Who stole my mouse?

When the laptop first landed on our…laps…it received a lot of applause for its most obvious benefit compared to a desktop – its portability.

With the tablet market growing at the rate of knots we now have much greater portability.  Yet when Apple invigorated the industry with its first iPad in 2010, the rhetoric was that it would never fully replace the PC as a fundamental aspect of an office worker’s life.

And with the smartphone enabling you to carry out quick tasks on the go, why would we need something in between?

I got a new toy recently – an HP Elitepad.  I decided to hang up my trusty laptop for a week and just use the ElitePad to see if we’re anywhere closer to tablets becoming a feasible replacement.  The challenge was set.

When the box first arrived I’ll admit I got caught up in the emotions of having something so shiny and new, envisaging the wondrous possibilities of this new technology.  It was also remarkably easy to set up (yep, Angry Birds works just fine).

My excitement evaporated somewhat when I started to use it for more official purposes.  My first task was a simple one – highlighting and copying some text from a word document to send in an email.  I missed my ‘right click’ functionality but a brief visit to Google sorted that one out.

Because it was year-end I was using Excel probably more than I normally would and I have to admit it was pretty fiddly with only the touch screen.  Word documents were similar and I quickly grew impatient with the slow response rate of the type pad.

Then my docking station turned up which included a wireless keyboard and mouse, and after connecting the ElitePad to a separate monitor things didn’t feel quite so alien when it came to accomplishing some ‘serious’ work.

The main benefit of the ElitePad is probably meeting preparation – you can work at your desk using the docking station and then when it’s time for the meeting, just lift it up and everything on your screen is the same as when you were using the separate monitor.  And if you amend anything whilst in the meeting and then go back to your desk, it’s the same in reverse, no fuss.

The performance of the ElitePad isn’t the fastest – and by the end of the week it did start to infuriate me a fair bit.  At one point I almost reached into my bag to boot the laptop up but somehow managed to resist the temptation.

So is that the answer then?  We’re not any closer to having a desktop replacement?  Actually we are, and the ElitePad brings us a lot closer.  But at the moment it’s still necessary to have both in my view.

For quick tasks it’s a fantastic piece of kit – and I think for field workers who need to collect information on the go, that’s when the tablet comes into its own.  It’s when we need to sit down with that information and analyse the data that the desktop needs to step in again.

So the next thing for me to try is a Surface Pro, when Microsoft finally get them to the UK. I tried the RT, a great bit of kit and I just hope the Pro makes up for what the RT was lacking as a serious business tool.

As for the broader debate on the long term future of the PC, it’s been difficult to miss all of the articles generated in response to industry body, Gartner predicting what we’ll be using in 2017.

When you strip away the sensationalism in the headlines (‘Microsoft is doomed!’ ‘The PC is dead!’) there are some interesting insights.

I’ll save my thoughts on that for my next post.