Lora has been virtually moderating a discussion across several blogs concerning such topics as what Tablet PCs might be called in the future, what is the killer app for the Tablet, what features would you like to see on future Tablets, and she is now asking what do others use a PC for? The purpose is to help software developers understand what Tablet PC users are doing with their computers so they can come up with good ideas for future programs. This is a really good idea and I have given this a lot of thought before answering her question.
Before I jump in with my response to the question a little history about this blog conversation. There is a question among Tablet owners whether the Tablet PC name will remain once all the Tablet extensions are included in Vista next year. Several bloggers have provided their point of view about what Microsoft can do for the branding of Tablet PCs so the functionality of the Tablet is still conveyed to the consumer. Some interesting ideas along these lines have been proposed, including my own. I would like to see Microsoft incorporate an “Ink Enabled” branding similar to the wildly successful “Intel Inside” campaign. They could put a little “Ink enabled” insignia on all computers that have Tablet PC funcionality, which would let them call the platform anything they wish. Bill Gates coined the term Mobile PCs so don’t be surprised if all notebooks, Tablet PCs and ultra-portable PCs end up with this name. Adding the “Ink enabled” would make it clear to the consumer that this is a Tablet PC.
I have written and discussed what I do with my Tablet PC ad nauseum so to answer Lora’s question about PC usage I am not going to list my programs and specific tasks I perform with my Tablet each day. Instead, I am going to try and convey what the Tablet PC allows me to do better than any other PC.
My Tablet PC is a repository for all the information I create, collect and reference throughout my day. I can search this information and retrieve it in a format that I find useful. The Tablet lets me use that information in many different ways depending on what I intend to do with it. I can use it for reference for articles I am writing, blog posts I am writing, etc. My Tablet PC facilitates how I work for writing projects which means a lot to me.
I find that planning and outlining sessions go much smoother on the Tablet in ink than on a PC with a keyboard. I think that creating the early information for writing or planning projects is more natural using pen and ink than using a keyboard. I’ve written about the creative process being stimulated while using ink and I firmly believe this is true from my own experiences. Want to see it in action for yourself? The next time you are making out a shopping list for a major buying trip to the supermarket sit down and write it out in ink. Wait a few hours (don’t peek at your list) and then sit down out your PC and make the same list with the keyboard. When you’re done compare the two lists and see how many items you’ve forgotten on the typed list. You may want to note how much time it took to make each list too and I’ll bet the inked list was quicker. Even very good touch typists devote a certain amount of concentration while typing a list like the shopping list to the typing and formatting of the list and that interferes with the creative process. The inker is devoting full attention to the list creation and not subconsciously worrying about typing errors, list format, etc.
So what makes the Tablet PC better than a standard notebook PC for doing all the above (besides the fact you can’t ink on a notebook)? Portability. I can and do take my Tablet PC into places and situations where a notebook computer would not be seen as appropriate. In slate mode it is no more intrusive than a pad of paper. It is portable and mobile enough that I can use it virtually anywhere which means my power tools and more importantly my information are with me when I need them. If you are one of my clients I can tell you what I discussed with you in a meeting a year ago. I probably even have inked sketches on that note that jog my memory so I actually remember that discussion. I may even have a full audio discussion of that meeting. All with me, almost all the time. I have planned, outlined and written hundreds of thousands of words on my Tablet PC, something I could not have done if I didn’t have it with me when free time presented itself unexpectedly. The Tablet PC has become an extension of and a facilitator of my creative process, and it has become a natural part of my work day.