This is not a new question. It has been debated and asked many times in the past few years. I have entered into the fray a number of times myself, and been most involved in touting it. So where are we in the Tablet PC world? Here are my current rambling thoughts:
- Tablet PC has matured – I guess you will have to develop your own criteria on what is “mature” before you agree or disagree with this statement, but for me, I think it is ready. There are lots and lots of good choices for Tablet PC’s, and some mainstream OEM’s are in the business of producing Tablet PC’s. The public is much more aware of what the concept is, although a lot of education still is to be done on just what can be done, and apps need to catch up (more on this later).
- Microsoft is still committed – Having just returned from Redmond and having spent a couple of great days with the team doing Tablet PC / UMPC at Microsoft, I can vouch for their committment. Add to that the session with Bill Gates where he stated that Tablet is still a favorite of his, and he “continues to believe in Tablet”, and you have soe pretty strong support. Now, admittedly, there is more innovation going on for UMPC right now (more on that later too). This is simply because it is still not totally ready for prime time, and needs work. The Tablet features in Windows Vista are strong and function well. I can also say that a lot of the questions we received from Microsoft were related to where to take Tablet next in terms of development, and how to encourage developers to write tablet apps. They are on it, and still excited. From their perspective, it has gone mainstream, which means it remains a solid platform for them.
- UMPC is not “mature” – I like the UMPC platform a lot, but it has a lot of work needed. In my mind, there is an inappropriate amount of attention being given to it right now. I know, I know, it is cool and fun, but it does not have maturity. If you remember the original specs for this thing, it was touted as a consumer entertainment and communcation device. Now there are a lot of complaints about it not running heavy duty apps well. Until the software and hardware catch up to the concept, it will continue to have issues. this is so like Tablet was 3 years ago. Poor processor support, horrible battery life, apps not designed for the screen size or touch interface. Stay tuned here folks, there are some cool things to come for UMPC. But in the meantime, let’s not bash it to death as it tries to mature. That will certainly not create growth. Offer encouragement and good suggestions instead. I currently own 2 UMPC’s, and like to play with them both. However, neither one can serve as a device I can depend on every day for a critical function.
- Touch vs. Pen – I love the ink experience of an active digitizer that uses an electro magnetic pen (EM). I do not like the ink experience of a resistive touch screen using a stylus (touch). Ink has gotten better on touch devices (pretty darn good on Fujitsu P1610 for e.g.), but still does not compare to EM in terms of quality and flexibility. So EM still rules on ink. However, I really like the ability to do navigation and object manipulation with my finger, and that of course requires touch. So here is where I get greedy. Give me both. If I have a choice, I can use it when I need it. Also give me the ability to turn touch off easily. This is happenning, but needs more work for sure. I see a great place for both. Vendors who offer this choice should be able to sell units.
- Tablet as a “feature” – Microsoft turned this corner a couple years ago, and I think it is starting to happen. Instead of touting the Tablet PC as a form factor, we are starting to see this capability included in regular notebooks and touted as a feature. In the case of the HP TX1000, it is an option you can choose. I think you will see more of this as new hardware comes out. Of course slate Tablet PC’s are still a good choice, but are somewhat vertical in natiure nowadays.
- Software STILL needs to be developed – We still do not have enough good Tablet PC apps, but that will come with more device sales. As more people get ink and touch capability, I am confident that we will see more good apps. Microsoft is working hard on encouraging this still.
Okay, enough for now. Suffice it to say that I continue to be excited about the whole arena of Tablet and UMPC’s. As we continue to expand coverage on GottaBeMobile.com, we are finding lots of new angles where tablet comes into play. There are more tablets sold each day, and new models continue to be developed. That means more interested people,
The future looks bright, at least from this enthusiasts standpoint.
Do you agree?