Goodbye to the Tablet

There is a flurry of debate in the blogs because Peter says, I Still like the tablet.  But I am all out of love, well I have a story to tell about Tablet love as well.

 

I got my first Tablet, a HP TC1100, in January and it was love at first sight,  I just took to the slate format and at the time forgave the terrible keyboard, (although it didn’t take me long to remember my old IBM keyboard with increasing longing).  I wrote all about my early experiences in my tablet blog.  Well my circumstances changed and I found myself working mostly from home so the mobility benefits I was getting from the tablet reduced and I started to look at the platform more objectively.  These are some of the conclusions that I came to, but I think it’s a pretty personal view so don’t expect any conclusions that I draw to apply to you.

 

The Tablet didn’t work for me when I was mainly deskbound:

 

  1. I love screen real estate, before I had a Tablet I had a 1400*1050 resolution ThinkPad A20p, it had a great keyboard to, (I love IBM keyboards).
  2. At home now my desktop drives a 19” 1280*1024 LCD and a 19” 1600*1280 Flat screen LCD and I still have my ThinkPad A20p as a management console for my home lab.  So for me the 1024*768 screen on the TC1100 was just not up to the job.
  3. With a screen that size the Tablet is a huge improvement over a PDA, but it’s a lot bigger, I have just settled on an IPAQ 4150 so you can see that size, or lack of it in true portable device is pretty key for me.
  4. As an auxiliary display things improved considerably but the docking station was a bit ‘strange’ and I still found myself struggling to use the small screen for anything really useful, when I had a glorious 19” LCD as my secondary.  I tried using it to monitor my email but I found I could do that just as easily on my IPAQ, which had a brighter screen as well.
  5. I found it slightly under powered compared to my desktop, but I could have lived with this, it had 1GB of memory and this seemed to make up for the slower processor and hard drive.

The true mobile experience I was hoping for never happened:

 

  1. When I first got my Tablet one of the real benefits I was looking forward to was being able to take anywhere and use it inside and outside.  However all too often I found that the lighting was not right.  Outside it’s practically unusable and this was a real disappointment.
  2. I also never came across a really good case that I could use at work and home that was small enough to always take with me everywhere
  3. Battery life however was never a problem for me as I had two batteries and I managed 6-8 hours.
  4. The end result I ended up leaving it behind and wishing I had a Pocket PC so that I could take something everywhere.  In the end I bought a Pocket PC!

I still needed a keyboard:

 

  1. I was impressed by the handwriting recognition when I got the Tablet and blown away when I started testing XP SP2, but I still needed a keyboard for so much of the work I did when I was mobile, even when I was just sitting watching TV, answering a few emails or reading blogs I missed the keyboard.  This was a real shock to me as I just love the slate format, its just that the slate format is only really useful when you are making very short notes, browsing/reading or making hand written notes or drawings.  If you are doing any serious writing or PowerPoint for example you really need mouse and keyboard with today’s applications.  Strangely enough PDA’s seem much easier to use in slate mode, they are lighter, the applications are better optimised and my expectations about being able to write are much lower.
  2. I have found since switching back to a laptop when mobile, a IBM ThinkPad T40, that I use it much more sitting in the lounge or in the garden than I used my tablet.  Quite the opposite of what I was expecting when I let the Tablet go.

So what did I like about the Tablet:

 

  1. I loved the slate format
  2. I thought the HP hardware design was fantastic, apart from the keyboard, they should have recognised how important the keyboard was still going to be
  3. I thought the handwriting recognition was first class, especially in SP2 and was vastly improved over that on my IPAQ, however it should be put in its place, a useful complement to the keyboard, or a bonus when you just have the slate with you
  4. I loved the natural interaction model, and the more applications that are developed to take account of it the better
  5. I loved OneNote, but still think it could be optimised slightly more for the pen interface,  look at a product like Pocket Informant for some clues
  6. I loved some of the concepts, but not the reality, for example the voice recording and recognition just did not meet my expectations

What needs to be done to get me back in love:

 

  1. I need a first class keyboard
  2. I need a much higher resolution screen, one I can read an A4 page on, 1400*1050 would be just fine!
  3. I still want to be able to use it in slate mode, keyboard detached, to minimise weight and maximise portability
  4. I want some innovation put into cases, or protection so that I can bung it into my rucksack and take it wherever I would take a pad of paper
  5. I need to be able to read the screen outside
  6. The price point needs to be right
  7. It needs to be light enough without the keyboard to hold in one hand

Interestingly all of these improvements are hardware, there have been a lot of criticisms of the platform, but I personally liked it well enough, sure improvements would be welcome but these are unlikely to win me back on their own.  At the end of the day today’s hardware does not allow for the radical new way of working that the operating system and applications already support. 

For another personal perspective, I looked at the needs of one of my daughter’s who suffers from Raynauds and Scleroderma.  I think a Tablet would be just perfect for her, I wrote that up here.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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