“The keyboard a little louder,” asks the singer on stage at the sound check. The mixer is only a few meters away from her, but almost 20 meters away from his large mixer. But soon the keyboard can be heard much better from the monitor boxes at the singer’s feet. The sound man made the setting on his tablet, very simply with his fingers. The flat computer is wirelessly connected to the mixing console – making work much easier.
Ten years ago on this Monday, the then CEO Steve Jobs presented the first Apple tablet with the unforgettable sentence: “We call it the iPad.” Tablets are now used in industry to control entire systems, in hospitals, where doctors use them to record data, for example. Or in the cockpits of airliners, where they make the manual available to the pilots in a weight-saving form. And they can be found in the majority of households in Germany. According to the Bitkom industry association, six out of ten Germans use a tablet at least occasionally.
Tablet computers became a success story for Apple. The expectations that they could even replace notebooks have not been fulfilled even for Apple. The big hype about tablets is already over, many manufacturers have gone out of business because the quantities sold were too small for them, for some manufacturers they had become a downright loss-making business. This was only to a lesser extent due to the hardware, but mainly to the software: Apple was simply better at coordinating hardware and software.
The heyday of the iPad is also over. On the best days, in the Christmas business of 2013, Apple sold a whopping 26 million iPads worldwide. In 2017, there were still 13.2 million in the same period (there are no figures for the fourth quarter of 2019 yet). However, the Californians lead the field of the remaining manufacturers by a large margin. Far more than the iPhone brand for smartphones, the name iPad stands for the category of tablet computers.
Why do some programs have to be so complicated?
As with most of Apple’s other successful products, the group, headquartered in Cupertino near San Francisco, was not the first to build such a product. Other manufacturers had already tried their hand at tablets. Apple, however, transferred the concept developed with the iPhone (2007) to the larger device, which thus carved out its niche. At least that’s how it seemed to be, but actually Apple originally had in mind to develop a tablet. But then Jobs and his comrades realized that the opportunity to bring a smartphone to market was opportune and initially focused on the iPhone.
It was probably one of the most consequential decisions in this industry ever, because Apple not only created a new category, but also set standards in terms of the usability of electronic devices and beyond. Good usability has become mandatory – not just for other manufacturers of smartphone systems, but for screen-based systems in general. If it can be so easy to operate an actually complex device, why do some programs have to be so complicated? Many users ask themselves that.
As the larger version of the iPhone, the iPad initially benefited from this. However, the trend towards larger and larger smartphones and higher-resolution screens is constantly eroding the raison d’être of tablets with smaller screens in particular. In addition, there are now also notebooks whose screens can be folded back by 180 degrees so that the computer can be used as a tablet. However, this is a lot thicker and heavier than an iPad, and the Windows 10 installed on most of these devices is less suitable for finger operation.
For some iPad models, Apple has been offering pens for some years that can be used to write or paint on the iPad. On this point, the South Korean competitor Samsung had pushed ahead and had brought tablets with a pen option onto the market years ago. Pen tablets are popular with students, among other things, because they allow you to add notes to lecturers’ PDF scripts. But a number of artists also use these capabilities of tablets. iPads also play a role in the music scene, not only as remote controls for mixing consoles, but also as mini studios. With the appropriate software, smaller productions or demos can be created quite easily.
Tablets have never completely replaced notebooks
However, the flounders have not become a full-fledged replacement for notebooks, even if Apple itself and an armada of accessories manufacturers offer keyboards and cases. This is not just due to the usability, which is sometimes cumbersome for more complex tasks. It’s also up to the software. Programs with professional claims are still more the domain of notebooks and stationary computers, for tablets there are often only slimmed-down versions of them. Apple is now counteracting this and has developed its own operating system for the iPad.
Arguably the most important niche of tablets is entertainment. For most private owners, the iPad is in the living room. Thanks to the optimized operating system, it wakes up from power-saving mode without delay and is the ideal second device for media consumption, for controlling smart home devices and as a second screen, for example to comment on the “crime scene” or a sporting event on Twitter or Facebook or to look something up quickly . The competition from smartphones is likely to increase in the future, but tablets will probably be able to assert themselves in their niche for some time to come.