Posey's Tips & Tricks
The Tablet Transition
While the tablet won't be replacing the laptop anytime soon, tablets continue to improve their usability.
For about the last year or so, I keep hearing industry analysts say that laptops are dinosaurs and that tablets are the way of the future. I have to admit that this proclamation has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I travel almost constantly, and depend heavily on my laptop. I just can't imagine being able to trade it in for a tablet without sacrificing functionality in the process. Even so, I have always tried to be open minded about new technology and I wanted to put a tablet to the test on the road just to see if perhaps there might be more to the tablet craze than I initially expected.
Given the nature of what I do for a living, leaving my laptop at home and taking my chances with a tablet just wasn't an option for business travel. However, I also travel extensively for personal reasons. Even though it's only February, I have already visited nine foreign countries so far this year. Normally when I do personal travel I don't bring a laptop with me. I like to be able to spend quality time with my wife without the distraction of e-mails, writing deadlines or any of the other stuff that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, I decided to bring a Windows tablet with me on my last few personal trips just so that I could see what it was like depend on a tablet, but without the risk of being without my laptop on a business trip.
One rather unexpected -- but pleasant surprise occurred when I took my tablet through airport security. Normally, the TSA requires you to take your laptop out of its bag and place it in a bin prior to going through the X-Ray. Since there were no signs in the airport regarding taking tablets out of your bag, I decided to try going through security with my tablet still in my bag. When I did, one of the TSA agents stopped me and asked me if I had a laptop in my bag. I told him that I didn't have a laptop, but I did have a tablet. He seemed fine with that, and sent me on my way. That seemed ironic because the tablet runs Windows 7, and is for all practical purposes a laptop without a keyboard.
As I used my tablet throughout my various trips, I was impressed by some aspects of the experience. For one thing, the battery seemed to last forever. I think that part of the reason for this has to do with the fact that it doesn't have a hard drive, but rather uses solid state storage instead.
I also noticed that the tablet didn't get nearly as hot as my laptop does. The tablet does have a small cooling fan, but the fan almost never turned on. The fact that the tablet is so lightweight also meant that it didn't put my legs to sleep the way that my big, beefy laptop does.
While I have to admit that I enjoyed watching home videos from my travels on the tablet (via my camera's SD card) and using the tablet to play a few games before bed at night, the device seemed better suited to entertainment than to productivity (at least for what I do anyway).
Even though I am not normally in the habit of checking e-mail or writing articles when I am traveling with my wife, I tried both just to see how it would go with the tablet. I found that the tablet's on-screen keyboard really slowed me down. The tablet did come with a docking station that features an integrated keyboard, and it also offers the option of using a USB keyboard, but if I had a lot of typing to do then I would rather use my laptop than lug along a tablet and a keyboard.
One other thing that kind of bothered me was the tablet's lack of a DVD drive (although it could technically accommodate a USB based drive). A couple of weeks ago, I did some extreme caving in Belize. One of my fellow travelers took some pictures and burned them onto a DVD for me. As much as I wanted to check out the pictures, I had to wait until I got home because I didn't have a way of reading the DVD's contents.
After using a tablet on the road for the last couple of months, I have to say that the idea that laptops are dead seems shortsighted. While I can see tablets being an ideal device for casual travelers, I felt very handicapped by the device every time that I tried to do anything resembling work. Even so, I think that this will get better after Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 15 are released since both are supposed to be optimized for use on touch screen devices.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.