Steve Jobs Was Right About Tablets: But Is the 3rd Device a Keeper?

Steve Jobs Was Right About Tablets: But Is the 3rd Device a Keeper?

Update Sept. 16, 2015: The iPad Pro has dropped. Here’s my take: Apple’s New iPad Pro

Update Nov. 3rd, 2014:

In 2010 when Steve Jobs *finally* brought the iPad to the world, he made an astounding pronouncement. The phone and the laptop pretty much covered most of our needs in computing. How was there room for a 3rd device? Did we really need another device? Today my iPad is often hovering at 15% charge and gathering dust beside my bed. I love my iPad Mini, but I don’t need it. In my world I use it for reading ebooks (80%) and consuming some video content (movies 10%, web browsing 10%). But I don’t need it. In my world the 3rd device, while well delivered by Mr. Jobs, has not become an essential device. Nor has the touch-screen become the killer feature of my computing world.

If you think the Microsoft Surface is revolutionary (even in it’s 3rd PRO incarnation) you’ve been missing out on a lot of the conversation. It’s probably why Windows 8 was such a drag. They HAD to be innovative and force METRO on all of us. But METRO on a Surface is wonderful. But then you’ve got a tablet/laptop hybrid that does 80% of what you need it to do.

I’m stuck in my ways. I love my MBP. I’m frustrated that Intel’s i7 doesn’t have a quantum-leap chip yet, so I could rationalize an upgrade. And I love my iPhone 5. (No need for “s” or 6 for, except the shiny-new thing, not yet, for me.) And while I love my iPad, it’s not essential. As Apple see’s the tablet market eroded by the phablet, at least now they are in the game with the iPhone 6 Plus, but again, I really don’t want one of those. I realize this is me-centric. But I cannot function without my laptop or phone. I go months without opening my iPad.

What do you think? Do you NEED your tablet? Will you buy a new tablet or a phablet? Or has your technology need been covered by the first two devices of computing?


In his one of his final shining moments, the late Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. And in his typical showmanship presentation style he began by telling us why we didn’t need a 3rd device. Unless that 3rd device solved some critical problem not addressed by our other electronic consumption devices.

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 9.33.14 PM

Steve Jobs said, in his keynote, “If there is going to be a 3rd device it’s going to have to be better at these online activities than the current devices.” The current devices were the phone and laptop. The tablet, if it were done right, would have to become the essential 3rd device. Here are the essential activities for that 3rd device, that Jobs pointed out in his keynote launch of the iPad 1.

2010 Apple iPad Launch - Steve Jobs
click to watch the Jobs iPad Keynote from 2010

And I would say that the browsing capabilities of the iPad are great, unless you need FLASH. But most sites have already adapted to the Apple-Flash dump and are offering alternative delivery systems. And, in general, consumption of these media types is fine on a iPad. In fact, a few of these activities are GREAT on an iPad.

The iPad/Tablet home runs, in my estimation, are Gaming, Video consumption, eBooks, Photo browsing, and web browsing. And with SIRI on later models even Texting and Email can be greatly enhanced by having voice-to-text options.

But why is my iPad Mini, the one I was so stoked about getting, now gathering dust. I don’t use it. I often don’t know where it is. Why has the iPad failed, and what does this spell for the industry shift to TABLETS and PHONES, and god-forbid, the Phablet. (Yuk. And no thank you.)

All that is fine. And in a pure consumption mode, I guess the call for the 3rd device is still strong. BUT, the rise of the tablet as main computing device seems very short sighted to me. And while I do think the consumer is enamored with the tablet and touch screens, I don’t think the WIN 8 push to make everything touch-driven is a wise move. In fact, I would say that the Windows 8 launch, and forcing of METRO on the Masses was a huge mistake on Microsoft’s part. And the market is responding. With the a huge drop in PC sales.

So the SURFACE and all it’s permutations that rushed the touchscreen-tablet to market are in deep trouble with anemic sales and even worse corporate uptake. And I have to laugh when someone claims how Apple is late to the party. Um, the reason is, there is no party there.

Want a touchscreen-enabled computer fine. But what’s the real advantage? Sure there are times I’d like to swipe my laptop screen. But it’s not very often. And if you really want a touch-screen device with a keyboard (my basic assessment of the Surface and it’s spawn) you can set your iPad and iPad Mini on one of the inexpensive bluetooth keyboards. Viola, touchscreen computer.

The problem for me, when imagining the transition to all-tablet all-the-time is the computing power is simply not there. And OFFICE, the bain of the corporate computing environment, is not on the Mac OS yet. It’s not on Android either, so… for now the WIN 8 Office path is the only option available. And it’s simply not compelling enough to drive the sales of Windows 8 powered touchscreen-enabled computers.

And the real problem facing the PC industry is more about Windows 8 overall. If you don’t have a touchscreen, you don’t want Windows 8. In fact, a colleague recently, upgraded his WIN 8 system back to WIN 7.

So why did Microsoft foist this boner of an OS on the market? Why couldn’t WIN 8, or really METRO, have been a mobile or touch-screen branch of Windows 7? Of course the PC industry is driven by UPGRADES and their necessary tech upgrades as part of the lifecycle and product development track. But as the economy hit a dip, people are not as interested in a technology refresh for the sake of getting the latest thing. And when the latest thing, Windows 8, sucks… Well, again, the entire industry is suffering under this Microsoft blunder. And companies like Dell and HP are having to think of creative ways to keep promoting “Windows 7 Options This Way” because the numbers for Windows 8 are so bad.

So there you go. If you want a touchscreen get an iPad. Neither Apple nor Android have Office. If you must have Windows and you’re really inspired by touchscreen opportunities, maybe a Windows 8 tablet or Windows 8 touch-enabled laptop are in your future. But you will be in the minority. If you’re on a PC and plan to stay that way, you’ll want to say with WIN 7. No compelling reasons to upgrade, and a few compelling reasons not to upgrade.

The industries obsession with the Tablet and Phone is interesting. But when you creating rather than consuming, the real computing power of a full laptop is required. Sure you can run iMovie on a iPad. But Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, are all apps better left to the real computer. And in my word that’s best performed on Apple’s OS X.

So for me, the 3rd device is a nice to have, but not a must have. Maybe the next generation of iPads will have something that changes the game even more than they already have. But I’m still thinking that most developers and creators will be using Laptops for the foreseeable future. And probably not WIN 8 laptops.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Very good points. I definitely agree with the notion that touch screen computers are unnecessary when you have a tablet and can just attach it to a less expensive keyboard. Tablets do appear to be the future.

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