Some Thoughts On The Past and Future in Mobile Computing

As I wrap up my final days here at GottaBeMobile.com, I wanted to share a few thoughts on my own experiences from the past several years, some wins, some fails, as well as impressions on the current state of the industry.

  • The worst tablet pc I ever purchased was the Dell Latitude XT. It was riddled with bugs, was overpriced, and is still not a shoe-in to get Windows 7 Touch logo certified.   Prove me wrong N-Trig and get what was once marketed as the most future-proof tablet on the market, Windows 7 Touch Logo certified. As least give me a little something to be thankful for.
  • Apple’s App Store review / rejection process will be their own undoing.
  • The best bag I’ve ever used was Tom Bihn’s Buzz Bag. I gave away the one I reviewed and loved it so much that I bought my own.
  • Google Voice is simply the best thing to ever happen to mobile people – a single line to follow you wherever you are and ring whatever phone you happen to be using at the time. Again, Apple’s App Store rejection policies will be their own undoing.
  • One of the best mobile accessories I’ve purchased in a long time is the MiFi from Verizon. A portable WiFi cellular hotspot in your pocket – it doesn’t get better than that.
  • Lenovo’s Netbooks have come a long way. Their S10-2 is simply an awesome portable computer. Samsung’s N310 ranks up there pretty well, too. I think the sweet spot in netbooks is the 10″ screen – good screen size and provides for a larger keyboard. I think the days of the 8 – 9″ netbook are over.
  • The worst netbooks I’ve used have been Dell’s. The touchpad and buttons are horrible.
  • I was in Verizon yesterday picking up a secondary phone for when I’m traveling (see Google voice comment above). The rep told me they are selling a ton of HP Mini 1000′s with embedded 3G and getting very few of them returned.
  • One of the saddest things to happen to ultra-mobile computing was the closing of OQO. It was my all-time favorite ultra-portable computer.
  • The two best convertible tablet pc’s I’ve used to date are Lenovo’s X200 and HP’s 2730p. All around, though, I have to give it to the Lenovo’s X200. I like the 2730p purely from a design perspective, but struggled with HP’s slick dura-finish keyboard. If I were buying a tablet today, Lenovo would rank as first on my list, and likely always will.
  • My favorite slate tablet pc goes to Motion Computing’s LE1700. The tapered back with snap-on battery was a pure elegant design. It had class written all over it. Motion’s J3400 is no slouch, especially with the dual battery design on the back, but purity in the design of the LE1700 will always capture my heart.
  • In a class all its’ own was HP’s TC1100. Like the LE1700, it exuded class and a purity in tablet design. There has never been anything to come close since. As we look at Apple’s upcoming iPod Tablet, I think memories of the TC1100 will come flooding back.
  • As I look back at the whole UMPC / Origami, I’m thinking that Microsoft was a few years ahead of its’ time. However, the whole Origami software effort was messed up from the beginning.
  • I cycle through gadgets on a regular basis, but one of my mainstays over the past several years has been the Kindle. It has revived my love for long-form reading.
  • I’ve played with a number of MIDs (see MIDStories.com), but I still think Apple is winning the game right now in overall experience. Their rumored upcoming Apple Tablet (Verizon rep was telling me it was coming and they would be carrying it) will prove to be challenging as well. As I said before, though, Apple’s undoing is their App Store. If Intel and their partners can capitalize on developers and consumers frustrations, they might begin to win this battle.
  • I still get giddy with excitement every time a vendor or customer sends over a PDF and asks me to print it out, sign it, and fax it back to them. To this day, there is nothing like flipping around the screen on my tablet pc, signing the PDF, and emailing it back to them. My Tablet PC, combined with some great software, has been an invaluable tool in business and all the medical dealings for my daughter. I can’t begin to count how often on-the-fly form filling has sped up a process. The best software on the market for this is PDF Annotator and Bluebeam. I hope to film a quick InkShow showing of Adobe’s Acrobat and the ink plug-in. Stay tuned for that InkShow.
  • One of the best buys on the market, for portable computing, is the 13″ MacBook Pro. Stick Windows 7 on it in boot camp mode and you’ve got a system that runs two fantastic OS’s with 6 – 7 hour battery life. The more I use the multi-touch trackpad on the MacBook Pro, the more I hate using the touchpad on my Dell Latitude XT.
  • Some of the worst screens in Tablet PCs have got to be Fujitsu’s Tablet PCs. They are traditionally grainy and sparkly. The only exception I have found is Fujitsu’s T2010 series.
  • One of the most exciting things that Microsoft has done of late is Surface. The things the Surface team has done has infiltrated into Windows 7 and will impact mobile computing like nothing else before. When I talk with occupational therapists about touch, they are bubbling over with excitement. The possibilities to impact lives through software and hardware that take advantage of touch and multi-touch is tremendous.
  • I am soooo over glossy screens. OEMs: please bring back the matte
  • As I read all the reports about tablet this and tablet that, I’m reminded that the Tablet PC was first introduced in 2001. The form factor that Bill Gates and others have been trumpeting is finally coming into its own. Remember the HP TC1100, the LS800, and others? It is time for the likes of Motion Computing, TabletKiosk, and Fujitsu to stand up and take ownership of what is now a prime opportunity. You’ve owned this space for years, act like you own it now.
  • As I look at mobile computers for my customers, battery life is ranking up there as their top issue. Seven hour battery life is becoming the standard to shoot for, and if they can only get that in a Netbook, then that is where they are going.
  • My biggest reclamation of time has come from deleting my twitter and friendfeed accounts.
  • I’ve never been a real fan of traditional cloud computing. Please don’t ask me to switch over to Google Docs – I’ve tried it and can’t stand the workarounds one has to put in place to make it work. Their offline mode is an excercise in futility. In my opinion, the best cloud computing experience is one that offers a seamless sync between a client and the data in the cloud. Some of the best software doing that right is Windows Live Mesh and Evernote. Microsoft’s Outlook + Exchange has been a wonderful sync toolset that has been available for years. Google’s Gmail, with their offline support, has now eclipsed Exchange + Outlook in my use due to simplicity and cost. In fact, I’ve got three clients right now that are looking at dropping Exchange for Google Apps. I’m looking forward to experience Microsoft’s Office for Web experience, but they better get the sync experience right and link it in to Live Mesh.
  • One of my biggest disappointments in the Tablet PC software space has been with Microsoft’s Office team. We are no further along with inking in Office than we were five or six years ago. What we’ve got in Office 2010 is some redesigned ways to get to the same tools. Microsoft owes Josh Einstein a huge “thank you” for ink-enabling their own application and keeping interest in ink alive.
  • From a pure tablet pc note-taking experience, InkSeine cannot be beat. It’s best feature is that it isn’t OneNote. It is like the Kindle for notetaking – get out of the way and let the user take notes. My fondest memories from the past several years is getting to meet Ken Hinckley and Raman Sarin.
  • For brainstorming and organizational notetaking, MindJet’s MindManager is a keeper. They’ve got some work to do to improve the tablet pc experience, but on the whole, there couldn’t be a better match than MindManager and a digital pen.

So, go be mobile. Whip out that Tablet PC and enjoy some writing. Kick back in one of those comfy chairs in your favorite independent coffee shop and enjoy browsing the web TODAY the way people are talking about wanting to do it tomorrow.

  

Comments

  1. Ken Hinckley says

    Boy, it’s been a long road for you Rob! Thanks for sharing your ideas and insights from over the years.

    Take care in your new endeavors and stay in touch!

    Ken

  2. GoodThings2Life says

    I completely agree on nearly every point you made! I just can’t bring myself to support a company that 25 years ago claimed to be the ones who were breaking from 1984 tradition but have instead become the epitome of 1984 control.

  3. Sumocat says

    Rob, I completely disagree with you on two points: “some” and “few”. I’ve read “some” thoughts before. This was not one of those times. I had to block off time and make reading this a task in Outlook, which I will now mark complete and satisfying. Thanks!

  4. Miguel says

    Rob, I have been reading you for a few years, and want to thank you for sharing your comments, knowledge and private life with us.
    I’m not a religious man and think ours opinions about a lot of things would be very differents. Like you, I have a family and I sincerely wish that you, your wife, kids and people near you get the peace you need.

    ¡Que te vaya bien, amigo!.

    Miguel (from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain).

  5. Ananth says

    I don’t if you installed Windows 7 RC on your latitude XT, but I have and the N-Trig Beta drivers, and it works fantastic. Much better than Vista.

  6. Brett G says

    All the best Rob. Thanks for your dedication and hard work over the years. You’ve taught me a lot through these pages…

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