a battery life as the Surface Pro 3. So that's what I have.

    In mobile terms - I settled on use of phablet (on which I could netflix, or read books as well, if I were to want to that badly, while not wanting to kill myself when using the onscreen keyboard) - as the best compromise in that it has the advantage of being both mobile, and not needing /another/ pocket or separate bag - because a tablet won't support full-fat computing and a laptop at least might. So if I want to do any real work I probably still have to take the laptop no matter what. And if I do that, then taking a tablet as well is kind of redundant.

    The greatest missed opportunity so far - noone made a serious tablet UI in the LCARS style. The future will not be forgiven until this is changed.

    * in fact 8.0 release of WinRT was jailbroken - numbers of windows 8 ARM apps were compiled for it, even a x86 translator. I didn't keep up but 8.1 jailbreak took a "while" or never - disappointing. If it wouldn't have made RT a success, it'd have had a niche.

  26. Trooper_ID

    tablets? OS ?

    At the office I use Dell PC’s all day running Win7 and mostly MS Office apps. I turn the PC on, then go and make a coffee, and the damn thing is still booting up by the time I get back. Yes, I know it has a load of corporate stuff on it that it has to go through, but still it is around 8 minutes before I can work, and then, it just does the job I need it to do. At home I have Apple stuff, and again I run MS Office. The various Apple bits are all up and running in around a minutes or less, and it is fine apart from the fact I don’t get time to make a coffee. I use iMovie a lot for personal stuff, but what I did buy and never use is an iPad. I just cannot get used to typing without a keyboard. For portable quick stuff at home I much prefer the MBA, for a bigger screen I use the MBP and if I need some serious screenage I use my oldish iMac27 (2009 vintage I think).

    I think the point I am trying to make is that there is no easy one fit solution for us non techie people. In the commercial and personal world it is usually a PC running Windows, and that seems [eventually] to work and meet the needs. For a lot of people there is the ‘it just works’ Apple world again with a keyboard/mouse , and for many others there is the lure of the tablet with a single inter/outer face of a screen. Many like that, many use it for video, email etc, but at the end of the day, it cannot replace a decent specced machine with keyboard and mouse if you need to do some serious ‘putting.

    I tend to buy a new computer device about every 12 months, and I just realised that I actually still use them all all - except my iPad, but then my SO uses only her iPad, and her windows laptop lies battery expired in a cupboard, she leaves any serious ‘putting to me. There are however, still the occasional essential programmes that will only run on Windows, (MS Project, Visio, Dressage Designer etc) and I really can’t be arsed to run a virtual Windows, so I might just buy a something that runs windows for home use. But it won’t be windows 8 or 8.1. I suppose I could dig out the dead XP laptop from the cupboard, but, it is XP, and it is sooooooo slow.

    It is never simple is it?

    1. Phil_Evans
      Linux

      Re: tablets? OS ?

      I'm reading the article and the comments with some interest. It seems after several iterations of the world's annual GDP figures (over the lifetime of the 'tab-pc-phone'), there is no definitive solution other than to own 3 devices. PC for serious 'work', tablet for sofa-surfing and smartphone for boredom.

      No pitch here but about a year ago Ubunut tried to crowd-fund something that just might have done it. The post-fail on this was they 'might' fly with the idea anyway. It was a neat idea without any proponents (except of course, Canonical). I think they got scared of the idea of committing to what I thought was a cool idea.

      ...and that was to have a tablet-like thing that you took pretty much anywhere and that hooked up to Monitors and keyboards, work networks and home likewise. A huge conflict of interests for most manufacturers of course looking to protect format revenue streams but a great idea nonetheless.

      And there lies the problem I think. The pushers know most have us have at least 2 form-factors, possibly 3. Why upset the applecart if the money keeps getting spent on things that are (mostly) useful? Of course, Microsoft's particular space-time continuum demanded that the surface was the answer but everyone knows that's shite.

      Eventually I think that somethingslab will win, probably a common TV interface or standard at home and more trad computing networks at work with a device that will span them both.

      I have no idea what I'm talking about.

      1. Wardy01

        Re: tablets? OS ?

        Phil_Evans ... wtf you on about ... you basically just contradicted yourself ...

        "I love the idea of a device that fits more than 1 of the 3 basic types we have today ..." which you then basically followed up with "... the only device on the market that fulfills that requirement is shite."

        Either you want it or you don't?

  27. briesmith

    Weight and See

    Reduce weight and see what happens.

    Tablets are still too heavy. I have a Nexus 7 and that's OK but it's too small. My Acer Iconia is fine screen wise but too heavy to hold for more than a moment or two.

    I'd like a tablet with Acer Iconia specs (or better) that weighs no more (and preferably less) than the Nexus 7.

    Please.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I found phablets the most stupid devices ever...

    Too large and uncomfortable as phones, too small and uncomfortable as tablet/laptop replacements. A phone - smart or not, needs to be carried in a pocket easily, I found anything above 4" really uncomfortable. I use a phone for quick tasks and communication, I'm not interested to watch movies or use it for long time tasks - I prefer other devices then.

    Phablets reminds me of the big "shoulder" radios/player people carried around thirty years ago.

    Tablets can be a laptop replacement. I replaced my laptop with a Surface 2 Pro - without a keyboard it's great for tasks such as reading on quick checks of mail or surfing, or watching movies - I would never watchs something on less than 10" - it's not watching, it's barely "seeing", otherwise.

    With the keyboard, it works as a laptop - just lighter, and can run the same applications I run on the laptop. And with the proper software, when not on the move, it can also replace the phone.

  29. John 104

    Why they failed

    It is simple. They tried to shoe horn a desktop experience into a tablet. FAIL. What they should have done was just what Apple and Android slab makers did: Put the phone OS on a tablet for casual use and call it good. This is what we do with them; things we do on our phones, but with a bigger screen so we don't have to squint. That's it. It might not have made them gobs of money, but they already had the OS built and it would have brought some better brand association to their game. So sad that the high paid executives at MS (and others at times) are too stupid to look at what people DO with their tablets vs what they WANT people to do. Idiots.

  30. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Tablet sales

    I'm interested to see total tablet sales. Fondleslabs and sales of expensive tablet sales are dropping? No kidding. I can get a quad-core Android tablet at a local store for $50 (I knew they were possible to find tablets that cheap by special ordering from China but I didn't expect to find them locally). Other stores locally have them marked up to more like $80 or $90. I'm sure people are thinking twice about spending $150+ (up to $500+) on a tablet when they can get a nicely spec'ed one under $100.

  31. Martin Maloney

    How low can you go?

    Right now, Newegg is selling dual-core Irulu 7" Android tablets for forty bux. Six months from now, they will be quad-core at the same price point.

    In short, tablets are now a commodity, and Microsoft and other major manufacturers can't complete in that market.

  32. Wardy01

    What is it that you guys realistically expect?

    I see a lot of people saying "give me a device that is a tablet and a pc" but then you follow up with "charge me fora cheap tablet" ... you can't have it all, how else will the hardware that drives your requirement be paid for?

    To my mind, looking at prices today, the latest iPhone that no one seems to think there's anything wrong with fits this problem exactly ... it's in the Surface Pro range for pricing but is little more than a fat phone with tablet functionality on it.

    My thought being, if you want serious computing buy a serious device and pay a serious price, if you want to "sofa surf" why are you moaning that £1,000 serious tablet isn't giving you what you want?

    With the Surface Pro 3 I can do everything a normal office based pc would typically be asked to do excluding hardcore workstation type tasks and all in a package no bigger than a standard tablet device. That power combined with that portability comes at a price!

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