I was seriously expecting the Apple iPad to be a game changer, but it appears to me that the folks at Cupertino haven’t spent any time using real Tablets. If they had, the iPad probably wouldn’t be lacking an active digitiser with digital ink capabilities.
When commentators said that the lack of Tablet PC sales means that people don’t like the pen, maybe Apple listened. But most of those folks that pass comment on Tablet PCs haven’t seriously used one either…
It’s not true that people don’t like the pen. They might not like the idea of it, but for the most part they’ve never tried it, so they don’t really know that they don’t like it. It’s an experience that they have never been able to have, so they really don’t know how useful it is. The disappointing thing is that thanks to Apple, they may never know.
Windows Tablets are still far from perfect, but due to the lack of a digitiser they are still far more useful than the iPad appears to be.
To give you an example, I spent the weekend in a conference. I took notes through the entire full day session on a Motion Computing C5 tablet on one battery. That included scribbled notes, mind maps, sketches, drawings and audio. Windows indexed all of my handwritten content in the background so that I can search through it… which I often do.
Another example, when a customer calls on the phone, I have my Tablet PC open with Microsoft OneNote and our enquiry form template. I fill in the details we discuss without distracting the person on the other end from the conversation with the noise of frantic key tapping. It’s much faster to note take this way than on the keyboard anyway.
I often take screen shots of things like web pages, pictures, documents and videos, then scribble on them and email them off using the Microsoft Snipping Tool.
I never print letters of faxes that I have to sign. I just sign on the screen and email them straight back using Bluebeam or Word.
Digital note taking, sketching and drawing is all impractical on a device like the iPhone or iPad. There are no tools to do it with… Sure, you could use the brushes application shown at the iPad launch to draw with your finger… But that’s a bit like drawing with a blunt stick. Practically useless when compared to using a Tablet PC with a Wacom active digitiser – Which is both proximity and pressure sensitive, while your touch screen is neither.
No, there are only 2 things that have held Windows based Tablet PCs back from going where Apple is about to go (and I’m not talking about UMPCs here).
- Price – iPad is cheap in comparison
- Availability – iPad will be available to get your hands on in most places.
Windows Tablets did not take a huge hit today, because Apple decided to play it safe. Did Apple fall into the old corporate trap of too many focus groups, too many committees, too many meetings, too many voices of fear in the back of their heads? They played it safe and just supersized an existing product… I don’t think that’s going to fly.
This is not the mobile phone scenario where windows mobile is being seriously spanked by the iPhone. Phones are pretty much a closed system, whereas Windows Tablets leverage the 92% of computers in the world that run Windows, not to mention the fact that they can connect to and access practically any server be that Windows, *nix or Mac.
That said, if Microsoft et al don’t act – and be seen to act – it may be only a matter of time until history is rewritten by Apple.
Remember the first iPhone? With no 3G, no video, no app store? Apple won’t stand still with a seriously deficient product like this until it becomes a seriously useful product like the iPhone 3Gs.