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Why Hands On Is So Important



My good friend and colleague, Steve Przybylski, needed to take his MacBook Pro in to the Apple Store for a Genuis appointment today and I thought I would tag along for the ride to check out the new MacBooks that were just released.

I’m glad I did. Although I’m not in the market for purchasing a MacBook, I’ve certainly followed all the hullabaloo associated with the new releases and the Apple Store is a great place to go hands on with devices. Every time I take a trip there (about 4 times a year or so) it is so refreshing to be able to work with actual devices. We’ve sung the litany for a long time about Tablet PCs not being available in retail outlets, and by and large that is unfortunately still the case. Netbooks are slowly making their way on to retail shelves, or in some cases into stores but not onto shelves. When I checked out the Acer Aspire One Netbook a couple of months back, Circuit City couldn’t put them out on the shelves because they were afraid of theft and they didn’t fit the lock mechanisms. In my opinion, that kind of thinking is one of the reasons Circuit City is on the ropes and rumors are circulating that they may go out of business after this holiday season.

The Apple Store method is a great experience. Not only can you go hands on, but you can spend some quality time getting to know a device. In my opinion, the relationship between one’s hands and the device (whether keyboard or Tablet PC) is a very important one and a crucial part of the purcashing decision. Or at least it should be.   I’m lucky. Because of my association with GBM, I get to try out devices before plunking my money down. Others are not so lucky.

A case in point: while I very much liked the look of the new MacBooks and the new buttonless trackpad, I was very disappointed in the keyboard and also the weight. The device feels heavier than I would want it to be and heavier than it looks to be. No reading a spec sheet would have revealed that to me. Being in the very well lit store also confirmed my suspcions about the glossy screen as something that is not to my taste.

I realize that Microsoft and its partners have a completly different model when it comes to product distribution and that certainly doesn’t seem to keep folks from buying products. But it does hinder customers from getting their hands on some products where the “hands on” experience is a key factor. I remember searching all over to get my hands on a Tablet PC when I first got interested in them. I managed to do so with two models and eventually chose the Toshiba 3505 because I was able to spend some time with the device.

None of this is new or news. But looking ahead to Windows 7 and multi-touch, it makes me wonder just how the current model is going to work with devices capable of multi-touch.



  1. Gordon Cahill

    10/19/2008 at 5:12 pm

    Completely agree Warner. At least in Australia the netbooks are starting to appear next to each other on the shelves. I’ve seen in many stores netbooks attached to Kensington locks and I’ve also seen shelves being re-arranged to accomodate this growing market segment. I even saw the Acer Aspire One, one of the EEE’s and the Dell netbook (we are starting to see Dell in retail now here) next to each other over the weekend.

    However in the same store was a TX2500 locked into one of those laptop holders with no pen, no way of rotating the screen and no staff who could help you demo it. And we wonder why netbooks will succeed while tablets don’t.


  2. Ben

    10/19/2008 at 7:20 pm

    Yes, I felt the same way as Gordon when i was thinking about a tablet pc. First, it was really hard to find one in a store to try, and when i did, it was stuck in laptop mode, locked down by a bar. Using the pen on it was really awkward. I think at another store, the pen wasn’t even with the tablet! Eventually i just had to take the plunge and get a tablet pc.

  3. John in Norway

    10/20/2008 at 4:43 am

    All of my last few devices have been bought purely from the reviews on the internet. So far in my town I’ve only seen the old Asus 900 in a shop and that was well bolted down. Can you believe that I’ve never seen an iphone in the flesh? The only Tablet PC I’ve fondled is my Toshiba m200, again bought without playing with it first. That’s the price you pay for living in the backwaters.

  4. Paul

    10/20/2008 at 10:38 am

    I’ve never thought of Toronto, Canada as being ‘backwaters’ by any stretch of the imagination – but here too, I rarely see tablets available to touch and feel. I’ve seen an HP in Best Buy, and a smattering of netbooks at the local Staples but that’s it. My first experience with a tablet was the HP TC1100. I’d ordered it knowing that HP had (has?) a 30 day return policy. I sent it back after trying it for a couple of weeks. I bought my Toshiba M400 site unseen and I’m now looking to replace it with a tablet netbook (UMPC?). Worst still, the only ones that look like they’re what I want aren’t even available in North America. Looks like I have to order it from Japan directly – and that scares me (not because it’s Japan – but I’m buying it ‘off continent’ sight/feel unseen!!). No pressure guys, but the only saving grace is the information sites like gottabemobile provide.

  5. Ekus from Poland

    10/21/2008 at 12:20 pm

    Similar situation – regarding netbooks vs tablets – in Poland (I’ve seen and played with many HP Minis, MSI Winds, Acers and of course EEE’s) but when it comes to tablets, it’s terrible – I don’t recall seeing a single Tablet PC in stores. We do have some Lenovo convertibles at work, and I just ordered a refurbished Q1 UMPC instead of a netbook – but from American online store. Being a geek, I must admit I got caught off guard recently seeing so many Apple machines in bigger stores. And iPhone is well advertised and available, too. Given their tiny European/Polish market share, I was really surprised, and a bit jealous (Windows Mobile FTW! ;-)

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