Why consumers won’t buy tablets – CNN.com


 Why consumers won’t buy tablets – CNN.com

Ok – so this guy really doesn’t get it (not surprising – there are few tech columnists out there who grasp anything that is not already mainstream). Then, hardly anyone else gets it, either. The one things he does have right in the whole article is that tablets are too expensive – but this is, of course, driven by the fact that they have never caught on enough to drive the prices down.

However, he also makes the statement “…you need a keyboard for doing real work…” This is entirely, utterly incorrect. The problem is, you do need a keyboard to do any real work only if you insist on working the same way you do on a device that has a keyboard.

Later, he says “…a Netbook like a $200 Acer Aspire One offers a better bet: it has a real keyboard, its own storage, and you can take it on the road and do real work on it, like a notebook computer or a Netbook.” Other than the keyboard statement, this is utter rubbish. A tablet has comparable storage to a laptop. And as for taking it on the road and doing real work – a tablet works better in a meeting room, on an airplane (where there is rarely room to open your laptop anymore), and my table gives me 7-9 hours of battery life. And if you are using the table as a tablet, the keyboard becomes irrelevant.

Later, he says “…you’ll probably be able to plug a keyboard into any of these yet-to-be-released tablets…” – get with it, I have been using tablets with support for USB and/or Bluetooth keyboards since 2002, and they are the same keyboards you use with your desktop, so nothing special to buy.

Working on a tablet is a different user experience, and requires a different way of working – a way of working which seems more natural if you are used to working with paper and pen. In order for a tablet to be effective, one has to get used to working with handwriting again, and get away from on-screen typing, and also away from converting handwriting to text all the time.

I learned this way back when Tablet PCs first came out (I have been using a tablet pretty much continuously since 2002). When I got my first tablet, I soon realized that I  could not use it the same way I did a “normal” computer. So, I tried a little experiment. I got rid of all of my computers except the tablet. For six months, I used the tablet exclusively. Honestly, it was really, really painful at first. Then, I gradually learned to do things in ways which made sense on the tablet – and many of these new approaches were much more natural than working with a keyboard and mouse. What did I learn? Here are a few examples:

  • Handwriting is a slow way to create large documents – typing is much faster (even for me)
  • Creating large documents with a pen may be slow, but marking up someone else’s document is great
  • It is more effective to leave most of your handwriting as handwriting
  • Dictating documents and presentations was quite effective (even more so on my later tablets than on my first)
  • When dictating documents, you have to stop think of correcting and formatting as you go (a BAD habit to begin with). Just dump your ideas out as fast as possible, knowing that you are going to go back and edit and format later.
  • Brainstorming tools are great

I also use the Tablet to read ebooks (in standard formats, rather than proprietary formats) so I do not have to blow several hundred dollars on a Kindle that does nothing but display ebooks.

Think back to the days before we used computers for everything. When you were working on a document, would you typically start at a typewriter? Or would you start with a notebook, or a pad of paper, collecting notes and ideas, creating outlines, and even writing drafts? Then you would take all of that and create the final document.

Think of the tablet the same way. using tools which are tablet-aware (such as Microsoft OneNote, MindJet Mind Manager, and others), use the tablet as you would you pad of paper. Make notes, scribble ideas, brainstorm, create outlines. Even better, you can even clip notes form online sources and collect them together as part of the process. Then after you have done all of your intellectual work, you can do the final stage – typing up the results.

Note that I admit that there are something for which a keyboard is needed. Creating and editing any significant documents requires a keyboard. Does that mean I consider my tablet “just an accessory” to my main computer? Not at all. Most of the tablets available today are convertible, and hence have a keyboard available – giving you the best of both worlds. In my case, I use a slate table – but I also have a stand for it, and a Bluetooth keyboard (I can use my tablet on its stand at my desk, with a wireless keyboard, mouse, and network – then grab it, go to a meeting – come back and set it down and I am good to go).

About the only reason I have other computers is that I spend a considerable amount of my time doing development, and my tablet does not have the computing power, memory, or screen size to be an effective development machine.

The biggest barrier to acceptance of the Tablet PC form factor in the consumer market is indeed price (and price to power ratio). In addition, as I have said before, the Tablet PC has been marketing cluster$!&% by Microsoft from day one. This is a shame, because with a good marketing campaign, and a little bit of evangelism, tablets really cold become a dominant form factor.

PS – Others with no clue:

http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2009/08/tablets-are-toys-not-mainstream-machines.php

Here they claim “It’s because you can’t work on a tablet. You can’t get things done without a decent working keyboard”. I beg to differ, and might even go so far as to say the author is full of crap.

These are the same kinds of people who said consumers would never want computers in their homes, and that nobody wanted a GUI interface.

PPS – I am also in the process of looking for a Tablet for my daughter, who is starting university in September. I a looking strongly at the HP TouchSmart TX2 series – they seem to be pretty well configured and priced reasonably in the $1000 (Canadian) range. More than a NetBook for sure, but not much more than a comparably configured laptop.

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6 Replies to “Why consumers won’t buy tablets – CNN.com”

  1. I’m not sure you’ve sold me on why a tablet is preferable to pen and paper. Everything you mentioned I can do manually just as easily and far more cheaply.

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    1. Fair enough. Though the same could be said of any laptop or computer – other than surfing the web and programming, there is not much I couldn’t do far more cheaply without the computer (though I might not be as effective). How about a few examples, though, of “paper-like” things I find I can do better on my Tablet:

      – When I am travelling, I have all of my ebooks with me, including pretty much every reference I might need (of course, I could do that with a laptop, but the reading form factor is no where near as good)
      – Using OneNote to create, maintain and organize my notes, I do not loose them (which I am prone to do), and I have with me at all times every note from every meeting, every bit of research, and every bit of thinking I have made in 7 years, all searchable
      – Using OneNote on the tablet, I can organize my research by printing from ebooks, journals, and web pages directly into OneNote, where it lives with my notes and becomes searchable
      – Using a tool like MindManager from MindJet, I can brainstorm quickly using mind maps (which I could do on paper), but on the tablet I can share them and collaborate on them with others, and when I am done, I can take my mind map and easily turn it into a document outline, presentation outline, or project plan (which I cannot do with paper)
      – I also have with me at all times every mind map I have made in the last 5 years or so
      – Using a tool like PDF Annotator, or the inking tools build into Word, I can mark up documents I am asked to review without printing them, and can then share them with others with the red-lines I have made visible
      – When I use my tablet for presentations using PowerPoint, I can write on the slides which are being displayed. When the presentation is done, I can save the markups, and share them with the attendees as a record of what I said

      I am sure I could think of more, but it is 2 in the morning 🙂

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