They're nice to play with, but do they make life easier?
I've been told that the greatest ideas solve problems that we didn't know we had, but I'm not sure tablets have solved much for me. I can say netbooks have been very useful when they have good battery life, but I have many uses for laptops that are more portable. To me, portability and function are key. A Netbook is an improvement over a laptop because they're not very expensive, easier to carry around, and are just as functional for most office work. Tablets, on the other hand, occupy a strange place where I think we haven't really gotten to yet.
I held off on getting a tablet device until about last fall, when I bought a used slate. The tablet PC market has been depreciated by the influx of touchpad devices, and three-thousand dollar slates can be picked up used, in new condition, for around two-hundred dollars. I bought one because it had a good digitizer that enabled me to take long-hand notes for classes, which I thought might be more useful than a touchpad. I really don't have much use for a touchpad device that isn't designed for writing in some way. However, after several months of usage, the slate has become a laptop, the pen hardly gets used, and I'm using my netbook more.
The problem is that most environments aren't set up to easily accept these devices, and they're designed for general use, and are thus not the best at anything in specific. For my slate, I thought it would be great to never have to make paper notes, but the maintenance of keeping everything digital and available, all the time, was just too much. Even a windows slate with Office requires too much conversion. Transferring PDFs to note formats is a troublesome task, and often takes longer than printing the documents.
Also, it's really only a matter of time before you start making a to-do pile of documents that either need to transferred to a different location, or scanned. The tablet just became another chore when it came to integrating it into the existing work system in my life, and my windows slate, with all the software, 10 hours of battery life, and digitizer pen wasn't as effective as working the same way everyone else was in the office.
I can only imagine how useless my purchase would have been without the pen, and without sharing the same OS as my work environment. Perhaps there will come a time when tablets alone rule the business world, but I don't see it happening any time soon. In a work environment that is specifically designed to work without tablet devices, you're only making more work for yourself for trying to shoehorn it in.