Why Hands On Is So Important

My good friend and colleague, Steve Przybylski, needed to take his MacBook Pro in to the Apple Store for a Genuis appointment today and I thought I would tag along for the ride to check out the new MacBooks that were just released.

I’m glad I did. Although I’m not in the market for purchasing a MacBook, I’ve certainly followed all the hullabaloo associated with the new releases and the Apple Store is a great place to go hands on with devices. Every time I take a trip there (about 4 times a year or so) it is so refreshing to be able to work with actual devices. We’ve sung the litany for a long time about Tablet PCs not being available in retail outlets, and by and large that is unfortunately still the case. Netbooks are slowly making their way on to retail shelves, or in some cases into stores but not onto shelves. When I checked out the Acer Aspire One Netbook a couple of months back, Circuit City couldn’t put them out on the shelves because they were afraid of theft and they didn’t fit the lock mechanisms. In my opinion, that kind of thinking is one of the reasons Circuit City is on the ropes and rumors are circulating that they may go out of business after this holiday season.

The Apple Store method is a great experience. Not only can you go hands on, but you can spend some quality time getting to know a device. In my opinion, the relationship between one’s hands and the device (whether keyboard or Tablet PC) is a very important one and a crucial part of the purcashing decision. Or at least it should be.   I’m lucky. Because of my association with GBM, I get to try out devices before plunking my money down. Others are not so lucky.

A case in point: while I very much liked the look of the new MacBooks and the new buttonless trackpad, I was very disappointed in the keyboard and also the weight. The device feels heavier than I would want it to be and heavier than it looks to be. No reading a spec sheet would have revealed that to me. Being in the very well lit store also confirmed my suspcions about the glossy screen as something that is not to my taste.

I realize that Microsoft and its partners have a completly different model when it comes to product distribution and that certainly doesn’t seem to keep folks from buying products. But it does hinder customers from getting their hands on some products where the “hands on” experience is a key factor. I remember searching all over to get my hands on a Tablet PC when I first got interested in them. I managed to do so with two models and eventually chose the Toshiba 3505 because I was able to spend some time with the device.

None of this is new or news. But looking ahead to Windows 7 and multi-touch, it makes me wonder just how the current model is going to work with devices capable of multi-touch.