But I still don’t want one.
Am I nuts?
I’ve heard the arguments for a couple years now. Tablets are more interactive then smart phones, more portable than laptops. They are sleek, sexy devices that are a pleasure to use, do away with that primitive mouse and satisfy a mass-market need for something that sits between the communications capable smartphone and the work horse computer — but can make the best of both.
I get it. I do. But even after my husband upgraded to the new iPad, and I made him promise to share it with me if I wanted it, I’ve barely touched it.
“You must be so good at this keyboard, being a writer and all,” a friend told me as his fingers flicked across his iPad screen. Yeah, probably. I mean, I can use my iPhone keyboard without looking. But I was too embarrassed to admit that I really have no idea.
Am I missing something? Or are these hottest of hot tech devices really, truly not for me?
I went to the Microsoft and Apple stores at University Village this week to hear the official take on why I should take the tablet plunge.
Since I already use mostly Apple products, I figured Microsoft would be the better place to get a first, fresh perspective. I made for the Surfaces on a table nearest the door. Within seconds, an employee asked if I needed help.
I explained my predicament. I don’t own a tablet. I haven’t wanted a tablet. I have a laptop I adore and a smartphone that’s practically a fifth limb. But every day I see more people get these things and fall in love. Am I missing out?
The subtext, I think, was clear: Sell me on this. Please. My geek ego will thank you.
He started by laying out the differences. Between the Surface and, in Microsoft’s case, the Windows Phone, it’s size. The Surface has a bigger screen, obviously, and more storage. There’s also a USB port and a micro HDMI slot, plus Microsoft Office 2013, preinstalled. Good news for us writers, he noted, having no idea I’d abandoned desktop word processors years ago.
Between the Surface and a PC, the difference is portability, and, if you want it, separability. You know how in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise can split into a battle bridge and saucer section? (You do, right? All of you? Good.) That’s what I thought of when I saw him snap the tablet off its attachable keyboard– which doubles as a cover— and back on again.
The Surface can’t run legacy apps — like Photoshop — that aren’t available on the Windows Store. That’s another difference. Apart from that, thanks to its ports, that optional keyboard and the fact that you can load a traditional desktop along the beautiful tiled Windows 8 interface, it can pretty much play the part of laptop PC.
I’d been thinking of the tablet as a “third” device. But as another Microsoft Store employee put it, you can think of the Surface, compared to a laptop, as being “like a sandwich without the crust.” It can easily replace my laptop.
Put another way, if I like my crusted laptop sandwich just fine — and I think do — I might already have what I need.
Would Apple make me think different? I have the iPhone 5 and am surrounded by Apple geeks, so I didn’t need the iPad grand tour when I went across the street. Still, I snagged an associate, who snagged another associate, and I relayed my tablet woes.
Since I knew the specs, she conducted the interview. What do I do? I write. Do I move around a lot? A funny question in the age of mobile, but yeah. Sure. What computer do I use? An 11 inch MacBook Air.
Oh, she said. Well that’s pretty light already.
She went on to talk about how the iPad is even more portable, and of course gorgeous and fun to use. As I listened, I got the sense her pitch would be a lot stronger if I used a heavy, bulky machine, or even — shudder — a desktop.
So let’s review. My laptop is portable. My phone is slim and fit. I work light with words, not heavy with code or music or gargantuan files. I browse the Web just fine on my big screen and my little one.
I’ve heard tablet fans say that their devices are perfect for those moments when they want to do something on a bigger screen, but they don’t want to open their laptops. If I had to diagnose myself, I’d say I just I don’t think I’d have those moments. The Air is quick to grab and power up, when I have someplace to sit with it. When I don’t, the iPhone works great.
If I’m nuts, I guess it’s because for someone who lined up in the wee hours for an iPhone — twice —I’m being uncharacteristically practical.
I drove away unmoved and oddly disappointed. I didn’t want a tablet, and dammit, I still don’t.
Big touch screens are fun. But not $500 fun. Not to me. Not yet.
Mónica Guzmán is a community strategist, freelance journalist and award-winning digital life columnist for GeekWire. You can find her tweeting away at @moniguzman, subscribe to her public Facebook posts at facebook.com/moniguzman or reach her via email. See a list of her clients on her website. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.