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Windows 10 undercuts 'tablet revolution'

As 2015 draws to a close, the staff of TechTarget’s end-user computing sites took to Slack and held an hourlong chat about the year’s biggest trends. Over the next few days, we’ll bring you slightly edited excerpts from those discussions. In today’s post, our editors discuss Windows 10 and the uncertain future for tablets.

Jamison Cush, executive editor: Windows 10 threw cold water all over the so-called tablet revolution. It’s a mouse- and keyboard-friendly OS, closer to Windows 7 than Windows 8. The wholesale rejection of Windows 8, which was developed at a time with the iPad was king, illuminated the fact that people aren’t ready to ditch QWERTY and precision navigation for finger taps and swipes.

Maggie Jones, site editor: But it’s adaptive, too. You can still use it on a tablet. Is that not a good user experience?

Jamison: It’s tablet-friendly, but Windows 8 was tablet-focused. In other words, the tablet experience on Windows 10 stinks. It’s an afterthought.

Maggie: That seems backwards to me. There’s all this talk about Continuum, the feature that lets Windows 10 tell what device you’re using, which is obviously focused on 2-in-1s.

Jamison: It’s so ham-fisted, I turn it off. It’s annoying and sluggish.

Maggie: What’s the point of a 2-in-1 that runs Windows 10, then? Just get a straight-up laptop.

Jamison: Portability, mostly. And some of the various modes are useful. Tent mode works well.

Colin Steele, editorial director: What about the overall trend of tablets becoming more PC-like? We’ve had the Surface for a few years now, but things really stepped up in 2015 with the Surface Book and iPad Pro. Is this just a slow realization that there aren’t a lot of tablet-specific use cases?

Jamison: People misread what made tablets so popular from 2010 and onward. It wasn’t the touch navigation that we liked, but the all-day battery life, the instant-on, the thin design and portable build.

Alyssa Wood, managing editor: It’s a realization that tablet use cases are really most viable in certain verticals like manufacturing but not really in the office.

Maggie: And if you have to add a keyboard and mouse to make a tablet work for you, then how much of a tablet is it?

Bridget Botelho, senior news director: People like the idea of a tablet — the cool factor — but ultimately need a laptop experience to do meaningful work.

Colin: I don’t think people  need  laptops, per se. But they do need a device that replicates most of its functionality. I love traveling with my iPad Air 2 for work, but why do I love it? Because it has Word and a physical keyboard, like a PC.

Adam Hughes, news editor: As someone who has had an iPad for four years now, I learned very quickly that you can’t get any real work done on it. Even with Office as an app, I’m still going for my crappy Dell laptop to work on a story.

Colin: Totally disagree. I do real work (writing and editing) on my iPad all the time.

Bridget: You are using a keyboard, not the touchscreen, to do work. I can’t even do that, though. I brought an iPad to a conference, with a Bluetooth keyboard, and by the end of the day I wanted to throw the damn thing.

Adam: I had a keyboard a few years ago with my iPad, and it was fine for the most part. I mean, it cost over $100, but again, it just felt more inconvenient than using my laptop. I stick to my iPad to watch Netflix and answer emails.

Jamison: The rise of big-screen smartphones have also dented tablet sales. We really don’t need them. A phablet and a laptop is good enough.

Bridget: The iPad in my house is primarily used by my 3-year-old to watch Nick Jr. I have a Fisher-Price safety case on it. Does that say it all about the usefulness of tablets?

Maggie: Once I got a smartphone and my super-thin Dell from IT, I pretty much stopped using my iPad altogether.

Read our prior Slack chats on EMM market consolidation and mobile device hardware.