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KELLNER: The computer is dead; long live the tablet

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roughly 30 years after the first IBM Personal Computer began arriving, en masse, in homes and offices around the planet, perhaps it's time for many of us to say goodbye.

I say this not to call for a Luddite-style return to quill pens and folded letter sheets, but rather to embrace that most 21st century of idea: the tablet. Having just spent four intensive days working on an Apple Inc. iPad 2, I've found that it really can replace a computer, particularly a notebook computer, in many situations.

This is no trivial matter. On Monday, Reston-based comScore Inc. said smartphones and tablet devices are responsible for "nearly 7 percent of total U.S. digital traffic," and that "in August, iPads delivered 97.2 percent of all tablet traffic in the U.S. iPads also have begun to account for a higher share of Internet traffic than iPhones (46.8 percent vs. 42.6 percent of all iOS device traffic)," according to a news release.

Indeed, comScore says, Apple's iOS has a 43.1 percent market share of mobile-device users in the U.S., versus 34.1 percent for Google's Android operating system.

Now, it's possible to write and publish a news article from a smartphone - your columnist did this once earlier this year - but it's a lot easier to do this on the iPad, which is my tablet computer of choice. Amazon.com may or may not supply one of its upcoming Kindle Fire units for review; the same may happen with Motorola's ET1 tablet, which also was announced Monday and billed as the "first tablet computer built for enterprise users," i.e., those in corporations and large organizations.

So the rush is to make something happen in the tablet space, and to challenge Apple if that is at all possible. It should be an interesting time.

My recent intensive experience with my iPad 2 convinces me that the day of ditching the desktop may not be that far off. Yes, the iPad 2 has a mere 64GB of storage, versus the 500GB or even 1 terabyte that many desktop computers now sport, but even the base iPad has a Wi-Fi connection (3G cellular data can be had for $150 more, plus a monthly subscription plan). Because I'm so often connected to the "cloud," where data can easily reside, I didn't need a lot of "onboard" storage.

What I needed - and found - were portability, ease of use and long battery life. These things the iPad delivered, and in abundance. On Tuesday, I found myself in an auditorium for the better part of six hours, charged with taking extensive notes on a meeting about which I was to report. Some 6,276 words later, I had my notes and the basis for my story. Yes, I could have done this with the 15-inch MacBook Pro I acquired last year, but the unit would have been much heavier and more bulky, and the battery wouldn't have made it through the day. As is, I had "juice" to spare.

How did I type all these words? Using a $99.99 Bluetooth keyboard and case duo called the ZAGGfolio 2, which, unlike the previous ZAGG product I tested two weeks ago, includes a lid to protect the back of the iPad as well as allowing the tablet to stand up for typing and viewing.

The experience was quite pleasant. I was able to type rather quickly, and weight was not a problem - the case adds 19 ounces to the approximately 21-ounce iPad, but not in an obtrusive way. Battery life of the keyboard is superb and tracks nicely with the iPad.

I also had tested the RightShift keyboard case from SolidLine Products, which retails for $99. It also features a Bluetooth keyboard, allows the iPad to stand up for viewing and is a little lighter at 16 ounces. Battery life is also quite good.

Slap one of these on your iPad and, in many respects, you'll be "good to go" for your next meeting or conference. I know that my personal experience of computing is changing, and I think it's changing for the better.

Email mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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