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Tablets Are a Fad — They’ll Largely Disappear in 2–3 Years

10 inch tablets — iPads to Androids — are neither fish nor fowl, as the expression goes.

  • NOT mobile: A 10 inch tablet is hardly  a device that one can carry, easily, 24/7.  But, mobile is what’s happening!
    • “Nearly half of U.S. adults -- or 47% -- said they wouldn't last a full 24 hours without their smartphone, a survey by Bank of America found.

      Smartphones fall below only the Internet and hygiene when ranked by level of importance to people's daily lives, according to the survey. Ninety-one percent said their phone is as important as their car and deodorant.

      Perhaps more concerning is that most Millennials deem mobile phones more important than deodorant and a toothbrush, the survey says.” (We added the emphasis... just in case you missed how important hygiene is to the younger crowd.)

Above quotes from BANK TECHNOLOGY NEWS

  • NOT a workplace tool: Document creation is still not comfortably done on a tablet. Buy a keyboard for your tablet? If it looks like a laptop and functions like a laptop then how is it still a tablet? For example:
    • In January, an ABI Research study predicted that although tablets will further cannibalize PC sales in 2013, the devices' business uses will be mostly confined to environments that previously "worked without the benefits of computing technologies."

Tablets — the 10 inch-screened variety — are an in-between technology — laptops are growing slimmer while smartphones are growing bigger. In two to three years, when the right balances are found, POOF, tablets are a dinosaur technology. You can take that prediction to the bank!

Phablets are the fastest growing category of smartphone! While the term “phablet” doesn’t roll off the tongue, folks nonetheless want bigger-screened smartphones! All the news is about how Apple’s 5.5-inch phone — a phablet — is delayed. Apple’s 4.7-inch phone will hardly satisfy the demand for the bigger screen device. And, it is interesting: we (ES and CN) have been traveling in Singapore and Hong Kong and we have routinely seen 7-inch devices held up to YOUNG people’s heads as they make calls on these “large” smartphones! Catch the title of a very recent article in the HindustanTimes: “Consumers choosing phablets over tablets”.

But, Ultrabooks — the slim laptops have not done as well as desired/predicted. The irony of course is that Apple has the best Ultrabooks — their 11 & 13 inch screened MacBook Air laptops are the cat’s meow when it comes to featherweight laptops but they can’t seem to make a big-screened phone. Go figure. That said, don’t count Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, Acer, Asus and oh yes, HP out quite yet. They too will be pumping out featherweight laptops shortly. (Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Samsung and Asus indeed do already have third generation ultrabooks that are reviewed well.)

The sleeper technology that will transform mobile technology is voice recognition: while current speech recognition technology is pretty darn good — just ask Siri and her Android and WP8 cousins, speech technology is on the elbow of the exponential and in two to three years it will be extremely accurate. And, while today speech recognition technology has difficulties with children’s voices, in two to three years, even the ungrammatical, semi-sentences spoken by first graders will routinely be accurately recognized.

What will “writing” be like when talking becomes writing?  A juicy topic for another blog!!

So, given that, starting in 2014-2015 , United States schools have embarked upon the Great iPad Buying Spree, what are the implications for K-12 schools ... if our prediction about the tablets’ demise is right ... or wrong?

Possible Responses:

  1. Schools and districts are rolling out iPads from kindergarten to grade 5, one grade per year. If we are right, then there may well be precious few tablets for those 4th and 5th graders!  
  2. It doesn’t matter whether we are right or wrong: schools are going BYOD — Bring Your Own Device, and thus it is students — and their parents — that will determine what devices are brought into the classroom.  
  3. It doesn’t matter whether we are right or wrong: Schools will come to see that, at least for K-5 or even K-8, smartphones — not tablets - are the appropriate learning tool. (Wheeling in the laptop cart when a long writing project is assigned.) One can always hope!

Bottom line: Tablets are a fad; their position as the shiny new object will be fading — fast. You read it here (more or less) first!

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at