Tablet PCs are five years old (!) but will 2008 be the year they finally take off? They currently have only a small market share but there seems to be a resurgence with new major players, like Dell, entering the market. Will that be enough to take the Tablet beyond “niche”?
People love using them!
In my experience, once people try a Tablet they are both amazed and delighted by the pen UI. It's not ideal for all types of work but great if you’re not “the worlds greatest typist” or work on graphic, rather than text/data, documents. For many tasks the pen/ink UI is far more intuitive than keyboard and mouse.
Tablet PCs also bring your “analog” scribbles into the digital world. Scratching in a notepad means you just have a note in a pad. Inking the same note in software like MindManager, or OneNote, makes it search-able, sharable and “keeps it digital” with all the benefits that provides. How do you backup that vital paper notepad or diary?
In a meeting/sales environment a convertible/slate being used with a pen doesn’t present the barrier created by sitting behind a normal laptop. However, while many champion the “pure” keyboard-less “Slate” form factor, I think a Convertible Notebook is still the best compromise for most.
So why don’t they sell?
There is a price premium but I think the real problem is potential users just don’t get the chance to try them. I just visited a large specialist computer store which sells all the major brands. All their Notebooks were prominently displayed yet no sign of a Tablet Convertible or Slate*. They were available “to order” but who is going to order one without experiencing the benefits of the Tablet UI? If a specialist PC store doesn’t bother what hope is there of seeing a Tablet in the appliance or department stores where most people buy their laptop?
Will “touch” will be the tipping point?
They are just starting to arrive on the market but pen/touch tablets seem like a real advance. Manipulating digital objects directly with your fingers may be the feature that makes the difference. Only problem is you also can’t try a “touch” machine if it’s only available “to order”!
The problem isn’t the technology!
I doubt it’s even the price as most dealers would happily sell a higher priced machine if they could.It gives them more margin on the finance or “extended warranty” where they inevitably make their real profit. The problem is both marketing and availability. If they aren’t there to buy, people won’t buy them! The last five years has proved that.
5 Years of Tablet PC: Marketing - GottaBeMobile
What if they threw a party for The Five Year Anniversary of the Tablet PC and nobody came? What if even the guest of honor stayed away?
Well, it certainly seems that Microsoft and Tablet PC manufacturers want this anniversary to pass without any real noise or attempt at celebration…
HP readying new Pavilion tx1400 series convertible tablets - Engadget
Toshiba unveils the Portege M700 tablet with touch capabilities - Engadget
* There was one sad lonely UMPC but at double the price of a entry spec notebook, even though “discounted to clear”, I suspect it will be there for a while.