On the most recent MobileTech Roundup podcast, hosts James Kendrick, Kevin Tofel and Matt Miller wonder what happened to the slates. Well, they don’t just wonder what happened. Kendrick sort of declares them dead, at least as far as UMPCs are concerned. It is a shame really, that the move to add a keyboard to any Ultra-Mobile device out there has become such an overriding concern. Couple that with the lack of digitziers that can allow any reasonable attempt at Inking, and you have complete abandoment of a platform and confusion in the market.
And speaking of the market, The MobileTech Rounderuppers say the mythic market has spoken. I take slight issue with that position. What market? One never developed because there was no clear vision of what was being sold. And if there had of been, how can you sell a device that focuses on touch without giving consumers an opportunity to touch the devices, or at least creating commercials that show what that means. Intriguinly all of the critics who derided UMPCs for a lack of a keyboard swallowed Apple’s vision ot touch whole hog. Apple had a clear version of how to market their new device and make touch palpable to the consumer (and to the influencers.) They even cushioned the blow a bit by saying up front that it would take consumers time to adjust to the digital keyboard. No, the market never materialized due to both a lack of a coherent marketing strategy and a lack of a clear vision on how to sell UMPCs.
In my opinion, the move to add keyboards just shows that both Microsoft and the OEMs are scared out of their minds in the face of what Apple and Nokia have created (although Nokia has now curiously added a keyboard to the N810). An interesting side note about this that sort of proves the point. Check out this new Zune commerical that appears to show the Zune with a touch screen. It doesn’t have one to my knowledge but the suggestion is sure there. They really have absolutley no clue as to what they want these devices to be or how to bring them to market. They never did.