When Apple released its category-defining iPad in 2010, naysayers derided the device as suited for content consumption, but not creation. "The iPad is not a laptop," wrote David Pogue in The New York Times. "It's not nearly as good for creating stuff."
Over the last three-plus years, that has become the conventional wisdom. The critique has generally been that the iPad and Android tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Google's Nexus 7 offer an excellent user experience for portable content consumption, but they aren't content creation devices.
I think, though, that that characterization is missing something: Tablets empower a different kind of content creation -- one that differs definitively from both PCs and smartphones. As such, tablets are increasingly used as productivity enhancers by workers, who are realizing that tablets don't have to be laptop replacements to generate productivity.
Some people have tried to do just that, of course, and it is possible to go to great lengths to turn a tablet into a proto-laptop. Bluetooth keyboards from Apple, Logitech and Zagg all add touch-typing capabilities. Applications like Apple's iWork, Evernote, QuickOffice HD and Slideshark can fill in the gaps for the absent Microsoft Office. With this configuration of keyboard and apps, some people are even writing novels on iPads.
But surveys of information workers who use tablets for work (86% of whom, it should be noted, used either an iPad or an Android tablet as of Q2, 2013) reveal that tablet users aren't using them the same way they use their laptops. For starters, while 60% of information workers with laptops say they use their laptops three or more hours per day, only 23% of those who have tablets use those devices that much. So laptops remain the workhorse devices for extended computing experiences.
We also asked workers to rate -- on a five-point scale, with five indicating strong agreement -- whether they would prefer to do all of their work on a tablet and get rid of their computers entirely. Only 33% agreed with this notion (with a score of 4 or 5).
Clearly, then, workers who use tablets aren't thinking of them as identical to laptops.
Nonetheless, workers believe that tablets make them more productive across a variety of tasks. A strong majority of workers who use tablets -- 70% -- agree with the statement that "having a tablet makes me more productive."
We also asked a broader universe of information workers -- not limited to tablet users -- whether they felt that tablets and smartphones were good at certain tasks: reading documents, editing documents and creating documents. We found that a slim majority thought tablets were good for reading, while a solid 40% each liked the tablet for editing and creating documents. (See figure below.)