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The Five Commandments of Tablet Computers

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In the beginning, only hard core geeks or trend-setting hipsters sported tablets. But the wave of popularity has washed over the general public, and the surfers now include iPad-wielding grannies and Android phone-slinging toddlers. Nearly 10% of the U.S. population owns a tablet, and that number is expected to double by 2012. Users are much more likely to view online videos on their tablets than on their smartphones or computers, and 60% say that this will eventually replace their traditional PCs. With this in mind, I would like to propose a few guidelines for our connected slates. While these commandments may not have originated on Mount Sinai, I would still encourage your adherence.

1. Thou shalt consume more than you create.

The tablet was and is a consumption device. Yes, you can edit a video on the iPad with iMovie. Yes, most tablet cameras shoot video in glorious HD. (Though for some unexplained reason it looks better on the tablet screen than your TV or PC.) And yes, the Ustream App works amazingly well to stream live video. But please remember, this is a screen, and screens are meant to be viewed. Besides, you don’t want to be that one annoying geek in the front row holding up your iPad to capture your favorite band. Use your smartphone or handheld video camera like the rest of us.

2. Thou shalt buy a case/stand/adapter if you want to actually use it.

Watching videos on a tablet turns into a game of Twister with your arms. I am convinced that they bound and gagged the ergonomics team when they developed the tablet. My neck was not designed to bend forward 90 degrees for any length of time. Part of the problem is that we have been trained for years to view a screen straight ahead and interact with the controls on a flat surface in front of us. Integrating the screen and the controls has made things interesting. If you are going to use the tablet for any length of time, please get a docking station and a keyboard or at least a stand that orients it to a proper viewing angle. Your chiropractor will thank you.

3. Thou shalt not multitask in the restroom.

A recent Staples survey found that 35% of tablet owners engage in surfing while using the bathroom. Think about this fact the next time you borrow your co-worker’s Galaxy Tab to watch a YouTube video. ’Nuff said.

4. Honor thy bedtime and keep it holy.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that almost half of us don’t sleep well on weeknights. And what is one of the big culprits? Screens. That soft glow tells our brains it’s still light outside and can prohibit melatonin production. While the tablet has given us better access to more information, it has also put a larger screen much closer to our face. So, if you want to get some rest, put the iPad down at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.

5. Thou shalt take it with you.

The tablet is more portable than you think and should be a device to carry with you almost everywhere wherever you go. Paired with a Bluetooth speaker, I use it for a visual DJ booth on the back deck. It’s great for meetings, taking notes, showing presentations/videos, and catching up on all your social graphs. My archaic car DVD player with two screens finally cratered on a recent vacation. One headrest case later, we now have two quiet children on long car rides. I signed up for a free SquareUp.com reader, and I can now take credit cards, accept signatures, and send contracts, all from my tablet. So get a sturdy case and stand, and don’t be afraid to take it with you.

While it may sound like we are bowing down around the golden calf, I do believe that this device will revolutionize the way we consume video, share content, and interactively communicate. Just don’t expect warranty coverage after wandering in the desert for 40 years.    

This article first appeared in the October/November 2011 issue of Streaming Media under the title "Five Tablet Commandments."

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