The rise of tablets

Portable computers are everywhere. However I suspect that machines as we know them today will change as the price of touch screens decreases and they converge with other devices. Today, the iPad or the galaxy tab are novelties reserved to an elite; however, I expect  tablets to become the standard as the decade unveils.  Ironically, the mouse and the keyboard as we know them are about to become obsolete thanks to an object that everyone thought dead, the drawing board.... except it has now gone digital.

Because most people do not know how to touch type, tactile surfaces provide a more natural input that is closer to their experience writing on a piece of paper. Handwriting recognition will have to improve but it is already good enough to recognize most people's handwriting without training. Eventually most errors in recognition will be a thing of the past. Taking notes in class or in a meeting will be as simple as writing on a piece of paper; when needed, additional features such as color coding, spell check or even possibility for search & cross referencing with reference material will increase productivity.

One of the major problems with tablets is to be really usable, they have to provide a big typing surface... yet, this type of surface is too big to carry; or, in the case of tactile phones, they are easier to carry but are too small for any heavy writing/reading use. Because many prototypes of foldable and thinner screens exist, it is not  hard to imagine a foldable tablet that would be pocket size and work as a phone, yet unfolds to larger A4 like size yet rigid when needed.

Even the most enthusiast keyboards fanatics will be eventually converted. Prototypes of keyboards that are themselves touchscreens already and most tablets/smartphones already provide an onscreen keyboard. It is easy to see how the capability to show the exact key about to be pressed is very useful. The advantages can be even more drastic if keyboard can be reordered at will by the user, adding custom symbols or even organized differently depending on the program running. This flexibility could even go further to provide contextual typing surfaces with gui elements such as sliders and preview of changes and greatly increase ease of use of programs.

Using a tablet as an input method is one thing, however one must not underestimate the advantages it brings to the display. Indeed, so far, people have resisted the widespread adoption of e-books because paper books provide a more natural way to read. However, as quality of displays increase, width decreased and as tablets become more common, people will transition to digital books. Tables are as easy to carry, page turning is very intuitive and books are available anywhere in the world anytime. No need to wait for books to come out at your local bookstore, there will always be copies for everyone. Obviously multimedia content will make understanding the material easier and more attractive. As for updating books, if content becomes obsolete (such as a new country being created), it will be automatic.