Tablet PCs Have overtaken the gadget market almost entirely. Filling a space previously occupied by iPods and MP3 players, they take advantage of the popularity of easy-access, low-knowledge-barrier interfaces that made the progenitor devices so successful in the first place, while expanding the capabilities of the devices themselves. The device itself however, is not successful because of its inherent advantages in capability. Very few, if any, of its functions are unique to the tablet computer itself. If someone wants to play a game, or check the weather, or write an email, or any other day-to-day function, it is entirely possible–easy, even–to accomplish this on any other internet-capable device. What then, is the source of the tablet’s rocketing success as a product, when its audience is already supplied with any their individual functions without extra effort? What makes the device worth the significant retail price it commands that customers are not willing to simply stretch their existing laptop or smartphone to perform these same tasks?
Lisa Nakamura in Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet spends a number of pages in her introduction discussing the creation of a unique interface specifically for use in Jennifer Lopez’s fictional voyeurism website. Citing the idea that “Web-savvy audiences in the nineties require ‘realistic looking interfaces,'” she emphasizes the importance of interfaces needing to like they could be “real as well.” This seems to me to be a predecessor of the tablet interface’s success. By removing as many layers as possible between the device’s (or website’s) interface and the experience provided for the user, it creates a deeper sense of immersion or attachment; in the case of a voyeuristic website, this would obviously prove especially vital.
Returning to the topic of the tablet’s success, I would posit that the tablet allows for a more seamless sense of connectivity between the user, what they want to accomplish through the use of the device, and the execution of those commands by the device itself. By removing a middleman interface such as the mouse and keyboard, a tablet creates a more direct link between the input of the user and the output of the device; this in turn leads to a feeling of more direct attachment by the user.
Nakamura, Lisa. ” Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet”. University of Minnesota Press.
Image from the Wikimedia Commons used under public domain.