No, tablets won't replace PCs anytime soon

The list of what tablets can do is long and growing, but it's the list of what they can't do that's keeping most employees from using tablets as PC replacements

I'm a big fan of tablets. I recommend them for most organizations as a springboard for encouraging employees at all levels to innovate, as well as for friends whose computing needs begin and end with email, Web browsing, and when they start to feel adventurous, e-books and online news feeds.

But let's not get carried away. From now through the foreseeable future (defined as three years for every business except the Psychic Hotline), tablets aren't going to replace PCs for most employees. There are just too many things PCs can do that tablets can't and, in many cases, aren't going to do.

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Here's a look at where tablets fall short and where they fit in.

The tablet in the business environment

To make sure we're using our words the same way: If you give an employee a tablet and run a VDI client on it, the tablet hasn't replaced a PC so far as your software architecture is concerned. VDI doesn't replace PCs; it's just a different way to provide them. That, in fact, is the whole point -- your software doesn't have to change.

Also: As mentioned previously in this space, no matter how much we blather on about untethering knowledge workers, most employees who use PCs need them for heads-down production applications. Customer-service call centers, insurance underwriters, accounts payable staff -- fill in the blanks if you like, it's a very long list -- aren't going to get their jobs done on tablets because ... do I really have to spell this out?

But the PC is more than a software platform. It's a portal -- a window into a universe of information and capabilities. From that perspective, it's reasonable to ask whether tablets might, in fact, replace PCs as the employee portal of choice.

The answer: It depends on the employee. The more sophisticated the employee is in using information technology, the more likely it is the employee will want a tablet as an adjunct and won't accept one as a replacement. They'll want the tablet because when it can do what they need it to do, from anywhere and in a comfortable sitting position (for the employee, that is), untethered because it has batteries that last a day.

Where tablets fall short

For those employees, the tablet will be complementary rather than a replacement because of the long list of shortcomings when comparing current tablet technology to PCs.

Tablet shortcoming No. 1: Windows. Here we're talking about the user interface style, not the Microsoft OS. PCs (I include Macs in the category) let you have more than one application open simultaneously -- that is, you can see more than one application at the same time.

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