Microsoft finally marketing slates with promo videos for ASUS Eee Slate EP121

A mere 10 years after introducing the Tablet PC (and one month after the iPad outsold it), Microsoft is actively promoting the form factor with a series of web videos featuring the ASUS Eee Slate EP121. The shorts present four usage scenarios intended to appeal to a broad, non-geek audience, but leave out key details in building those illusions.

Sizing up the promo videos

While the videos are well-presented, they do leave me with mixed feelings. Of the tablets currently available, the EP121 is probably the slate I’m most eager to get my hands on (if I was really eager to use an iPad, I’d have one). However, I am not part of the audience being targeted. I’m an experienced Tablet PC geek who uses a custom UI. They’re targeting “normals” who, as the mom explained, are not computer savvy. I eagerly recommend Tablet PCs to geeks and folks who are already familiar with the capabilities and deficiencies of Windows tablets, but outside that group, I’ve had to be far more selective.

For this group, the only one who seems to benefit from a Tablet PC is Rabi the graffiti artist. Rabi actually shows us how he uses true pen input with pressure sensitivity, something the iPad does not provide. The other three, however, do not demonstrate any usage that couldn’t be done on a lesser tablet, possibly with better results.

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That could be the reason we don’t see much actual tablet usage in the videos. Most of the footage centers on the users, and when the slate is shown, you don’t really see it doing much. For example, the restaurateur launches Excel on the slate and then shows us how pinch to zoom works on it. Okay, good to know that works on the touchscreen, but most people don’t use Excel for the zoom functionality. The exception again is the graffiti artist Rabi.

For me, the worst part of the videos is that any effectiveness they have will ultimately be neutered by the price tag and battery life on the EP121. Its $999 starting price is double the starting price of the iPad, while its battery life is a mere 3 hours, which translates to about 2 hours of reliable use. That’s fine if you use the slate as a desktop replacement or alternative, or primarily use it in a home or office environment with access to a power outlet. But those are going to be brick walls to potential iPad buyers with lower price tags and longer battery life in mind.

More videos on the promo page

In addition to these videos, Microsoft has a promo page up on their website with two additional videos that actually makes sense for what the EP121 can and can’t do. They feature a dad using the slate as a desktop and then handing it off to his kids for drawing with the pen. The EP121 features an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and up to 64GB SSD, making it more than capable as a PC. It also has a tough Gorilla Glass screen, which means it can withstand the abuse a kid might throw at it for 2-3 hours while running on battery. These videos, which are embedded on the site in Silverlight, better represent what the EP121 can offer than what they have on YouTube. I would have liked to see these in wide distribution.

Also on the page, they have an overview of two columns, one explaining how “It’s very PC” and the other explaining how “It’s not very PC”. Most of it is pretty clear cut, like listing Microsoft Outlook and Photoshop on the PC side and Amazon Kindle on the not so PC side. However, they list the Bluetooth keyboard on the not very PC side, while showing the keyboard on the PC side. They also have a short slideshow of key features and 360 view of the slate.

Conclusion

Drawbacks aside, it is good to finally see Microsoft making an effort on this front. Would have been nice if they’d done it earlier like many of us had wanted, generating awareness of the form factor in the years before Apple stole the product category. We can only hope they’ll one day have a more competitive product to promote.

Via Engadget and Electronista

Update: Another YouTube video entitled “Inspiration” was also posted. Features a blend of artistic and business usage. I like it a lot.

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Comments

  1. Steve S says

    I watched some of the commercials yesterday. Well done. Just about 10 years too late, as Sumocat says…!

  2. InstantIncomeCashMachine says

    I like it, but I agree with what has been stated, Microsoft was finally late on something. For some reason it feels good to know Microsoft can pretty much get left behind in some technology field, feels like that place is ran by damn robots.

  3. Anonymous says

    I have the EP121 and really like it. Out of curiosity, Sumocat, what is the custom UI you use?

      • Sumocat says

        I mentioned this a couple times near the end. Claimed to be 3 hours, which of course means 2+ in practical use (and no swapping). As bad as that is, that would be adequate for mobility within the home or office, such as the scenario presented in the dad + kids videos but not the others.

      • Anonymous says

        My experience on battery life is only slight better than Sumocat’s. Obviously depends on parameters like screen brightness, whether WiFi or BT on or off, etc. Typical for a Win7 machine. Maybe with Sandy Bridge processors this will improve. But the core i5 on the EP121 isn’t Sandy Bridge.

        • tgoode says

          Using a judicious power management scheme I’ve gotten over 4 hours from a single charge. I’m actually posting this reply from my EP121, running on batteries. My charge level is currently 91% and Batterycare is estimating 4 hours runtime remaining.

    • Sumocat says

      You should already have my email on that. For everyone else, it basically centers around using ritePen to launch apps, shortcuts, etc., by writing with the pen. I also hide the taskbar and desktop icons and heavily incorporate gestures in web browsing. It’s not a single UI but a blend of components. I really need to do an InkShow on this.

      • Anonymous says

        Thanks for your email! I look forward to your InkShow on how to put the ritePen lipstick on the Windows 7 UI pig :-)

      • ethibault says

        I have tried rite pen 4.0 with asus EP 121 the pen does not work in portrait mode (I haven’t tried landscape), the “ink” does not only stay under the pen but goes down as well preventing it from working.

        On top of that it seems rite pen does not recognise the screen format there are artefacts “blocks of the screen copied randomly” but I did not use smudgegard like you do on your brilliant T900 inkshow.

        As a whole it seems as if rite pen does not know the format of the screen and its resolution or it has not been calibrated.

        • Sumocat says

          That is very strange. I’ve seen that happen with an older version of The GIMP, an open source image editing program, due to the way it interacted with the digitizer, but never with ritePen. On three entirely different Tablet PC models with Wacom digitizers, the ink stayed with the cursor in either orientation. Perhaps it installed calibrated to landscape mode by default and, because you only used it in portrait and have not changed to landscape since, it simply doesn’t “know” to recalibrate. See if switching orientations fixes it.

  4. Isaac Kim says

    I remember this thing being sold (preorder) for 1200.
    and people saying it will have horrible battery life.
    just better to buy a avg laptop for 600. and a ipad/xoom for 600.
    seems over priced. and pretty much a cooler looking laptop.

  5. Paul says

    Finally indeed!

    These videos are a very welcome marketing push – however, as mentioned…..this is literally YEARS too late, and off-beam as they should IMO be aimed predominantly at those customers who want fuller content generation rather than just consumption.

    As one of the stereotypical time-poor senior managers, I have spent literally years, making full use of the stylus functionality that come with this form factor in documenting meetings and explaining to colleagues context/mindmaps/org charts/process diagrams (etc.) as easily on screen as on paper – these features, coupled with handwriting recognition and synchronised audio-recording in OneNote, are some of the killer reasons why my daily schedule with back-to-back meetings is not as stressful as it should be, and why I am as productive as I am.

    COME ON Microsoft – please put just one more video online and on TV, pitching to corporate clients who can more than justify the initial premium, and recoup it several fold – rather than as an expensive Crayola set.

    I fear that if Microsoft do not pitch this correctly, then they might as well cede all of the tablet market to the newcomers……

  6. GoodThings2Life says

    I do agree they need a “student” ad that demos OneNote extensively, and neither the ads nor my suggested “student” ad take away the need for Microsoft to really get on-board with a touch-centric interface (plus applications).

    I do agree that battery life leaves a lot to be desired, especially compared to the iPad. It’s the exclusive feature of the iPad that I find desirable.

    I believe, however, that there is a large crowd that still prefers the familiarity of their PC. Why? Because no matter how many tens of millions of iPads were sold last year, over a hundred million PC’s were sold.

  7. Breathe67 says

    good points; you’re right about the first video being pen centric. I was actually a bit surprised however that the pinch, zoom and scroll were still so bad (i.e. choppy). Must be the aging Win32 graphics API under the hood. I hear Windows 8 will have a more touch-friendly API.

    • Sumocat says

      Zoom is choppy because the pinch gesture merely triggers the existing zoom functionality that scales in 5% increments. It’s the same as holding down ctrl and spinning the mouse scroll wheel.

  8. Tuur says

    I think I’ll wait for the Motion CL900 or Fujutsi tablet which will be released Q2
    Those got Oak Trail processors. Maybe not so fast as Intel’s Core i5 but I think much longer battery life. For a mobile tablet that’s more important then full power I think.

  9. Jcc says

    I will buy one for me … why? Because is fast and I can install the same programs that i have in my pcs (autocad, civil engineering software, Project,…). I don´t like: battery life, 1.15kg.
    I found a good blog: http://ep121.wordpress.com/

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