James Kendrick raises an interesting discussion topic in his post this morning about the premium Tablet PC users pay for Tablet functionality, especially now as the move to Ultra-Low-Cost PCs (ULCPC) is in full swing. JK describes himself as an unusual Tablet PC owner in that he is dependent on taking notes all day. I ride in that same boat using my stylus as an oar. Inking on a Tablet PC is crucial part of my work flow, and like JK, I’ve been reasonably content to pay a premium to take advantage of what Tablet PCs offer me.
The reality is that the perception of that premium is about to change in an unfavorable way for the future of Tablet PCs. The difference in price will look much larger to many. The rush to capitalize on the ULCPC market is on in a big way (see Rob’s earlier post about Dell) and while we might see touch screens on the ULCPC we won’t see active digitizers, much less capacitive or dual mode screens on these new low costs (low margin?) contenders.
JK’s point is a simple one and it is has echoes my pleas for OEMs to pay attention to the Inkers out there for the UMPC platform, which is now headed to the dead pool. If you don’t need the Inking capability of an active digitizer Tablet PC, or at least a touch screen with good Inking capability, then why spend the extra dough if what you are after is a mobile solution? While those of us who have been bitten by the Tablet PC bug, know that Inking is a big part of the picture, mobility is just as big a factor, if not more so. I can certainly attest to the fact that the new HP 2133 Mini-Note could serve many a mobile warrior’s need, if they don’t need an Inking solution.
Face it folks, the Tablet PC niche is getting smaller as mobile computing possibilities grow, and it will continue to shrink. Price point, and to some extent touch (without Inking capability), will be the decision factors for mobile devices in the future. Asus rocked the market and everyone is now in follow the leader mode. Asus grabbed the attention and focus in ways that Microsoft could have only dreamed about for the Tablet PC on its release, and later the UMPC. Let’s just hope the incredible shrinking Tablet PC niche doesn’t shrink completely away.