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Is the Tablet PC Really ‘Elusive’?



05tablet_650The New York Times published an article about tablet computers that put Tablet PCs in a pretty bad light. GBM reader Yonatan Greenstein sent us the link to the article to our attention with the following note: “They always manage to have somebody write these articles that has obviously never used a tablet.”

After reading the article I’d venture to guess that Yonatan is right. The article discussing the future of tablet devices is about 1,200 words and here’s the only mention of Windows-powered machines that you can actually buy:

“Then in 2001, at Comdex, the industry trade show, Bill Gates introduced new Windows software for tablets with a bold prediction: within five years, he said, tablets “will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” It didn’t happen, of course. Tablets running Windows sell only a few hundred thousand units a year, mostly in business fields like health care and financial services.”

Surely there are people finding more uses for Tablet PCs than those in the medical and health field if there are a few hundred thousand Tablet PCs sold per year. There’s no mention of the diversity of Tablet PCs available nor a discussion of how we’re using them. Instead, the authors of the article focus on the Newton and the mythical Apple tablet.

The NY Times didn’t bother to publish any photos of Tablet PCs that are currently available. Instead, it published a photo of a Microsoft researcher with a ‘comprehensive collection’ of tablets that doesn’t include a single current-generation PC. It’s almost like the NY Times went out of its way to ignore the latest PCs. I’m sure that Fujitsu, Lenovo, Dell, HP and others have sent spec sheets, photos and press releases over to the publication’s tech reporters.

What are you doing with your elusive Tablet PC today? I’m using mine to read a poorly researched NY Times article…



  1. CLC

    10/05/2009 at 9:28 am

    Nice article and great point (Looks like tablets won’t really exist until Apple comes out with one.)

    But… might want to clean up this article’s repeating sentences…. Just a suggestion. Makes for some strange reading otherwise. LOL

  2. CLC

    10/05/2009 at 9:39 am

    Sheesh. Those nitwits seem to think that the only tablets in existence are slates.
    NEWSFLASH, NYT! There are TONS of convertible tablets out there with the best of both worlds.

    Besides, Although Gates wasn’t precise in his timeline on when tablets would become popular, he was close enough. Tablets are becoming more mainstream with all of these touch driven phones and other devices like bank screens out there. Pretty soon, people will be looking for the same usability in their day to day lives.
    Courier, especially, seems to have done nice things with touch screen navigation. I love the pinching action that shrinks the application and brings up a side scrolling list of other pages or applications.

  3. GoodThings2Life

    10/05/2009 at 9:45 am

    This is why I don’t read the NY Times… nearly every article they publish is little more than a work of fiction. Drives me crazy.

    I use my tablet for the daily administration of my network and systems at work… a country club, a hospital, and a 30-store Auntie Anne Pretzel franchise… so yeah, sure, let’s talk about tablet diversity! :)

    Anyone that doesn’t like tablets or can’t find a use for them is probably working a desk job doing something boring and mundane… like writing NYT articles.

  4. Xavier Lanier

    10/05/2009 at 9:47 am

    @CLC,sorry about that…apparently Tablet PCs can’t erase words properly ;-)

  5. Sumocat

    10/05/2009 at 10:07 am

    I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: folks who make their living sitting at keyboards, like most of these tech journalists, cannot wrap their minds around computers that free you from sitting at keyboards.

  6. Nameless

    10/05/2009 at 10:33 am

    OneNote and SketchBook Pro in particular, along with all the other general computing tasks I can do with ease, simply because my Tablet PC has *gasp!* a hardware keyboard! (Detachable if you don’t want it, at that!)

    Of course, most people don’t think of information possibly being anything other than plain text, or maybe that some of us DO NOT LIKE PHYSICAL PEN AND PAPER and find the digital medium that much more convenient.

  7. SAM

    10/05/2009 at 10:35 am

    I took my own pen into a Best Buy, while visiting,
    in Reno, NV so I could try out the screen.
    An employee walked over
    “Wow, I didn’t know you could wirte on the screen.
    (He may have at first thought I was vandalising the computer)

    I’ve seen maybe 2 or 3 tablet pc’s in retail office supply stores. They are mixed in with the other laptops.

    They are also “seem” more expensive for no apparent reason,
    since they are usually bolted down to the counter and
    you’d not know the screen rotates unless you were able to pick it up. So the consumer passes it by to a less expensive item.

    Only one employee knew what a tablet pc really did,
    and only because he owned one himself.

    Maybe this is some of why they are not popular?

  8. LeeN

    10/05/2009 at 11:02 am

    “What are you doing with your elusive Tablet PC today? I’m using mine to read a poorly researched NY Times article…”


    I mostly browse the internet, I’ve been playing Plants vs Zombies (which is way more fun on a tablet/touch-screen then with a mouse).

    I could possibly get away with just having a notebook with a touch screen, but I also like to do artwork as well.

  9. Xavier Lanier

    10/05/2009 at 11:07 am

    @SAM I agree with you. At least part of the reason Tablet PCs aren’t more popular is because relatively few people are aware they exist.
    When I showed my 2730p to some friends they thought I’d gotten my hands on an advanced HP prototype. They were absolutely amazed by it. Of course you’ll never see a pro-grade tablet at retail.
    Store shelves are typically reserved for high-volume products like $400 notebooks :-(

  10. rainman

    10/05/2009 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with most of the sentiments here, too. Marketing and retail have done no favors for tablet pcs. That said, I have a recent experience that puts some of the blame on manufacturers also. I am an architect and FINALLY convinced my company before an upgrade that a tablet pc would be well worth the extra cost. When we really started getting into the details, however, there was only one that had an adequate, dedicated graphics card which is required for some of our software. That model was nearly three times the cost of the laptops they were buying everyone else. Even I couldn’t argue with that economics. So now I am stuck with a traditional laptop and a wacom bamboo tablet. Better than nothing, but still frustrating. Especially when the smug IT guys start with the “I told you so…” routine.

  11. Ken Hinckley

    10/05/2009 at 4:41 pm

    That’s Bill Buxton in the photo. Did anyone notice how he is wearing 4 watches? While this looks like the ultimate in dorkdom, he has a fun rant that he uses these to illustrate. They are all touch-screen watches from the past ~25 years or so… yet many of them have totally different usage models.

    So, in essence, knowing that they are “touch” interfaces tells you absolutely nothing, and does not magically make them usable or useful. Kind of reminds me of some current hype we are seeing around “touch” interfaces, no?

  12. Mickey Segal

    10/05/2009 at 8:20 pm

    To the former Apple executive who said “I can imagine something like the iPhone with a much bigger screen being a gorgeous device with great capacity, but I don’t know where I would fit that into my life” I don’t say “get a life” I say “get a sport jacket”. I’d rather have a screen much bigger than an iPhone, ideally with a pen smaller than my finger.

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