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Summary:

Motion Computing, a firm in Austin and the premiere slate Tablet PC maker, continues to struggle meeting expectations in what is definitely a niche market.  On the heels of a recent round of employee layoffs Motion has distributed a press release detailing changes in the executive […]

Motion_logoMotion Computing, a firm in Austin and the premiere slate Tablet PC maker, continues to struggle meeting expectations in what is definitely a niche market.  On the heels of a recent round of employee layoffs Motion has distributed a press release detailing changes in the executive leadership of the firm.  Motion is creating the executive position of President and COO, strange as it is that they didn’t have one before, and bringing back one of the company’s founders David Altounian to fill that role.  This represents a shake-up of the executive arm of Motion in the wake of slumping sales and missed forecasts.  The press release quoted CEO Scott Eckert:

“David was instrumental in Motion’s early success, and ultimately in helping the company achieve the leadership position in our category” said Eckert.  “I look forward to working with him going forward as we continue on this next important stage of growth for Motion.”

Motion is one of the few slate Tablet PC makers around, if not the only one, so they’d better be the leader in their category.  Low sales levels would indicate that this niche may not be big enough to support a company as large as Motion had grown prior to all the layoffs.  Motion has been concentrating their efforts on vertical markets such as healthcare in recent years.

  1. If they want to stop struggling they need to update the LS800 and re-release it… Dual Core, SSD, and active digitizer WITH capacitive touch (like the iPhone) as well. leave it an 8″ screen, but up the resolution to 1024×768. I’d buy several of them!

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  2. “Motion is one of the few slate Tablet PC makers around, if not the only one, so they’d better be the leader in their category.”

    What? No love for Fujitsu?

    Totally agree about the LS800 with a higher screen resolution – 1280×768 gets my vote (and my $$$).

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  3. Electrovaya and TabletKiosk both make popular slates, too.

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  4. Many times I’ve had my LS800 in a public setting and people ask about it and are surprised they never heard about it. One of the things Motion should reassess is whether focusing on vertical markets such as healthcare is the best approach, and whether going for a more mass-market approach would bring the price down for everyone by increasing unit sales.

    I don’t know the answer to this question, but if I were making decisions about the direction of Motion I would see this as a central question.

    Conventional wisdom is that slates are not favored by the market and convertibles are. But the iPhone is essentially a small slate with a telephone, and the biggest problem with the iPhone is that using it for any real computer stuff is like peeking through a keyhole. There is a market for a slate with an 8 inch screen, particularly if it can act like a phone too. This vision may require an amount of engineering beyond what Motion can accomplish, but even if they take the more modest route of just going after the consumer market they should carve out the middle ground between other Tablets and Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch.

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  5. Rob, yes both Electrovaya and TabletKiosk make slates but I wouldn’t call them popular, not from a sales standpoint. You never see any of them anywhere in the consumer space. TK slates are primarily touch-enabled vertical market slates by their own admission, that’s their primary market.

    This is Motion’s problem, it’s a niche market within another niche market. The sales numbers are just not there, no matter how much we love the devices.

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  6. Motion may be the best known for slate style Tablets but TabletKiosk and Fujitsu also make excellent slate style Tablet Pcs.

    http://TabletPc2.com
    TabletPc2.com The Place for Mobile PC Comparisons, Reviews, Information, Software and Accessories

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  7. “There is a market for a slate with an 8 inch screen, particularly if it can act like a phone too.”

    Huh? You need your computer to be a phone as well?? What’s wrong with the one on your hip? I’ve seen this “wish” on another blog but I can’t quite wrap my brain around the need to have another phone line connected to a mobile computer.

    My problem with my Motion has always been with their accessories and the absorbent prices they charge for repairs. ($500 to repair a cracked screen!!!) The extended battery holds a full charge for less than 6 months. I’ve had two and need a third. The convertible keyboard is just…cheap. I’ve had three and need a fourth. I won’t buy from Motion again. I’ve seen literally hundreds and hundreds of complaints on forums about their customer support. Your problem can be with the digitizer pen or keyboard and they’ll still say “restore the OS”. Terrible. Knock knock, this all equates to the market, Motion. If you don’t have repeat customers the market just gets smaller and smaller.

    They should’ve taken the Fujitsu route and focused on building superior products. This builds customer loyalty and will sustain the bottom line over time. Just ask Apple.

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  8. Hi James,

    Thanks for your clarification of why you did not initially mention TabletKiosk as a major player in the slate tablet ecosystem. However, I think that you may be surprised to learn about some of the things going on at TabletKiosk; and how our company is growing.

    Our overall business is growing at a record pace and we continue to exceed our quarterly forecasts and sales goals. In fact, sales for the Sahara line have grown over 300% from last year.

    Yes, we consider our core business to be touch screen tablets, yet the number one selling SKU in the Sahara line is the Sahara Slate PC i440D, which offers both Active Digitizer and Resistive Touch screen methods of input. Remarkably, this best seller has the highest price point of all products in the Sahara series.

    We recently moved our corporate offices and warehouse to a much larger facility, which can accommodate the new staff members we are adding to nearly every department. In addition, in the past month, we opened a new European service center while adding distribution points all around the world.

    And we continue to innovate…

    James, you and I have always shared an open line of communication, so I encourage you to redefine your criteria about which companies are currently succeeding in the slate tablet space.

    Gail Levy
    Director of Marketing
    TabletKiosk

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  9. I own an LE1600 that I got at a good price as a refurb. And I like it and use it a lot. But even at the refurb price, it was not an inexpensive purchase. I bought a case, the extended “slice” battery, and a second power supply so I could have one at home and at work. I easily spent a lot of money on the whole outfit.

    Not that I don’t think it was worth it, but the price they charge is high. Ditto with TabletKiosk.

    If the margins are low, then there isn’t much to be done on the pricing front. But if there is some wiggle room, then lowering the prices may be something to consider.

    Another consideration might be for Dell or HP to buy them out.

    Woadan

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  10. Thanks to Gail from TK for sharing that information. :)

    However, Motion has been stalling since they abandoned the consumer space to chase after the vertical markets. By brining back a founding member, I’m hoping he’ll see that every company needs to have a mix of product base. A lesson TK also needs to learn.

    Yes, chase the big corporate dollars, but don’t forget the consumer space where their money can also contribute to the bottom line.

    Microsoft may not be the best example here, but they do have a range of products aimed at different markets, from the high end (price) to the low end (price).

    I thought that was basic Business 101?

    Putting all your eggs in one basket, whether by price or vertical markets, means that one day, you may go hungry.

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