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Why PC makers love tablets, or should

PC Magazine has a nice analysis of why tablets are selling well and will continue to sell well, but they aren’t taking over the entire industry.

PCs are mature and not changing a lot at this point, while tablets are changing a lot. That’s good and bad.

I like tablets because they’ve made the computer industry interesting again. But there’s a downside to interesting: obsolescence. Rapid obsolescence. And the more interesting it is, the more rapidly obsolescence kicks in.

The author, Joel Santo Domingo, points out that he expects his Core i7-based laptop to outlast several generations of tablets. He’s right, it will. I have a 2005-vintage Dell Inspiron e1505 laptop that I use nearly every day. About once a week it shows its age when I run up against its limits, but for common, everyday computing tasks, that old machine is still perfectly capable.

Now, granted, it’s not quite the machine it was in 2005. I upgraded the memory, installed an SSD (of course), installed Windows 7 on it, and (double of course) replaced the battery. No tablet can touch that kind of upgradeability–and this is a laptop. An open-architecture desktop machine has literally limitless upgradeability, as long as you’re willing to swap out motherboards from time to time. With tablets, you’re lucky if you can replace the battery when the battery wears out.

This is why I’m excited about sub-$150 tablets. At that price, I don’t mind replacing them every 18 months, and letting the old tablet can live out its days as a glorified media player until its battery gives out or some other catastrophic hardware failure.

And you will. Because what was considered a hot tablet 18 months ago is irritating to use today. It’s much like desktop computing was 20 years ago. Not coincidentally, 20 years ago, desktop computers were immensely profitable.

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