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Tablet Thinking

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As the story goes we’re about to see all sorts of Tablets at various points this year beginning this spring. Am I excited about that? Yes, but probably not as much as some. Oh, the geek and gadget blogger in me is very excited to see what is new, what works, what differentiates one from another, and so on and so on. But the Tablet user in me is starting to get a little bit more wary, and dare I say practical about all of this.

Why? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure we’re going to see that much difference in what one Tablet has to offer over another. Don’t get me wrong, some of them will be real sexy and cool to work with. Android and iOS Tablets will have lots of Apps to choose from. But when push comes to shove, I’m betting that no Tablet is going to offer me anything much beyond what I have with my current iPad. Oh, sure the new iPad most likely has a camera or two and may have an increased resolution. It’ll probably get a processor bump,  but none of that really makes me all that gung ho for the next model.

On the Android front, Honeycomb looks exciting, but we’re still along way from demo videos showing us what is really going on there. RIM isn’t of interest to me for personal use. I’ve never used a Blackberry and don’t want to get one to take advantage of what I consider basic features like email and PIM functions. WebOS sounds exciting, but like Honeycomb, we really don’t now much about what it will or won’t be. The Notion Ink Adam looks promising as well, but I’m waiting to see what users say now that it is supposedly shipping. As for Windows Tablets. Well, let’s just not go there. Please.

Here’s the thing. Every Tablet is going to run Evernote. They will all allow media to be played back. They will all feature a Kindle App and most likely a Nook App and any other ebook reading App out there. Most of my favorite Apps will eventually get there as well. They will all browse the web and through some keyboard method you can do email and do some document creation on them. Some will run FLASH. One won’t. Some will run it poorly. Not an issue for me, or at least it hasn’t been since I’ve had the iPad.

Am I being overly skeptical here, or realistic? I’m not sure. But before I decide to purchase a new Tablet that may or may not mean changing platforms here are the things I’m going to have to see and the things I don’t care about.

Things I Need to See:

  • Battery life: The iPad has spoiled me. I use it a lot and have never felt like I needed to conserve or check my usage for battery life. If a Tablet can’t approach that I’m flat out not interested. Apple set the bar here. Everybody else has to measure up.
  • Inking. I know many long time Tableteers will argue that the iPad can’t do Inking the way Tablet PCs can. They are correct. But the iPad, thanks to the work of several App Developers has become a very capable Inking device for my note taking. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again here, it is all about how you prefer to take notes. Will we see this kind of Inking on other Tablets? Perhaps with the Notion Ink Adam. But I’m in wait and see mode here.
  • Ecosystem. Apple is tough to beat here. Android might be getting closer. The key isn’t who has the most Apps, it is who has the Apps I need.
  • Price: No higher than $700.
  • Size: Because of my Inking requirement I need a Tablet with a 9-10 inch screen to work effectively.
  • Weight: No heavier than the current iPad.

Things that Don’t Matter to Me

  • Cameras: I don’t see a real need for a camera on a Tablet in my use case.
  • Connectivity beyond WiFi. I’m not going to pick up another carrier contract for a Tablet. I’ll stick with a MiFi solution that allows me and my wife to use our devices when we travel. Yeah, I know we’re hearing talk about mobile hot spot functionality on smart phones. I just don’t see that as a viable option in my household on a smartphone (believe it or not, unlike many I still use a smart phone as a phone) and I don’t see it if that kind of functionality makes it to a Tablet.
  • Higher Res Display. Nice but not necessary.
  • Ports and Extensibility. I haven’t found myself hampered using the iPad in its current configuration since DropBox made its APIs available and developers took advantage of it.
  • Physical Keyboard. We’re seeing several hybrid like models being talked about.  I can see the use case for others. I don’t need this at all, so it is not a selling point for me.

My wish list is not very long or very complex and given how I see things unfolding in the next year that’s probably a good thing. I just don’t see much difference in what we are supposedly about to see between one Tablet or the other.

I’m sure some are saying that I will never switch from the iPad. That’s not true. If my list of items above gets punched I could easily see myself doing so. But until then, we’ll have to wait and see.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

12 Comments

  1. Willem Evenhuis

    01/20/2011 at 11:31 pm

    I have to agree with Warner on the argument of the battery life and inking. 8 hour runtime minimum is needed to enjoy full inking experience, be it a quick note now and then at home, at work with the patients history taking, or a conference for quick jotting and sleeps and startups of the screen.

    Also I hope inking software will get an upgrade. Voice input seems to have made a great improvement lately, but inking improvement and even ink-to-text recognition (input) is lagging. CES 2011 has shown promising signs that the inking experience is still alive.

  2. Anonymous

    01/21/2011 at 3:45 am

    The only thing I would disagree with here is screen resolution, specifically dpi. I scan a lot of my medical books for use on my TC1000 (Ole Faithful). Even with the use of djvu files the smaller text can be hard to read. If the iPad 2 has a QXGA screen, I’ll be picking up my first Apple product. The only thing they are missing, as is everyone else for that matter, is a Wacom pen (N-Trig would work as well, I guess). I am still mystified at this. I would think the addition of a real stylus would result in exponential use among the educational and academic circles.

    Every other point is spot on. I think that all the tablets end up blending together in form and function because are only so many ways to consume media, and if this is the primary purpose of tablets for most people then there isn’t much else to differentiate them from each other. Thin, portable, large screen. That’s basically all that’s needed, and few scenarios will take advantage of unique hardware, such as swivel cameras or back-sided touch pads. Since Apple has done the most cohesive job of delivery of content there isn’t much need to go elsewhere.

  3. Violajack

    01/21/2011 at 5:36 am

    Inking: Vision Objects was showing a handwriting recognition and mobile notetaking android app at CES. You can convert to text as you go or leave it as handwriting and convert it later. The beta software was working really well at their booth. If they get it out about in time with the next gen of Android tablets, I think it could really make these Android tablets as useful to me as a Windows slate with Evernote, or even OneNote.

    Battery life: yes, oh yes. I need to be able to use it all day without thinking about the battery.

    Higher Res display: 800×480 does not cut it. 1024×600 minimum for a 7″, preferably more on a 10″.

  4. Amplified Analytics

    01/21/2011 at 4:04 pm

    The tablets, e-readers and netbooks all seem to destined to merge. If you value Customer opinions about these devices, go to http://tinyurl.com/aaidemo, enter the product name or model (like “Nook Color”) and click on “Submit” button. The system will aggregate and analyze customer reviews to calculate the reputation metrics for you and will let you read the reviews if you want to. There is also a detail attribute analysis in the blog section that compares customer perceptions of the most popular devices http://tinyurl.com/amp4ereader

  5. Nik

    01/21/2011 at 8:13 pm

    You say you have an excited geek and a gadget blogger inside you, yet you dont see the need for multitasking? hmmm….

  6. Wholesalewill

    01/25/2011 at 7:39 am

    there are too many kinds of Tablet pc, except the ipad, samsung p1000, motorola xoom, and also other kind neutral brands, such as: http://www.gowetrade.com/Wholesale-Cheapest-mid-umpc-ebook-android-os_c959.html, and more and more persons like it very much, also come with the android system or windows OS. that’s why it become so popular and a great trend around of the world

  7. Brucewilsonpa

    01/26/2011 at 5:32 pm

    Having owned/used a tablet PC (HP Touchsmart), an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab….. I agree with Warner’s assessment. One other consideration I would add though — to be useful in the longterm I believe the tablet has to offer more versatility than a comparable smartphone — I sold my iPad because I can do everything it does on my iPhone (albeit without the nice screen size, but a much lighter device to hold) — I’m considering selling my Galaxy Tab because I’ve found myself ignoring it in favor of either my PC (more versatility) or my iPhone (reading, listening to media, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Android capabilities it offers — I consider Apple behind on OS for these — but for my use much of what the GTab offers is redundant, and its battery life (7 hr for me) is too short.

  8. dstrauss

    01/27/2011 at 2:09 pm

    I’m afraid Apple is forging towards an insurmountable lead, just as they did in the MP3 player market. I own/owned an HP 2730p (PC tablet), iPad, HP Slate 500, and iPhone. I have watched the developing Android army of tablets, Playbook, and HP Touchpad. EVERYONE is chasing the iPad, and touting either iPad-like closeness or iPad-killer status, Like my kids favorite saying, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” All of these iPad-wannabes are making the same mistake as Digital River, Samsung, Sony, etc. 10 years ago – always trying to catch up with the latest iPod while Apple was introducing the next generation. It’s happening all over again in the tablet space.

    I would agree with Brucewilsonpa about the iPhone, but for these old eyes, the iPhone screen is just too small to truly do what the iPad can do. Like Warner, I’ll skip iPad 2 because my money is on iPad 3 – iPad 2 feels too much like the iPhone 3Gs; not a real upgrade over the 3G, but certainly a great choice for those not yet in the Apple phone pool. iPad 2 will do the same for the tablet market – some will upgrade but many more sitting on the sideline will opt for the “real thing” iPad 2 over the almost iPad quality competitors, PARTICULARLY if they try to keep their prices at premium levels (are you listening Motorola?)

  9. Anonymous

    02/06/2011 at 6:11 pm

    Sorry but Windows OS in the Tablet is absolute must for me, and the HP Slate does it beautifully, brilliantly, and I’ll even say it, miraculously.
    After getting frustrated for months in the walled garden that was my iPad, it’s amazing to be completely liberated with a device as useful and powerful as the Slate. Those who say a tablet can’t run Windows are speaking from either naivete or fanboy bias.
    Unfortunately it’s a nightmare trying obtain one. I’ve had one on backorder with HP for over 2 months now — so I just purchased it off Ebay instead. (and maybe when my original order comes, I’ll put that one on Ebay).
    Yes, the Price is a little high ($799). But then my iPad had cost $699 !! And that $100 difference is negligible for all the amazing power that you get.

    And there was even an iPad for $829 if you want 3G — and the fanbois have had no problem gobbling up every one of those as well.

    This cult of “You-Can’t-Put-An-OS-On-A-Tablet” is both bizarre and weird. iPad & Android Tablets are great, but if you need to do more, then thank goodness for an alternative like the Slate.
    (p.s.: battery life has been fine. No issues there. And “NO” this isn’t a paid endorsement. I simply Love and feel empowered by this ridiculously excellent little machine).

    • Techgeek32

      02/08/2011 at 2:08 am

      I agree with the previous poster. I have tried to use the iPad to do “real” work, but it is just not possible. I will keep my iPad for consumption purposes but purchased an HP Slate and can now do anything I couldn’t do with the iPad. I will sell my MacBook air 11 and Keep the slate and iPad.

    • Techgeek32

      02/08/2011 at 2:08 am

      I agree with the previous poster. I have tried to use the iPad to do “real” work, but it is just not possible. I will keep my iPad for consumption purposes but purchased an HP Slate and can now do anything I couldn’t do with the iPad. I will sell my MacBook air 11 and Keep the slate and iPad.

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