Some Thoughts On Keyboards In A Post-PC World

Two-Tablets-&-PhoneThis past week I’ve been getting to know Google’s Nexus 7. So far I’m liking it a lot. It’s interesting to see where I find it useful and where I still reach for my cell phone, netbook, laptop or desktop. How the Nexus7 changes my relationship with those devices is possibly one of the more interesting things about the tablet.

Of course, the Nexus7 is not my first attempt to make a tablet part of my routine. Last year I bought a Viewsonic gTablet, which is a 10” tablet running Android 2.2. I went so far as loading Cyanogen Mod to it, but eventually lost interest. it was simply too limited to be useful.

Last summer we bought an HP Touchpad running WebOS. The fire sale price was attractive. My wife ended up claiming that as her own. When she thought she’d lost it we ended up with a second Touchpad. That one was almost refit with Android 4.1…and may yet in fact.

Finally, in a fit of bad judgment I bought the HP Slate 500. That was an 8.7” tablet running Windows 7. I purchased it with a specific, work related project in mind. When that project failed to materialize I decided to resell it on E-bay, but not before I had also purchased the companion Bluetooth keyboard and protective cover.

I’ve not owned an iPad, but then it’s no secret that I prefer to avoid Apple products.

Genuine-Google-Nexus-7-Bluetooth-Keyboard-Case-300pxIn truth, the HP BT keyboard is what brings me around to this post. That and the fact that it seems that Google will soon be offering some accessories for the Nexus7. Recently leaked images show that they also expect to offer a Bluetooth wireless keyboard.

I’ve come to feel that, at least for me, a keyboard is a requirement for anything much longer than a tweet. I like using a tablet for certain things, but often even responding to email requires a keyboard. That said, not all keyboards are created equal.

My first netbook was the HP 2140. I researched that purchase very well since I had some very specific goals. At 90% of full size the 2140 had a better than typical keyboard for a netbook. Even so, a couple of odd choices in design rendered it quirky in use.

One of the things that compelled me to purchase an HP 5102 was the improved keyboard. At 94% of full size and with a more traditional layout it has been one of the defining things about why I like the 5102. For a very small system the keyboard is surprisingly usable.

In contrast, the Bluetooth keyboard for the Slate 500 was a serious disappointment. They keys were too small and the layout too obtuse to be comfortable.

If someone goes to the trouble of purchasing an optional keyboard then I think that that keyboard should be good enough to ensure their productivity. If the wireless keyboard is lame then you might be better off using the on-screen keyboard. At least then you wouldn’t be sacrificing the convenience of the small form factor.

So far the Nexus 7 has mostly impacted how I use my cell phone. Things that I once did using the phone, like checking email or reading some RSS feeds, I now do using the Nexus 7. When I’m away from wifi the cell phone serves as a tether for the Nexus 7.

For anything that involves typing more than a sentence or two I still reach for my netbook or laptop.

I’ll surely purchase a few accessories for the Nexus 7. The dock looks promising. I hope that the wireless keyboard doesn’t suck.