Tethered users and toilet tablets

A late August e-mail subject line captured my attention. While the e-mail appeared to have little to directly impact OTA broadcasting, the title could not be ignored: “Owners take their tablets to the restroom.” As curiosity got the better of me, I clicked to read the entire press release.

It seems that Staples Advantage, a division of the Staples office supply company, conducted a survey to see how tablet owners were using their portable devices. The study asked 200 owners of the computers, across multiple companies and industries, about their use of the technology. The study revealed that 60 percent of tablet users admitted to taking their devices on vacation, and almost 80 percent said they use them in bed. A third of tablet owners said they take them to restaurants. Okay, I can believe these numbers, but it was the next study data point that caused me to pause.

The study showed that more than a third of tablet users, 35 percent, take their devices into the restroom. Clearly, one of the key advantages of these relatively new devices is their portability. One often sees tablets being used in restaurants and other non-office spaces. Combined with Wi-Fi, they can be an effective communication tool. And for parents, tablet games help address the issue of fidgety kids when dining out or traveling.

If broadcasters have their way, viewers soon will be able to connect USB receivers to tablets and enjoy OTA DTV while away from the home and even on-the-go. After all, connection-free OTA is one of broadcasters' several advantages over cable.

Tablets also enable a wide range of both business and gaming applications to be carried out on portable and larger screens. No external or folding keyboard is required; owners can type right on the screen. On the surface, a tablet solution seems ubiquitous and perfectly suited for today's busy and fast-paced executive.

But to me, it just seems creepy that some Americans have become so tethered to technology, they cannot even use the restroom without being tethered to an electronic gadget.

A telephone survey asked adults if they always washed their hands when in public restrooms. While 96 percent claimed they did, actual observations indicate otherwise.

A survey from the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute reported that in restroom observations, 93 percent of women washed their hands in public restrooms, but only 77 percent of men did so. But that's an improvement over the results from 2007, when only 66 percent of men did.

I've observed some of those non-washers in our company restroom. Call me a phobic, but I even employ the paper towels used to dry my hands to open the restroom door. If nothing else, such hygiene can help prevent the spread of colds and flu.

All this leads me to regard the use of any tablet computer, which may have been close to a recent flush, at a dinner or restaurant table less than appetizing.

The next time someone wants to share something with you on their tablet, let them hold it. Or, ask them where it's recently been.

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