2 011 is the year of the tablet.
At least, that’s the buzz from Las Vegas. The annual Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up Sunday, and although it showcased a variety of new devices and software, like 4G Mobile and a TARDIS, shaped iPhone dock, tablets reigned supreme.
CES is a promotional tool for the tech industry. Many of the products on display won’t come out for a few more months, but they’re shown off as if to say, “Hey, look what our new device can do!,” or “This is something that will reinvent the tech industry.”
So, will tablets really be that cutting-edge this year?
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad last year, it was an innovative device — a tablet that felt truly unique to its medium and not simply like a converted laptop.
Less than a year later, all the other developers are jumping on the bandwagon with their own versions of the tablet, from the HP Windows Slate to the upcoming Lenovo LePad, all with varying quality compared to the first superstar, but universal in their hope to garner the same amount of consumer interest and profit.
What the tablet craze has done, however, is highlight a cultural and consumer trend: Mainstream is not cutting edge.
When the iPad debuted, the cost and lack of a specialized app market kept it mostly in the hands of the heavy tech users — bloggers, tech reviewers and website developers. It was not something the average consumer was using.
So why is that? Most consumers are not interested in trying out technology just because it is a new, unproven design.
There is just not an interest in pursuing technology development among the general public. They are consumers, not innovators.
And although there is a kind of bemused fascination with those interested in technological development — from tech celebrities like Kevin Rose or Steve Jobs — or the occasional fad based around technology (like when computer hacking briefly took off after the first Matrix film came out), the mainstream has mostly kept the more complex aspects of the technological world at an arm’s length, and the technological world keeps most of its products to an exclusive group before deciding to mass market them.
With technology becoming a part of life, it would seem prudent for consumers to be more aware of the latest revolutionary tool, and continue to jump on it as quickly as possible.
The devices should not remain just elusive products that computer software geniuses use, but innovations that make life easier.
Perhaps the bigger issue is that the technological devices are not marketed to the average consumer first, but handed to those few completely immersed in the tech world.
Until Apple’s silhouetted dancing commercials came out, everyone was still rocking CD players and MP3 players were untested devices.
They weren’t really popular and not heavily marketed to the masses, despite the fact that MP3 players were clearly the way of the future.
The ultimate truth is that tablets are an important part of the current technological world, and as time passes they will catch on simply due to developers’ production of the devices.
And now that the manufacturers know what’s big in the consumer world, that means it will go widespread, and soon everyone will have some version of a tablet.
Events like CES are supposed to be a time to find the latest technology, and to see what will set the course for future development and lifestyles.
But really, it’s always going to be the dark horse, the out of nowhere surprise that takes the world by storm when the tech world decides to reveal the latest gadgets.
But only after the inside track has had its time to play with it.
Nicholas Slayton is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Age of the Geek,” runs Fridays.