Tablets, it seems, are best carried naked in the hand in China. Seven-inchers of uncertain provenance dominate and I see many young people clutching one and using it as a camera. In fact, those who say the iPad is a poor camera device would be surprised here in Beijing. It’s a status camera here, and the Ferrari of tablets is the iPad 2, which is generally on sale. The new iPad hasn’t been launched here, of course.
Today, on my tour or the Forbidden City I came across loads of tablet owners snapping the sights, including the Buddhist geek in the orange woolly hat (see picture).
In fact, I have seen more tablets in the wild in Beijing than I do in London. Even the famous and enormous Beijing duck restaurant, just off Wangfujing Avenue, offers a tablet menu to customers. Just tick off your choice and it arrives at the table. Unfortunately I ordered what I thought was a cheap bottle of Chinese Great Wall red wine at 68 yuan only to find I had carelessly misplaced a zero and the actually price was a hefty ¥680 (£68). It was all the more embarrassing because I wasn’t paying. It’s just too easy to tick those boxes.
This use of tablets as an interactive menu is something that I think will become commonplace in the future. Apart from providing a new and rather interesting way to choose your food, it also introduces tablet computing to people who would, perhaps, otherwise never thought of trying a tablet. Once they have stabbed a bit of Beijing Duck or a gong po chicken they are going to think they would do with one of these useful devices at home.
This could never have happened with a traditional computer with keyboard and mouse, however small. The tablet is just right for so many new tasks that I am sure it will become universal within a short time. Apple, as the premium brand, could lose out on this low-end market, but will benefit as people are introduced to tablets on a day-to-day basis. They will think “iPad”, although the tablet in the photograph is not an iPad and I couldn’t decide what it was. But it did the trick.