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Alexander: Better tablets won't replace small laptops

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER
  • Star Tribune
  • May 22, 2012 - 6:52 PM

QA computer salesman told me that small netbook computers are going to go away, and will be replaced by tablet computers. I thought this wasn't good news for me because I travel and need a computer that's lighter than a laptop but can handle more standard PC software.

However, the salesman said new tablet computers to be released in September will have all this software. Is this true?

INDRANI MAITRA,

MINNEAPOLIS

AYes, but that doesn't mean small laptops are going away. Here's what's happening:

Starting about three years ago, netbooks were sold as smaller, lighter laptops with limited computing capabilities.

About two years ago, following the introduction of the iPad, netbook sales growth began to decline, largely because tablet computers offered the capabilities of a small netbook in a more convenient form.

Your salesman's prediction of new tablets that can run the same software as a netbook refers to the pending introduction of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, which is expected to result in tablets that run more PC-like programs.

That doesn't mean tablets will replace small laptops. Why? Tablets are inherently limited by their lack of a full-sized physical keyboard. (You can buy a keyboard, but you have to carry it around.)

Instead, standard laptops will get lighter and smaller, while still offering full-function computing, portability and a real keyboard. The first generation of these lighter laptops didn't do well because they were pricey, at least several hundred dollars more than an iPad. By later this year, these laptops are expected to sell for as little as $600, which is competitive with the iPad.

Android apps

Several readers, including Robert Crone of Ottawa and Pat and Arleen Heimann of Tucson, Ariz., asked for a list of apps for tablet computers that use Google's Android operating system. Here are a few: "Featured Android Apps for Tablets" (tinyurl.com/dynabhb), "Top 50 Android Tablet Apps" (tinyurl.com/83dneuh), "11 Best Android Tablet Apps for Newbies" (tinyurl.com/cynyltv) and "Android Tablet Apps" (tinyurl.com/898g9db.)

QTo save hard disk space, I'm thinking about uninstalling Microsoft and Windows update files dating back several years from my Windows XP computer. Should I?

ANTHONY GIOIA,

ORO VALLEY, ARIZ.

ANo. The updates were designed to correct software flaws or security vulnerabilities, and eliminating them will cause trouble. Instead, get rid of unused software, or old data files and photos.

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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