Tablet PCs suck. They're underpowered, only marginally portable, and awkward to use in anything but a traditional seated position, with a desk to support them. Microsoft and its cadre of hardware partners have been trying for years to create a compelling tablet computing experience -- and consistently failed. Yet this year, persistent rumors of an Apple tablet -- an "iTablet" -- created a real buzz. But to believe that Apple can somehow succeed where all others have failed is to ignore some fundamental realities of tablet computing.
Reality No. 1: The lap doesn't work as a desk
Have you ever tried filling out a paper questionnaire on a moving train? Even with a clipboard, the mechanics are anything but graceful. With each lurch or bump you risk missing the mark. At best you end up with illegible chicken scratch; at worst, you put the pen right through the paper. It's a real mess.
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Now imagine this same scenario with the iTablet. You're trying to enter an e-mail address or a URL using a nifty onscreen keypad. Each time you aim for the "R" key you end up hitting "T" instead. Then, just as you go to touch the Send button, you slip and hit Cancel -- or worse.
Contrast this with a typical small laptop or netbook, where the combination of your lap and palms acts as stabilizing influences. Add the surety of a traditional keyboard -- for typing, navigating, and so on -- and this "lapdesk" modus operandi gives the clamshell form factor a distinct advantage when operating in raucous mobile environments.