How three years of tablets totally transformed tech

Sony Xperia
A tablet, yesterday. They're good, aren't they?

Hands up: who hates tablets?

If you'd asked that question three years ago you'd have conjured up a sea of waving arms. At launch, Apple's iPad was greeted with widespread derision: analysts scoffed, pundits poured scorn, Bill Gates blasted and Steve Ballmer probably did some kind of dismissive dance.

The chorus was deafening. Tablets were niche products, devices for consuming content, not creating it, and the iPad was a completely unwanted and unnecessary product that even Apple's reality distortion field wouldn't be able to shift.

As PC World put it: "the iPad will remain an expensive, niche device compared to all-purpose netbooks… netbook sales will still outstrip those of the iPad."


If Apple's iPad Air launch event had been an internet forum, Tim Cook would have been putting on the caps lock and demanding: "WHERE ARE YOUR NETBOOKS NOW?", probably with a whole bunch of LOLs and smiley faces.

The iPad is in its fifth generation now, and if you don't like Apple's take on it - and our extensive research has uncovered the surprising revelation that some people don't, although they don't like to go on about it - there are plenty of excellent alternatives.

You might like the newest Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HDX. You might wish you'd got to Tesco before they sold out of Hudls again. You might like the new Nokia 2520, or even the Surface.

It's all good.

Isn't it?

Looking for trouble

There are some things that tablets can't do. Recording studios will prefer Mac Pros to iPads for many years to come - possibly forever.

3D artists will prefer Windows workstations to sleek Surfaces. Many, many games are more fun with WASD controls than with fiddly cover-half-the-screen touch controls. You know the drill. But for most everyday things, tablets are brilliant.

Let's go back to those netbooks that tablets weren't going to dent. They were rubbish: underpowered, often running ancient operating systems — by 2010, Windows XP was nine years old — or stripped-back ones (Windows 7 Starter, anyone?) and you still had to learn how to use the computer before you could use it for anything else.

Even the worst of today's tablets are generally better than that.

That doesn't mean we can't find fault. Of course we can, and elsewhere on TechRadar you'll find me having fun mocking the iPad Air.

But as you'll see from the list, it's hardly damning: When one of the most savage criticisms you can make of a new device is that you'll need to buy a new case for it, it's clear that you're talking about the electronic equivalent of first world problems.

The arrival of tablets has made the technological world a better place, and that's something to celebrate whether you're on your fifth iPad or thinking of putting some Clubcard vouchers towards a Hudl.

Two examples spring to mind: my mother and everybody else.

My mother's had Windows PCs and Macs in the past and I've always had to help her with tech stuff - and then she got a tablet. Since then, the number of tech problems she's needed help with has been exactly zero. The tablet enables her to do much more, with much less hassle.

The same, I'm sure, applies to almost everyone else.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.