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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Tablets, move over

I was an early fan of the smartphone. From the late 1990s I waited for one that I considered good enough, and finally in 2005 bought a Palm Treo 650. (No, Apple did not invent the smartphone in 2007. They did remove the keyboard, and I'm still upset about that.)

Later on, the tablet started to catch on (again, not invented by Apple but marketed well by them) but it didn't really impress me. Not something you always have with you (phone), nor serious tool (laptop). Great for kids who don't have a phone yet, and great for those impressed by flashy gadgets (like "managers" and "leaders" and politicians). Of great practical use in many vertical applications, but as a general-purpose device generally beaten by either the phone or the laptop.

The one advantage over the phone was a larger screen, and it was a big one. But in 2011 Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note with its 5.3" screen (to the iPhone's 3.5"), and that was the beginning of the end. It did take most people time to warm to the idea of a large phone, especially when it was presented as qualitatively different ("here, draw pictures on it") and in the English-speaking world even given a different name ("phablet") that suggested that it was neither a phone nor a tablet. Now that it's a few years later, large phones are accepted, and even the former holdout Apple doesn't make smaller phones any more.

In recent days I've seen a television ad for Toronto Star Touch, a tablet edition of that newspaper. The people who run The Star have been persuaded that tablets are the future, and the app doesn't run on any phone, not even if it's got a 6" screen that's almost as big as that of a 7" tablet – i.e. not even if it's the one device that pretty soon almost everyone will have. Fortunately this could be changed in future, and I expect it will be after The Star caves in to the public's preferences the way that Apple did.

Anyone not convinced that the only essential general-purpose device of the near future is the large phone should see the numbers shown in Fred Wilson's latest blog post. It's short; read it here.

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