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Global CIO: Tablet Vs. Laptop? How About Instant-On Vs. Interminable Boot-Up

The iPhone taught us to crave instant-on, and tablets will make it an expectation. Instant-on will become a must-have in laptops.

Chris Murphy

December 20, 2010

4 Min Read

The debate's raging over just how thoroughly the tablet's going to crush the PC. Will one out of three tablets that's bought replace a PC, as Goldman Sachs predicts? Or, when it comes to business, will they replace very few PCs, as IT pros predict in our survey?

There's another reaction to the tablet's success that's at least as interesting as how much these devices will replace PCs. I'm at least as interested in how the tablet will change PCs. Adding just one feature, in fact, could blunt some of the tablet's appeal and make the laptop computer far more endearing. It's instant-on.

The iPhone first got us hooked on the instant-on Internet, as really the first mass-market computer to deliver immediate access to the Internet. Before, with our laptops, we had to make the calculation--is this bit of information worth firing up the machine?

The iPad extended that addiction to a more powerful platform for consuming content. When Steve Jobs talked about the development of Apple's newest laptop, the Macbook Air, he described it as bringing the best of the iPad to the laptop. That included bringing in some of the touchscreen functions, via the trackpad. But of all the features Jobs highlighted, only one was the type Apple is famous for-- the kind of feature that gets me to thinking: "Now that would change how I feel about my machine." Yep, it's instant-on.

Will PC makers learn the lesson? Instant-on hasn't been a big priority. There have been variations on instant-on laptops for several years (including a Dell laptop that offered a Linux OS for instant-on alongside a Windows OS), but it has stayed a niche feature. Google considers instant-on one part of Chrome OS's appeal.

Certainly, instant-on is only one part of why the iPad's a phenom. The iPad's a comfortable device for consuming content, particularly when you're kicking back to watch/read/search. In business, it can be a less intrusive tool when you're interacting with someone--a doctor talking with a patient, say, or a salesperson on a show floor.

The message from boffo iPad sales is people want something better than and different from today's laptop, for certain uses. Many people whose jobs require them to create a lot of content don't want a tablet, though; they want to keep their laptop, but they're going to wonder why it can't do some of the tablet's best tricks. In the race to put their own stamp on the tablet, PC makers (and Microsoft) shouldn't forget to bring laptops along as well.

Of course, this could be only one impatient man's take. Does my coveting instant-on only reveal my need to feather back the caffeine and relax? Is instant-on merely a nice-to-have? Or are you with me on this one?

Recommended Reading: Global CIO: 7 Tips For Using The iPad In Business iPad Indifference? Tablets Replacing Few PCs In Business Why Steve Jobs Hates Enterprise IT Global CIO: You Do Allow Work E-mail On iPhones, Right? Global CIO: Why GM's Volt Electric Car Needs An iPhone App Global CIO: Enterprise Apps Not Among Products Google's REALLY Excited About Global CIO: How Wet Seal Drives Sales With Facebook, iPhone Global CIO: Steve Ballmer Interview: 'Hockey Stick' Cloud Growth Ahead Microsoft's Cloud Plan: What's In It For You? Global CIO: 5 Points To Make When Your CEO Cries Cloud Microsoft Office 2010 Adds Features For Browsers, Smartphones

Global CIO small globe Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek.

To find out more about Chris Murphy, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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