iPad: Why I won’t get one

iPad001Being a mobile computing enthusiast, I’m often viewed by normal people, non-geeks, as being on the cutting edge, the high-tech guy. However, after putting my hands on multiple tablets at CES and seeing the unveiled glory of the iPad, I feel like a dinosaur headed toward extinction. The reason? I’m a pen-centric Tablet PC holdout walking into a touchscreen tablet world, and I’m sticking with that, i.e., no iPad for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the iPad will prove quite popular, and I grudgingly admit it delivers on many things I’ve been calling for in Tablet PCs. While I won’t be running out to get it on day one (I didn’t bother with the iPhone until the 3G), I can’t say I’ll never get one either (or even that there won’t be one in my house this year). But a touch-centric tablet interface, while a huge improvement over the usual desktop-style interface of Tablet PCs, holds minimal appeal to me.

My Tablet PC interface is extremely clean. I keep desktop icons and the taskbar hidden. They’re still there to be accessed as needed, but my primary application launcher is ritePen. Scribble a name anywhere, circle it, and the application launches. Because I can make the trigger word whatever works in my mind (for example, I think “j” for Windows Journal), it’s practically thought control.

In addition, I’ve carved out a very comfortable, if lonely, niche in pen computing. My personal blog, Sumocat’s Scribbles, consists of handwritten entries crafted in digital ink on my Tablet PC. That I am the only ink blogger to have held steadfast to the format for 3+ years illustrates how un-mainstream my niche is.

I suppose it is unfair to dinosaurs to compare myself to them. After all, they reigned for millions of years, while pen-based Tablet PCs have never been more than niche. The short-lived neanderthal would be a more accurate point of comparison. Regardless, it feels like my choices are: evolve and embrace touch input or cling to pen input and risk extinction as the iPad strikes the world like an asteroid.

It may not be the smarter move, but I’m sticking with drawing in my self-carved cave. The new wave of pen input in eReaders is encouraging. Tablet PCs aren’t headed for the scrap heap just yet. And as users demand more from their tablets, the innate human instinct to use tools may yet drive the mainstream back to picking up pens. Perhaps then it will be Apple’s turn to choose between evolution or extinction.

5 Comments

  1. Waleed

    01/27/2010 at 6:39 pm

    Hi,

    I am a pen user myself, and wouldn’t bother with multi-touch on Windows 7. I own a Stylistic 5XXX series slate, which snuggles in a fujitsu portfolio case. At home, I plug a cheap usb keyboard and mouse to type away notes, create documents, create lecture notes(to deliver) on Onenote-copy paste, ink diagrams and mind maps, write in Arabic, etc. While out and about, I carry the slate in its case, and I can go without charge for about 5 hrs, view documents, annotate pdfs(journal articles) using PDF Annotater, take lecture notes(when listening to one). I now carry a mini mouse(optical with retractable usb lead) because I find the mouse interface faster, especially when I am merely viewing stuff(my machine’s old, and reaching its hard disk capacity). I am very pleased with this set up so far. I bought the machine on eBay for peanuts 4 yrs back, and it does the job, and gets noticed ;-) I am planning to upgrade-looking at Lenovo X series-wanted to wait for the CES but was disappointed. If Lenovo updated their X series line, I would buy them now. I love my iPhone, and so I love the iPad too. But I am a content consumer AND a content generator(even if its for myself). At least for me, I dont think the Tablet PC is replaceable yet. I will still carry one in my bag. But there’s place for an iPad too ;-)

    Thanks SC for an enjoyable post!

    Reply

  2. Tim

    01/28/2010 at 12:56 am

    SC,

    I totally agree with you. I spent my day surreptitiously following blogs and news about the iPad on my iPhone. When I saw that it would not have pen input, I was sorely disappointed.

    I too am a big fan of pen input. I use OneNote and keep looking for other options, but what I have meets my needs. On my Lenovo X60 tablet, I take lecture notes, markup digital textbooks, and- yes, me too- write in Arabic.

    I am not interested in multi-touch. When I had a computer in for repairs, Fry’s loaned me a new HP tablet. After playing with the quaint toys in the multi-touch realm, I shut if off. It it almost impossible to write when the input point constantly shifts to my palm, and more importantly, I see no practical use for it.

    Like Waleed, I plan to stick to my X60 until I have to move on (with 3 gigs of RAM I am running Windows 7 with no trouble at all).

    Loving my pen,

    Tim

    Reply

  3. JonW

    01/28/2010 at 2:49 am

    You are not alone! Only gave up my TC1100 last year when the mb gave out. Now have a Latitude XT but it’s not the same.

    OneNote is my major use app and I’m Hoping against hope that MS can deliver on Courier.

    Reply

  4. djasli

    01/28/2010 at 3:15 am

    Yes, I’m a pen user myself & have been using my almost 5-years old TC1100 as my digital pen & paper exclusively. I practically live in Journal & ON. Like you, am looking with enthusiasm for the introduction of the Courier. Oh please make it happens, pretty please?

    Reply

  5. DefLing

    01/28/2010 at 5:35 am

    I’m perfectly adapted to the niche (or the niche to me) as well. For me, my Fujitsu Stylistic is a Powerpoint killer. I prepare my language training materials in One Note and so can modify them better than in PP and can deliver them in a greater variety of formats.

    The iPad is centered around consumption rather than production. I’m only consuming when I’m at home in front of my desktop. Throwing away inking makes any kind of tablet a useless encumbrance for me.

    And, as Waleed, noted I need inking for writing in Arabic–it is hard to understate how convenient the tablet format is for languages which depend on non-Roman characters.

    Reply

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