Where are the gadgets? – a reader in Asia sounds off

I received the following email from Ken Hong, a jkOnTheRun reader and podcast listener who has been working in Asia for the past few years. Ken wants to know where mobile technology is heading and why he does not see any Tablet PCs nor PDAs throughout his travels in Asia. I am posting his email with permission in the hopes we can start a discussion of benefit to all (thank you, Ken):

As a gadget fan since my TI 99/4A over 25 years ago, I’ve upgraded since then to a Compaq TC1000 (proudly the only person at my 900-employee company to successfully argue that they should replace my Thinkpad with a Tablet PC!) and PalmOne Tungsten C, among other knick-knacks. With respect to your role as a Microsoft MVP (congrats, by the way), I’m no fan of Pocket PC after having struggled with ActiveSync on my iPaq for six months before going back to Palm, but really love my tablet except for that damn Crusoe chip. What a lemon!

Let me get to the point I’m trying to make, which I’m recommending as an upcoming discussion topic on TA or TPCS — as an early adopter working in Asia, I spend a lot of time in Japan (high-tech heaven), Korea (broadband and wireless heaven), Singapore (where the weather is heavenly) and Hong Kong (business center of the region) and have yet to run into another Tablet PC user in the two years I’ve owned my TC1000! My early adopter status has turned into "only-adopter" status.

So my question is, "WHAT HAPPENED"??? Why hasn’t the TPC caught on, especially in a region where tiny and portable consumer electronics are the norm? Is the TPC destined to be stuck in only verticle application environments or will it ever break into the mainstream world of business? As a PR professional, I consult for General Motors, Philips Electronics, Shell Oil, Dupont, etc. and other large companies which employ hundreds of thousands of skilled laborers and none of their IT departments will sign off on the purchase of a TPC. What must Microsoft and its OEMs do to get TPCs into the hands of serious businesspeople?

My second suggestion for a discussion topic is as follow: The only people I see with PDAs in Asia are expat (foreign) workers. Dedicated PDAs are non-existent here, as smartphones running Microsoft Mobile OS are all that’s available. Pocket PCs and PalmOnes are very rare here, as only a fool like me would struggle to jot a note into my Tungsten C with my Samsung cellphone jammed between my jaw and shoulder. So my question is, is the dedicated PDA destined to go the way of the dodo in favor of Treos and smartphones, which in my humble opinion are too big to be sexy phones and too small to be useful PDAs? Like you, I am a fanatical ebook subscriber, having 6-8 titles loaded into my Tungsten C at any given moment. If the screen on my TC was any smaller, I’d probably have to forego this favorite pasttime.

Sorry for the length of this email, it’s not often I get the chance to communicate with someone who is as fanatical about gadgets as I am…

Ken Hong

Shanghai, China

(how many podcasters can say their shows are heard all the way in China?)

Penn State in ’05!

So, what are your opinions? Who has the best answer for Ken?

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