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Summary:

Rob Bushway of GottaBeMobile is bored with the Tablet PC.  More accurately, Rob is bored with the lack of innovation in the Tablet PC space and laments the "wow" factor he experienced with the original Tablet PCs when they were introduced a few years ago.  I […]

Jk_icon_100pixRob Bushway of GottaBeMobile is bored with the Tablet PC.  More accurately, Rob is bored with the lack of innovation in the Tablet PC space and laments the "wow" factor he experienced with the original Tablet PCs when they were introduced a few years ago.  I see where Rob is coming from but I see the state of the Tablet PC a little differently than Rob.

I agree with Rob that on the surface most of today’s Tablet PCs look like their forebears but in fact they are quite different.  We now have a number of Tablet PCs available with Core 2 Duo processors and 2 – 3 times the memory than those original Tablets offered.  To me this is a big deal and means that the Tablet PC is not only unique in the functionality offered over notebook PCs but also is now powerful enough to meet virtually everyone’s needs.  This was certainly not the case with the first generation Tablets.  I understand Rob’s feelings, though, as this hardware advance is not a visible one and quite frankly we should expect hardware evolution like this.  But I do find that these powerful Tablets are just as capable as their inkless brothers, something that the first gen Tablets were not and were soundly thrashed by the critics as a result.  The innovation through evolution is there and it is important to me.  We also have more choice than ever before with Tablet PCs now available in all shapes and sizes, with keyboards and without, touch screens or active digitizers or both.

Rob is correct in grousing over the prices of Tablet PCs but I’m not sure what anyone can do about that.  Tablet PCs are supersets of notebook PCs and they will always cost more as a result.  They have more hardware like active digitizers and more recently dual digitizers and this has a cost.  I can offer this POV though, my recent search for a high-end powerful notebook PC opened my eyes a great deal about notebook pricing.  I was confronted with paying $3,000+ to get a powerful full-featured notebook PC that could function as a desktop replacement.  We read about sub-$1,000 notebooks all the time and it makes us think that powerful notebooks are dirt cheap but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Compare a $3,000 Tablet PC with a comparably equipped notebook PC and I think you’ll find the prices pretty similar.  I’m sure you can find a notebook that’s cheaper than the Tablet but then you won’t be able to write on the screen of the notebook.

I think the lack of a "wow" factor as Rob puts it has more to do with the dearth of Tablet PCs in the enterprise.  Every single week that rolls by I have at least one or two people come up to me and tell me they "want one of those" while pointing to my Tablet.  They watch me leverage the productivity of the Tablet PC every day and they realize they would benefit greatly from using one.  They can’t, though, as they are quick to tell me, because their company doesn’t offer them to employees.  I hear this litany repeated over and over and it’s something I hope changes soon.  I am hoping that Dell’s rumored entry into the Tablet PC space will mean that enterprises will start making them available as an option for their employees.  People who see the Tablet PC in action see the "wow" factor that Rob is lamenting.  They just need an opportunity to get their hands on one.

BTW, this post was produced by dictating the text to my Tablet PC.  This is an awesome feature of the Tablet PC and now all Vista PCs that most people overlook.

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  1. Stephen Feger Saturday, April 28, 2007

    Well, I’ll speak as someone who purchases for an enterprise level organization (7000+ employees) and I do purchase some Tablet PC hardware. While I agree that there is always the need for greater innovation in the hardware space; let me be tell you, that’s not the reason there’s no pickup in the enterprise arena. It’s really simple. It’s all about the software. Hardware changes constantly. When you are working on a large project that involves mobile technology, by the time you get from start to finish on the application, a new hardware product comes out. Application development cycles are much longer that hardware development cycles. I am always telling people to NOT focus on the hardware. The hardware is only one part of the equation. But people are tactile, they like what they touch. The eye-candy factor is huge. But in the end, what is a Tablet PC? It’s a laptop with one extra input mechanism (the digitizer) and it relies on software to take advantage of it.

    If you really look at the software that is available, it’s very, very thin. Most business are using customized applications. As good as OneNote is (and it is REALLY good), businesses are not focusing on that. They’re focusing on their core business applications. Additionally, the use of the digitizer can significantly change the user interface (that’s a good thing), but it’s not as simple as using the TIP to enter your data. Application needs to be made ink aware and that is a very time consuming effort if you are a corporation seeking to modify your applications.

    I could go on and on about this issue. Like Rob, I too want to see continued innovation. I want to see even lighter units with greater battery life at a lower cost. I love the Fujitsu P1610 (bought 14 this week). But I bought them for their light weight and battery. The digitizer was a secondary benefit. I don’t have the apps that can truely take advantage of it.

    Don’t get me wrong, people are programming to take advantage of the digitizer, but not a lot of them. The devleopment environments are out there. Active Ink is one that quickly comes to mind. But there are many development environments other than .NET and there’s not a lot out there.

    In the enterprise, when they say, “build it and they will come”, they’re not talking about the hardware, they’re talking about the software.

  2. Just a comment – I think Tablet PC’s haven’t gotten into the mainstream so much because not many people feel the need to have pen-based input…I mean, if pen-based computing was compelling to the mainstream, then wacom tablets would be as common as computer mice, or keyboards. Similarly, though its true that Tablet PCs are technically supersets of normal laptops, I think its fair to say that most people don’t understand why they would want to pay for the premium in order to write on their screens.

    I think this where UMPCs come in; once the price is right, it’ll introduce a new generation of people to ‘inking’, and educate people of the whole tablet pc platform. I think Vista’s built-in tablet functionality was a genius move by Microsoft, because OEMs have an opportunity to experiment with laptop designs/implementations(such as the tx1000) without the cost of having to provide a specialised operating system to take advantage of it.

    I was recently in the market for a new PC to replace my laptop, and I strongly considered a UMPC/Tablet PC. However, in the end, the low processing power for the price made me decide to go for a regular laptop instead. Having said that, I do have a wacom tablet, and was impressed with the tablet functions of Vista. ‘m hoping that eventually the prices on UMPCs would have gone down enough to warrant buy one as a secondary computer.

    ps: I also agree with Stephen that there just aren’t enough programs that take advantage of pen-input.

  3. Where do I get my tablet pcs? From a leading UK reseller of refurbished/ex-demo machines. I’ve picked up several at (ridiculous) prices lower than the refurbished mid-range laptops/pcs they’re selling, replete with exec leather cases and peripherals. It is odd to see how long the tablets stay on the shelves. Generally if I wait a while, it’s not unusual for a further £100 to be knocked off in an effort to shift them. Most of the tablets are (as far as I can determine) as good as brand new. O happy me.

  4. Kip,

    can you share name/contact info of the reseller?

    Thanks,
    Bruno

  5. Daryl Herbert Thursday, May 3, 2007

    I have a tablet PC, and the “wow” factor is gone. Nothing about it impresses me anymore.

    That said, the next laptop I buy will also be a tablet. I like being able to tap the screen with my stylus. A lot. I’m never going to use a trackpad and I don’t want to have to sit at a desk just to keep a mouse handy.

    It’s nice to be able to download PDF forms and mark them up on my screen, and print them out later. I can even sign them.

    It’s nice to be able to doodle in class and take notes while the prof is droning on about something or other. If I want to draw a diagram in my notes, I can.

    It’s nice to be able to read a textbook and handwrite notes at the same time.

    It’s nice to be able to physically reach out, click on the scrollbar, and drag it while I’m reading a long article online. The feeling of precise control is much nicer than tapping the keyboard to advance. Or to physically reach out and close a window. Using a tablet PC is much more natural, even when you’re not drawing on the screen or cradling it like a clipboard.

    Now that I’m used to my tablet, when I use any other computer, I feel slightly alienated from it.

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