A FRIEND of mine has had a tablet computer for quite some time and I must admit I find them quite appealing, despite not being a gadget kind of guy.
Their ability to connect with the internet and download books and other documents in an instant is something that could change the publishing world at the very least.
Instead of karting around a laptop or waiting to get home before logging on, I could sit in my favourite coffee shop and surf the web, answer emails and catch up on some reading.
I haven’t yet taken the plunge and blown the cobwebs off my wallet but according to research carried out in the States, tablet computers are increasingly seen as taking the place of laptops, despite doubts about their current usefulness in business environments.
For those who don’t know, tablets are mobile computers, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, that use a flat touch screen.
ChangeWave Research, which tracks corporate purchasing, has found business use of tablets like the market leading iPad has risen for functions including internet access, checking email and working away from the office.
There’s also been increased use of the tablets for sales support and customer presentations.
As information is increasingly stored in the all-encompassing ‘cloud’, it is possible that tablets could be used to access customer information.
But the biggest percentage jump in use of tablets recorded lies in the number of businesses that are using them to replace laptops.
While tablet computers have a number of advantages, they also have potential downsides.
Tablets are more flexible in that they can be used standing up or even lying in bed, useful perhaps for the last-minute or first-thing checking of emails.
The fact that they use touch makes them arguably easier to navigate than a keyboard and mouse.
For designers, digital painting and image editing are more precise and intuitive than painting or sketching with a mouse.
Some users find it more direct and pleasant to use a stylus or a finger than to point and tap on objects.
Disadvantages of tablets currently include the significantly higher price, although the way that markets work this could be a just a temporary disadvantage.
Handwriting or typing on a virtual keyboard can be significantly slower than typing on a conventional keyboard, although some devices can support external keyboards.
From an ergonomic point of view a tablet does not have room for a wrist rest yet – the user needs to move his or her arm constantly while writing.
Before taking the plunge and buying tablets for business use, it is important to make sure they can do what will be required of them.
Market watchers seem split as to whether tablets have a killer application.
Some say there is not yet a piece of software that relies on the tablet to provide a function that cannot be found elsewhere.
What is indisputable, however, is that business take-up of tablets is happening and tablets allow businesses to do what they need to do in a way that suits lifestyles and expectations.
At the moment I quite like the idea of reading a weekend newspaper as I sup a pint in my local.
But there’s no reason why I couldn’t enjoy the same activity while holding a tablet in one hand and a pint of Fenny Popper in the other.
It’s one of those things where it is simply a matter of building up the courage to blow the dust off my credit card.
Until then, I’ll just dream about taking the tablet.