Why I Need the Tablet

It’s a bad idea to ask a geek if they “need” some new gadget. Invariably, the answer will be an emphatic “yes!,” followed by all manner of perfectly reasonable explanations as to why. I’m guilty of this behavior. Every self-respecting tech-enthusiast is guilty of it, too. Predictably, I need a Mac (s aapl) tablet. Let me tell you why.

This past week I spent almost all my days in my bed, moaning softly to the four walls and complaining that life is unfair. Yep, I was sick. I had a nasty allergic reaction to something (we apparently will never know what) and my skin everywhere became inflamed and painfully sensitive. My feet were so swollen I couldn’t walk, and my fingers so sore and stiff I couldn’t even flip the lid on my MacBook Pro.

After a few days of treatment, the condition stabilized enough for me to (finally!) hold my iPhone. So I was able to process a little email and do some simple RSS reading. The iPhone was the (almost) perfect instrument for me since it’s light and thin and doesn’t have a fiddly hardware keyboard. For someone with almost-useless hands (as mine were at the time), that’s an accessibility boon!

Even when the swelling had subsided enough that dexterity returned, I still wasn’t ready to use my laptop. I could barely sit up for very long, and anyway, when every part of your skin is screaming at you whenever it gets touched, you really don’t relish the thought of snuggling-up to a toasty-warm MacBook.

With that in mind, the iPhone might seem like an obvious alternative, but it really wasn’t. You see, the iPhone screen is fine for when you’re tweeting or quickly checking mail, but it’s completely inappropriate for lengthy, detailed tasks such as word processing, document editing or web-based research.

Since I couldn’t do much serious computing, I decided to catch up on my reading. I used my trusty Sony eBook Reader PRS-505, a gorgeous little device that remains, at least here in Europe, a favorable alternative to the Kindle. It doesn’t have a web browser, or a Wi-Fi chip. It’s not backlit, doesn’t have a color screen nor a particularly impressive processor. But it’s great at what it does — electronic books. It requires only two buttons be used; Next or Previous Page. It couldn’t be simpler.

But the whole time I was using it, I felt I was missing something. A few things, in fact. Email, for a start. The ability to look-up words in a system-wide dictionary. A web browser, for those times when I wanted to do a little background research on the subject matter in my book.

But more than any of that, I felt I was missing something deeply fundamental that we take for granted on the iPhone; I wanted the screen to respond to my touch. I wanted to tap, swipe and pinch. Having to use those fiddly hardware buttons (only two of ‘em, remember!) was a distasteful necessity, sort of like Microsoft Office (s msft) on the Mac.

It was (in a quite literal sense) painfully clear to me that I needed a tablet device. A ten inch touch screen, backlit, color, Wi-Fi enabled and… oh, you know the rest. I desperately wanted and needed the long-rumored iTablet.

I’m writing this on my MacBook Pro, on a train that is limping between London and Manchester. I’m gonna be spending the day traveling, but I don’t want to have to lose a day of work. That means needing to find a space to open my MacBook and get typing. That generally means only when I’m seated somewhere, and only if there is ample room to place the laptop securely before me so I can type.

But with a tablet, I could continue to work almost anywhere. In a queue, standing on a crowded train or even crammed into a tiny seat somewhere, I’d need no more than the space usually required to read a book. And I’d be able to work.

I’m not for one moment suggesting the fabled tablet will provide me with a replacement for my MacBook Pro. I think it’s safe to say that, for most writers, nothing can replace the convenience and comfort of a traditional keyboard. Frankly, I shudder at the thought of having to author something significantly lengthy using a touch screen with virtual keyboard. But a few hundred words here or there? A tablet would be ideal for that. Typically, my emails are never more than a hundred or so words (usually far fewer in fact), and my iPhone is great for dipping in and out of email — but for all the convenience, the iPhone screen is still a little on the small side.

In many ways, the tablet could be the spiritual successor to the venerable Newton. Reminiscent of Star Trek’s PADDs, a gadget that works as a personal digital assistant and entertainment center. For all the talk we’ve heard in the last few years about the tablet being Apple’s answer to netbooks, this device would be in a league of its own, creating an entirely new family of portable computers.

I’m getting carried away with myself. I must try to remember the pain of Early Adopter Syndrome. We rush out to buy Generation One and then suffer horribly when we realize the battery life is less than stellar, or worse, the software platform proves terribly limiting (anyone remember Web Apps?).

Still, I’m a Geek. I’ve already thoroughly convinced myself I need the tablet. I don’t know what it will do yet, but I know I need it. I’ve just spent minutes of your reading time explaining why it is so useful and necessary, in the process maybe enforcing your own Geeky justifications for laying out the green when the Great Launch Day is upon us.

Do you have a better reason why you really, absolutely need the tablet? Share your Geekscuse in the comments, or hit me up on twitter and call me a pathetic Fanboi.