It seems that all of the hardware manufacturers have convinced themselves that the general computing consumer is ready to embrace the tablet computer, but the question remains of what real benefit are such devices to your average user?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was filled to the rafters with tablet computers this year, and with the expectation that next week’s Apple event is all about the long-rumored Apple Tablet, it seems that we are finally going to have to accept that these products are coming to market. While there is nothing wrong with that, you have to wonder just what problem in our lives are these devices going to solve?

For most products to be successful they have to solve an actual problem, but with netbooks getting so cheap and giving you an ultra portable computing experience while still having the benefit of a full keyboard, that might be difficult to sell consumers on the concept. Well, what if they can get a high definition video viewing experience in a small screen? Netbooks are all fine and well for some light Web surfing, but they aren’t really known for their entertainment options. With a tablet you could easily keep yourself entertained on an airline flight without having to wrestle with the tray table extensively.

There has been a lot of talk about how tablets could end up solving issues in the educational arena by cutting down on paper use, lightening the load of what you would need to carry with you to class and so on. While the lightening of the load makes sense for just about everyone who has to lug around a laptop with them, education is the most intriguing application to me as it could also end up saving students a lot of money with potentially cheaper texts, and even the possibility of renting texts in a digital format that could be updated constantly through out a semester.

Business use will be the biggest question mark in this equation, but with custom built software you could have a very handy mobile ordering system, or inventory control device. Of course, these devices would probably have to be a bit more rugged, but they could still be thinner than the tablet PCs that have been on the market up to this point.

So, what say you? What benefits do you see to using a tablet device over a traditional laptop or a netbook?

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