Samsung, despite being something of a copy-cat, makes great hardware. It’s smartphones, especially those in the Galaxy S family, are fabulous pieces of hardware. Phablets like the Note, and the Note Edge cater to those of us who want larger devices, but don’t want to pack around a tablet (or a tablet and a smartphone, too). That said, there are a growing number of situations and circumstances where a tablet is simply the right tool for the job. Thanks to what we’ve seen from Microsoft in Windows 10, Samsung tablets will soon have some real competition.
Where we came from
Not that long ago, if you wanted to get any “real” work done you had to sit down at a computer. They were (and for the most part still are) big and bulky. They were also ridiculously expensive. My first desktop computer cost around US$4,000 – and it wasn’t even top-of-the-line! Everything was expensive back then. Even my word processor, Word Perfect, cost a whopping $500!
Computers were for “power users” back then. “Regular” people might use them at work, but they probably didn’t have them at home. If they needed to take work home with them they’d be given a “luggable” computer like the one pictured here. Those were much larger than a briefcase – and significantly more heavy. Nonetheless, that was the price you paid if you wanted to get work done from home.
Eventually, thanks in no small part to thin, LCD screens, “laptop” computers were born. These, unlike their luggable forefathers, were about the size of a briefcase, and if you were extremely lucky might even fit inside your briefcase! Battery life on these “marvels of modern technology” was sometimes well above a hundred minutes.
The pen is mightier…
Microsoft (and others) started playing around with pens that could be used to input data into computers. This was called a “stylus” and it functioned much like the mouse did. Eventually Microsoft released a version of Windows “for Pen Computing”. Some laptop computers even had touch screens that could work with these special pens, and eventually hardware makers came up with something called a “convertible” that would let you fold the screen around and use the laptop as an ink-capable tablet without the keyboard getting in the way.
That’s really when the viability of a tablet started to come into its own. Removing the keyboard and placing all the “computer guts” behind the screen is what led to the tablets that we know and love today.
Until somewhat recently, Apple was the only company that sold a compelling tablet: thin, lightweight, stylish, and functional. Tablets powered by Android were fairly slow to arrive. Today, quality Android tablets compete head-to-head with iPads, and that’s really where much of the focus has been.
Microsoft, however, was lurking on the sidelines, watching all the missteps of its competition, and learning from their mistakes. After some stumbles of its own, Microsoft sits poised to release a new operating system that’s finger-friendly, stylus-ready, and very compelling to businesses around the world.
The next year or so will see the rise and triumphant return of the stylus. There are only two players in the game so far: Microsoft and Samsung. Apple has a patent we’ve seen floating around (but no product), and Android in general doesn’t have any stylus optimizations. Samsung has the Note lineup, with stylus support included – albeit somewhat spotty.
Samsung needs to quickly pen-enable the rest of the TouchWiz experience on their tablets, adding benefits and features that makes sense, but aren’t gimmicky. It needs a suite of core applications that treat stylus input as a first-class citizen, not to mention detachable keyboard accessories that are lightweight, but large and responsive, and able to deliver an elegant typing experience for road warriors.
In short, Samsung is the only player in the game that is ready to compete with Microsoft this year. Apple and others will be forced to play catch up this time around. As long as Samsung prices its offerings close to what Microsoft will be charging, Samsung has a real chance to become the leader in the tablet arena.