Tablet vs Notebook: The Consumer Decision

If you are anything like me you get asked questions like what computer to buy, what phone to buy, or what TV to buy. Now, more recently I've been getting this interesting question: "should I get a tablet or upgrade my notebook?" This question goes to show how much upside this tablet category has in the computing paradigm shift we are observing. However, with where we are in the early days of this category, does it really make sense to recommend a tablet over a notebook?

Like any good or helpful salesperson, the best way to answer any tech related question where multiple products, platforms and companies are being considered is always to ask "what do you plan to use it for?" This allows you to get to the heart of a person's computing needs and then recommend a product based on their primary uses.

However more often than not I am still recommending a notebook over a tablet, especially when they are looking at replacing their primary computer. I don't currently believe a tablet is a notebook replacement at this point in time. I have written extensively here that I feel touch computing represents the opportunity to bring us into a new age of computing where tablets and other touch computing devices can replace a notebook, but I don't feel we are there yet.

In some cases I have actually recommended the combination of an all-in-one desktop and a tablet over a notebook. I've found that the question of performance over portability comes up quite a bit in these conversations and the all-in-one desktop combined with a tablet hits both performance and portability in ways a notebook can not. There is decent sync software on the market from companies like DropBox or SugarSync which keeps content aligned across devices and is useful in the desktop / tablet combination.

If a Tablet is the best option which do I recommend?

Often times, however, the person asking the question is looking to add a device to their home, not necessarily replace a primary computer. When this is the case a tablet is a great second, third or fourth screen in the home. It can do quite a bit of generic computing, but having a desktop or notebook as a primary computer is still recommended in some capacity.

When recommending a tablet it's important to understand the technical savvy of the person asking the question. For those who I know, or find out, are very technical and love to tinker, customize, tweak etc their technology I know they will love Android. For those like my wife or her parents, or anyone who is not in the 12-15% of early adopters, I'm not as comfortable recommending the Android route yet.

The middle part of the consumer market is called the early majority and the late majority. Most of that market is made up people where technological understanding is not central. They are the consumers who just want their technology to work: they don't want to have to think about it, they just want to use it.

For those consumers I overwhelmingly recommend the iPad. First of all because I don't want to be tech support, which is also why I recommend Macs in general for these folks, second because the things that Android fans love don't even enter the minds of these non-tech savvy consumers. It's not because they are not enlightened, as some would claim, or indeed that they need to see the light, its simply because for them technology represents something very different. These consumers value something different and that is the point – value.

So how about you, when would you recommend a tablet over a notebook?