What Is A Tablet?

Last night I wrote about the screen sizes of smartphones, suggesting that smartphone screen sizes will stay around 4 inches. Ironically, today Engadget posted an article about Archos’ plans to launch a number of new tablets based on Android this fall. The new tablets range from one with a 2.8 inch screen to one with a 10 inch screen.

I have a hard time considering a device with a 2.8 inch, 3.2 inch, or 4.3 inch screen a tablet computer. Devices with these screen sizes are more like the iPod Touch than the iPad, and nobody that I know calls the iPod Touch a tablet. Most people consider the iPod Touch a personal media player, even though its support of applications enable it to do much more than consume media.

Actually, I think Apple coined the right phrase for this class of device back in 1993. In my opinion the iPod Touch and the Archos devices I list above are personal digital assistants. Is there anything that the original PDA, the Apple Newton, did that these devices cannot do? They all can run personal information management apps: calendar, contacts, tasks, notes, and more, and they all can connect to the Internet.

I know that there is a stigma associated with the term PDA and therefore I don’t expect the industry to start using it to describe the iPod Touch. At the same time, I think it is wrong to call a device with a 2.8 inch screen a tablet. We all know what a tablet of paper looks like, it is usually 8.5 x 11 inches, though there are slightly smaller and slightly larger tablets. In my opinion a tablet must have a large enough screen, I propose 6 inches or larger, to view a significant amount of content in portrait, and yes, be able write comfortably in digital ink. In other words, a tablet ought to have the approximate size of a piece of paper.