Is a tablet worthless for real work?

A colleague of mine asked whether it would make sense for him to buy a tablet instead of a new laptop, as his previous one had pretty much given up the ghost, and possibly to save some money in the process.

After a few seconds of thinking I concluded a tablet is actually quite useless for day-to-day office work, and that goes for the iPad too (if you wondered).

A few reasons a laptop tops (no pun intended) a tablet:

  • Runs Windows, Mac OS or full UI Linux. That’s more important than many seem to understand, as that enables the next benefit:
  • Runs the applications you need in your work. You don’t need Angry Birds at work, you need Office, a fast full-screen Web browser, corporate apps, sales tools etc. Sure, a lot of stuff can be accessed via a browser nowadays, but you still need:
  • Everything integrated in one unit: screen, keyboard, cursor tracking, lots of USB ports, lots of primary and secondary storage etc.
  • You absolutely need a physical keyboard for serious work. Punching in letters on a touch screen is only for masochists and gadget freaks.
  • If you add all the stuff you need for work to a tablet you easily reach the price of a laptop for less usability.

There are many arguments and uses for tablets, beyond what we usually consider for personal computers, but tablets mostly fall short for real, serious, professional day-to-day work, whether you are in sales, marketing, development, maintenance or whatever.

And if you need a fully mobile device you very likely already have an iPhone or an Android phone. Both a laptop and a tablet you need to carry in a bag. Don’t fool yourself thinking otherwise.

I’ve seen people with a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. That’s just wrong. I also see people doing presentations on a tablet, maybe to seem hip, considering they probably used a laptop for creating the presentation.

Getting a desktop PC, even for home use, makes less and less sense. The only reason I can think of is if you do a lot of gaming.

Of course it makes sense to have a larger screen and better input gadgets at the office, but that’s only like $100-200 extra and you suddenly have a true workstation, considering how powerful laptops are nowadays.

A tablet might make sense if you otherwise consider a netbook for casual use on trips or at home, but also a netbook is arguable for real work due to its small screen and keyboard and often too low resolution.

I don’t mean to sound backwards, but reality has a tendency to state what works where, and hip factor and early adopters fade away sooner or later.

Do you agree?