There are a lot of devices not the market being branded as tablets and Ultrabooks, when in reality they are anything but. It's maddening to me, as I love both of those form factors, and they seem to get diluted with each new marketing strategy. This is how I define those two form factors:
- Hand held mobile device weighing 1-2 lb. at most.
- 4:3 screen ratio, designed to be held in portrait (like digital paper), but works equally well in landscape. Android is something of an exception in this regard. Because it was designed to be viewed on a phone, it looks okay (depending on device) with a 16:10 ratio, even when held in portrait.
- Touch screen interface with no others required to access all features.
- Mobile operating system designed for tablet form factor, no mouse pointers or UI that would imply input other than touch. My preference is that the OS is as good at allowing the user to create media, as it is for consuming it. Productivity with equal parts fun.
- 10+ hours of battery life. Anything less doesn't match up with my usual work day.
Everything else is some sort of media consumption device, hybrid, or glorified e-reader.
As exciting as Microsoft's Surface device might be, it is not a tablet device. It's a somewhat baffling personal computer with a touch screen. I know Microsoft and everyone else is going to market the device otherwise, and it just doesn't sit right with me. Windows 8 RT running on the right hardware, might qualify as a tablet device, but I haven't held such a thing in my hand yet.
I hope the Surface is just a step in the right direction to a true Windows-based tablet device.
- Clamshell design mobile computing device weighing 2-3 lb. at most.
- 16:9 (or similar) screen ratio, to be viewed in landscape.
- Keyboard, Trackpad interface with no need to carry external mouse.
- Desktop operating system.
- Solid state drive storage.
(...although I am starting to see the merit of hybrid drives provided they don't add bulk to the device.)
- No optical drive.
- 7+ hours of battery life.
Everything else is some kind of personal computer.
There are a number of devices that will probably break my rules, succeed, and find consumers that crave their line-blurring form factors. The industry will probably call them tablets or Ultrabooks for the sake of marketing, but it still feels wrong. These unique form factors deserve names of their own.
It sounds like I'm just describing the iPad and the MacBook Air in my quantifications above. It's probably because those two devices have defined their respective form factors like no other. They are pretty much the standard against which all others are measured by tech sites, comment section trolls, and myself.
The year is half over and I haven't seen anything that comes close to making me want to relinquish my 2010 MBA or iPad (except the newer iPad). Windows 8 RT gives me hope that there might be a Windows Product worth buying again in the Ultrabook category, but no one is making a tablet worth buying right now. Props to Google for their Nexus 7 media consumption device, it looks really good.
I can't even look at the comments section of any tech website without marveling at the number of people pointing out how similar laptops, tablets, and similar are to Apple products... whether they are or not. Everyone from car makers to PC manufacturers has been copying each other since the inception of their respective industries. It is a practice that sits at the core of all human innovation, natural as breathing. Why this is so surprising to people or that they feel the need to point it out all the time is mysterious to me.
There are certain design truths whether you are crafting a commercial aircraft or a double decker ice cream cone. As the mobile computing industry settles on these truths they will come to resemble each other more and more over time as standards of creation are quietly adopted. It's just another sign that we are becoming a global community with a greater awareness of one another.