So much discussion about the Wendland / Dvorak articles has flown around the Tablet PC community that it has me thinking about what a Tablet PC really is. And once I get started thinking, well, here it goes again. Mike Wendland has been chided because he chose a surfboard of a Tablet PC to use to determine whether a Tablet PC would work for him. Everyone who uses a Tablet knows that was a wrong choice for that purpose and Wendland has reportedly admitted that error, once the hubbub was raised.
I don’t blame him for that choice. It shows a fundamental flaw with the image most people have of the Tablet PC, and that improper image has been thrust on the market by the very people responsible for the Tablet PC. So what image should a Tablet PC convey to prospective users? The single most important trait of a Tablet PC is the creativity that is possible on this above any other platform. It is lighter and thinner than any other computer and throws in the ability to work with ink on top of that. It must be lighter and thinner or it can’t be easily carried around, and you must have it when you need it or you can’t use it. There is no other mobile computing platform that lets you free form your ideas, create beautiful artwork, personalize your email with handwriting, and even conduct IM sessions in your own handwriting. Everything about the Tablet PC says take me anywhere and "create nice things with me" and "let your creative juices flow when you use me."
At some point in the Tablet’s short history we’ve lost a very critical point and that is that the Tablet PC must be very mobile. You MUST have it with you when you need it or it is useless to you. But we have gone the other route, and instead we’ve taken the svelte Tablet PC and stuck a full keyboard on it, and in some instances an optical drive. That means it’s much bulkier and heavier than the original slate form. "But it’s more useful with a keyboard." That point of view is just so WRONG that it shows people really don’t get it. And the Tablet is something you must GET to want one. Having the convertibles around clouds the purpose of using a Tablet and guarantees it is less mobile than it should be. And the message that sends out to prospective owners who WANT to get a Tablet but are sitting on the fence is counter-productive. "OK, it’s a laptop that happens to be a Tablet. So why do I need both. Oh, I see, true Tablets aren’t useful by themselves, you have to have a keyboard." No wonder sales of Tablets are so low. The target market is CONFUSED about what a Tablet is and who can blame them. What’s wrong with a nice slim Tablet PC with a small portable wireless keyboard for those times when you need it. That correctly relegates the keyboard to its proper role with the Tablet. "Don’t use it much but it’s easy to carry if I do." Once it’s permanently attached it becomes a necessity, and it’s much harder to convince the prospective customer that he really doesn’t need it. And that is a very mixed message.
Don’t believe me? Hand a light, small slate Tablet PC to someone who’s never used one and watch the wonder in their eyes as they feel the ink. It’s a wonderful thing and as they play around with it the first time, feeling how light and MOBILE it is, you can see it click. And most of them get it right away. Now hand them a convertible and try the same thing. You never get past how heavy and bulky it is. It’s just a laptop at that point that, sure you can write on the screen but why would you. It’s got a keyboard for that. It completely eliminates the advantages that Tablet PCs offer the user. And I’m sorry, but to me that’s just plain wrong. I think the convertible will be the death of the Tablet PC and that’s just a darn shame.