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Pinky Out Will No Doubt Be the Key To Non-iPad Tablet/Slate Success



We’re seeing videos of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Toshiba Folio 100, the Viewsonic Viewpad, and other Tablets breaking out at IFA. And this is just the beginning of the “coming any day now Tablet/Slate tsunami” that is going to wash over us all and make us forget the iPad. More is sure to come. Unless you believe this analyst and some of the things I’ve written here before.

That said, tell me this isn’t you Tablet/Slate lover. You watch the videos closely. You scrutinize every instance of a finger touching a screen looking for any hint of a delay in whatever that touch is supposed to initiate. You scan the screen, eagerly waiting for some scrolling action to see how much lag there might be. Come on, admit it. You do it. I do it. We all do it. We’re all hoping and praying that the Galaxy Tab or some other yet to be named Tablet/Slate is going to have the magic of multi-touch nailed down solid (or is that fluid?) and that we’ll see something that can compare favorably to the iPad and its ease of use.

Tonight, while having dinner at Denny’s, it hit me. How our digits relate to those touch screens is going to be the big key to any of these future Tablet/Slates being accepted. Apple set a high bar there, as they did with battery life and the App ecosystem it has going.  All of that is going to be tough to beat. But, I’m betting the all day battery life will be overlooked if they can hit something close to 7 hours. The App ecosystem might be passed by as well, if a licensed version of Android is used allowing the Marketplace to work.  What won’t be overlooked is the pinky test.

The pinky test you say? Yep. That’s where Denny’s comes in. I frequently grab a quick meal at a quick restaurant on my way to and fro. I take the iPad along for some reading. Since my eating habits aren’t the best and I prefer a good burger with a side of fries now and then, one of the things that is very important to me about using the iPad as a consumption device is being able to scroll the screen or tap for an action without getting much grease on the screen. It’s just no fun to have to reach for your napkin every time you want to turn a page. Tablets get dirty sure, but there’s no fun in seeing grease from your lunch on the screen a few hours later. That’s were the pinky test is important.

Remember that supposed societal appropriate behavior about holding a tea cup where your pinky is supposed to stay extended? I think it’s called “when in doubt, pinky out.” That was apparently the good manners approach. Well the iPad lives up to the “pinky out” test as far as I can tell. I can grab a big old burger or a fist full of fries, keep my pinky extended and manipulate the iPad just fine. I do this all the time. I didn’t realize it until tonight when I was having my dinner and doing some reading. If these new Tablet/Slates are going to stand a chance, they are going to create an experience that requires no more than that deft touch of the screen, regardless of how you fell about the manners thing.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Apple can deliver that experience (and many others) in its Apple Stores. I’ve seen potential iPad users try the device out for the fist time and be impressed with how easily the touch UI works. But for those who might do comparison shopping at Best Buy or some other retailer this Christmas season, the Tablet/Slates they find on those shelves need to measure up on that front. Face it, you don’t discover the other potential issues until much later, but touching the screen is what it is all about.

I don’t know about you, but I’m anxious to see how well these Tablet/Slates survive the pinky test. So for all you bloggers attending IFA (Sascha, Chippy, jkkmobile, and the rest) get those pinkys out and let us know how these new Tablet/Slates do.



  1. Rodfather

    09/02/2010 at 10:28 pm

    Hahaha that’s hilarious. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do the same pinky out thing while eating and using the iPad.

  2. Sumocat

    09/03/2010 at 5:33 am

    I can only hope tablet makers read this and implement the pinky test on their products, if they haven’t already.

  3. kyith

    09/03/2010 at 5:46 am

    yeah i think this is what it matters. for months we have to content with shitty and jerky android devices.

  4. aftermath

    09/03/2010 at 7:18 am

    Entertaining to read.

    Before actually commenting on what you wrote: You’re amplifying something really I’ve been noticing about the iPad luggers in my area. Like a lot of GBM regulars, I’ve had tablet computers for years and years and have had more tablets than most people have ever had computers. It’s pretty well understood in the industry that mobile slates solve the following computing problem: 1.) on your feet all day, 2.) away from your desk environment. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I almost NEVER see an iPad used this way. I see smartphones used this way all the time (one of many reasons that I think that they’re just as much a “tablet” as the iPad) and legitimate tablets used this way as well. In contrast, people are almost always using: their iPad in a seated position; a surface to prop it up (even if the surface is just their lap or stomach); and in an environment where laptops can/are being used simultaneously. In other words, people seem to be using iPads in ways that totally negate the advantage of a mobile slate computer. For a long time, I’ve taken this to mean that it’s not the slate part that’s compelling about the iPad, else people would leverage the advantage. Look at your context. A netbook can scroll with far more ease and accuracy and less potential mess than a slate, and it’s not going to be any less competent at sitting on your table. You could even watch some hilarious videos while you eat, or stream some live content from the web from one of many popular websites. Independent of any theories that would attempt to resolve this dissonance and model the phenomenon directly, I’m fascinated that you’ve corroborated that data because you’re a hardcore tablet guy, at least historically.

    Now about what you wrote: I’m of the opinion that everybody’s expectations for ALL of their current computers are unsustainably high. Your post is all about the nitpicking that tech enthusiasts do over their devices and its rivals. You’ve described it perfectly. This is exactly how people think and behave, and they’re expecting some type of insane “perfection” based on an arbitrary attention to detail that’s probably totally absent in their lives. I bet you all buy, drive, and like pretty lousy cars compared to the ones that offer the highest possible quality of performance and experience. I bet you all buy, eat, and like pretty lousy food compared to that which is the safest, most nutritious, and most delicious. I bet you all buy, wear, and like pretty lousy clothes compared to compared to clothing that’s made out of quality materials, designed by specifically for your tastes and lifestyle, and tailored to your body’s proportions for the best fit. I bet you all date/marry…You get my point. It’s probably true of almost everything in your life from your house down to your toothbrush. We’re pretty eager to accept mediocrity. To be honest, “good enough” really is good enough, and nobody really needs insanely high quality anything to survive or thrive. In fact, even “not got at all” is “good enough” with the right amount of marketing and properly concealed evidence. I think it’s a little naive to pretend that as computing becomes more main streaming, the people in the lower economic and cultural classes are going to continue buy or have top-of-the-shelf computer or computing experiences. That’s just not how it works in business. Anyhow, I think that you’re right, Warner. In the near term, pinky scrolling is incredibly important to everybody. In the long term, we’ll probably all have junky devices and just not care anymore. That same marketing magic and human vulnerability that helps us believe that what’s happening through our display panels is “real” and “magic” will help us believe that our bargain bin computers of the future are amazing.

    • Warner Crocker

      09/03/2010 at 7:48 am

      You make some valid points, aftermath, but I must disagree. I’m only comparing what others are hoping to bring to market to what already exists. The bar has been set, and if you’re going to play follow the leader, you either need to follow closely, or try to get out in front.

      That said, “good enough” is often “good enough.” But if we as consumers keep on settling for “good enough” that is indeed all we’ll get.

    • Sumocat

      09/03/2010 at 8:25 am

      Strangely, I think you’ve struck on a reason why the iPad has been such a success while previous attempts at tablets have sputtered along. Tablet PCs remained niche because such a small percentage of people actually need a mobile computing solution (i.e., a PC they can use walking around away from a desk). The iPad, however, is used more like a book, albeit one that can display videos and the web, which is why it has so much more mainstream appeal. It brings the familiar feel and intimacy of reading a book to other forms of content. I know others have made this comparison to the iPad reading experience, but I don’t know if anyone has explored the overall book-feel of the iPad. This could be an important element for iPad competitors to consider.

      • ChrisRS

        09/03/2010 at 12:19 pm

        It depends on what you mean by tablet. Specifically with regard to the TabletPC (windows, pen, etc.) the only real attempt at a comsumer based slate has been the HP TC 1000 and 1100. I do not remenber the cost, but I think the even then it was at least a few hundred dollars more that an equivalent convertable design. It seems to me that other manufactures had a $500 to $800 slate premium and still do. Acer and Gateway had the most consumer oriented convertable and pricing, but no slates.

        No Slate style TabletPC manufacture has attempted to compete in the consumer market, and what do you know about that, they have not been competitive!

  5. Keith Osborn

    09/03/2010 at 7:53 am

    Too funny! I love that you’re a geek and that the same time, a completely relatable joe. It’s post like these that help differentiate GBM from other tech blogs and make it a daily stop for me. Thank you!

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