Survey shows increasing productive tablet use

The question of tablet vs PC has recently become quite material to me as my son’s school contemplates which way to jump. I’ve found my opinion shifting as the issue moves from the theoretical to reality.

The most material issue is trying to compare like-with-like. The tablet part of the equation is generally simple – it’ll be an iPad. But a ‘notebook computer’ can mean a great many things. And if you’re dealing with the ones supplied by the Department of Education that’s not a very impressive range of things. Comparing the possibility of carrying an iPad to a recent Macbook Air is not the same as comparing an iPad to a Chromebook or to a 2.5kg, under-powered laptop.

There’s also the very material issue that the decision about what tool to use should be driven by the tasks to be performed – if the kids are going to be expected to write essays on the device that’s different to taking brief notes. Because all this is so new, I’m not sure that the school has real clarity on what the students will be doing.

So it was with some interest I read of a report from Forrester into use of tablets and PCs in the workplace. I’m not sure that you can draw much in the way of startling conclusions from the report, at least as summarised by ZDNet, but there are some interesting insights. Probably the main thing is that tablets are increasingly being productively used in the workplace, and not just at the content consumption end of the scale.

The absolute numbers have PCs being used significantly more for content creation. But I found it interesting that there was a very significant body of workers reporting using tablets for word-processing and spread sheeting  – far, far more than I expected. When you think that five years ago the tablet numbers would have been basically zero there’s no question we’re witnessing a real tectonic shift underway.

I wonder whether part of my surprise is that people of my generation have more difficulty in using tablets than does a generation brought up on smartphones and iPads. It wasn’t that many years ago I was wisely saying that people can’t read books on computers and now I read everything on my iPad. For younger kids today, that’s all that they have known. Perhaps the idea that you can’t use a tablet for content creation is just another shibboleth of my generation waiting to be stomped on.

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