For over a year I have used a rugged Motion Computing F5t as my all-in-one laptop replacement tablet. An “Ivy Bridge” Intel Core i7, 16Gb or RAM and a 256Gb SSD makes it more than powerful enough for my work day!
Where it has occasionally fallen short is in the downtime. For example, it’s not an ideal tablet to watch movies on since there is no headphone slot and the speaker is sealed at the back because of the rugged water resistance requirements. Instead I use Bluetooth headphones or one of these Logitech laptop speakers that plug in via USB.
But with my travels I don’t watch movies or TV much. What I’d rather do is play an Android game like Plants Vs Zombies 2 or The Settelers of Catan. But, like many other games they are not yet available in the Windows 8 tablet store…
Now I’ve discovered Bluestacks. It is an Android emulator that allows me to sign into the Google Play Store and download the apps that I already have on my Android tablets to the emulator. Effectively I now have Android on my Windows tablet!
It is a little slow to load apps at times, but they run seamlessly. There are probably hundreds of applications for this little gem. For me Bluestacks equals one less tablet in the travel bag… and that is a blessing for a travelling Tablet salesman!
Wow, what a difference a downturn makes for your ability to sell. Tablet PC manufacturers have been hit hard by stagnant growth in the PC market. In the tablet era PCs just don’t sell themselves like they used to.
I took a look at the way two consumer oriented Windows 8 tablets are sold buy their maker and I was shocked at how well these companies are trying to sell their products.
First, I took a look at the way HP Australia sell their Envy Tablet:
That’s right, it’s an “ENVY x2 11-g001tu”. It has Windows 8 32, On-board 2GB 533MHz LPDDR2 SDRAM, 64 GB SSD, 11.6" diagonal and UMA Shared Graphics. How appealing! Where’s the buy now button… Not!
This represents the classic PC manufacturer approach to selling computers (and tablets for that matter). Just list the specs and the price. That’s it. Order at will!
That’s the way it’s been for 20 years and it nearly every PC maker has done it this way for that long.
Benefits, rich and emotionally descriptive information and solutions to problems are all superfluous when people just order your products because they like your brand and there is no other way to tell two products apart.
You wouldn’t know it from their Australian Web Store page, but HP actually do know how to sell the Envy Tablet better than this. Check out this view of their product mini site.
Strangely their ecommerce people do not seem to know about this site. There’s no link to it, and I could only find this site by Google search!
As you can see though, the mini-site actually makes a noble if brief attempt to sell the envy based on design, convenience and emotion.
“High–quality materials, modern lines you can see and feel, each laptop, TouchSmart and desktop is pure ENVY.”
“So you don’t miss a thing.”
The good thing here is that they are trying to create an experience around their product.
The site is one of the best examples of a product mini-site that I have seen yet. If the product was as good as the mini-site the tablet would sell off the hook! It is a rich experience site, that draws you in with descriptive animations, emotional benefits and logical backups.
Ironically the product will not sell of the hook due to its specs! The combination of a low performance Intel Atom processor and an 11.6 inch screen (2 things that do not go together for the average punter). But this mini-site gives you the best chance that you’ll ever get to fall in love with the product.
But the thing that I personally rejoice over is that Tablet PC makers (apart from Apple who have been selling like this for years – Apple NLP Video list here) are actually putting significant energy into selling.
They are thinking about their products in customers terms right through the product cycle.
We can only hope that they continue to improve for the sake of themselves and for choice!
Apple of course set the standard for telling the design story and now Microsoft is following the course with its Surface Pro Windows 8 Tablet PC.
Having visited our friends at Motion Computing in Austin Texas I can tell you that Tablet PC hardware companies are full of stories like this.
For example, did you know that Motion Computing pioneered Gorilla Glass with Corning on the F5? They were the first to use it. Direct bonding for displays? Motion and DuPont. Wide View displays? Motion were involved again. Who’s telling the story? I think hardware companies take this for granted.
Lenovo is an example of a company that is telling the design story. Over at their Yamato Labs blog you will find intricate detail on the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 tablet design.
Personally I’d rate the ThinkPad 2 as the best business companion tablet on the market and you can see from this blog how intelligent industrial design produced that result.
The trouble is that not enough effort goes into telling these stories, but they are incredibly important to the consumers who purchase these devices. Design stories provide the points of logical differentiation that helps you to justify your purchase.
They each have design stories to tell that are just as good if not better than Microsoft’s.
It surely couldn’t have cost much to do. There are no actors there. It’s professionally shot of course. A little bit of script writing would be done to add polish. I can’t see how you could spend $10 grand on it. Worth doing?
Which Tablet PC would you purchase? The Tablet PC with a design story or the cheap one? If Apple is anything to go by you’d go with the story.
Here’s what’s just awesome about Microsoft’s marketing for the Surface Pro.
They’re doing it. They’re actually marketing the crap out of this thing.
Billboard, TV, online – they’re really going for this.
It’s not just another PC in the range, it is the range.
Microsoft have a team (or teams) of people dedicated to just two products.
Other big Windows 8 Tablet Makers just put the thing up on their website buried in the Notebooks section. They don’t seem to realise that their PC business is dying let alone what they should do about it (market the tablets!).
They’re telling a story that’s true.
What the Surface people are showing in their marketing might not represent your working environment (as seen in the following video) but you can see yourself in it.
On the flip side, since Microsoft seem to be the only Windows 8 Tablet manufacturer actually marketing too many people will rush out and buy a Surface Pro next month without considering some of the better alternatives.
Not that they’d be disappointed with the Surface Pro. It’s an awesome tablet PC.
Looking at the assumptions in the article though, I have to wonder, what ever happened to people’s ability to learn?
It seems to me that many decisions in product design – particularly in the tech world and never more so than with Tablets – are based on the fact that people will instantly dismiss a device if it doesn’t work perfectly as expected in the first 2 seconds.
What this has caused is a dumbing down of any device that might fall into the hands of a consumer (read: idiot) to the point where its utility is compromised. Sometimes significantly.
You’ll see in the article that clever ideas like the counter shift key option on the early Windows 8 tablet keyboard design was binned based on what looks to be short term user expectations and experiences.
Ultimately the incredible simplification of the Windows 8 tablet keyboard will at least give Microsoft a chance to compete with the ultimate dumbed down device (iPad), but it leaves the people who are willing to learn something new (like Swipe on Android) without the possible benefit.
Bring back complexity. The world is complex and complex gets things done!
I’ve come to really love Windows 8 on a tablet, but I hate it at the same time. It is possible!
As a lounge room tablet, Windows 8 is perfect. Boot times are unbelievable! My F5t only takes about 4 seconds once it’s past the Motion BIOS screen. Less than 10 seconds from off and I’m logged in.
The kids have no problem with it (from 11 to 2 years old) and since a Windows 8 tablet comes with built in user accounts, it’s much better for family use than iPad or Android.
Microsoft Family Safety is built in, so our kids can just login with their user accounts and I can keep an eye on them. That’s out of the box, it even prompts you to see if you want to turn it on when you create a new user.
Fingerprint login is fuss free and incredibly reliable (on the Fujitsu Q702 and Motion F5t only), again far less frustrating than having to type in a 4 digit pin code over and over and over again! The kids like the picture login option too.
Browsing is near perfect. Whilst the touch version of ie10 does not seem to support flash, the desktop browser is there and it does. Of course I could also choose Chrome, Firefox and even (God forbid) Safari if I wanted to. Ahhh, freedom!
Having the desktop browser and the hardware to run it makes a Windows 8 tablet the perfect browsing machine.
For example, if I have more than one page open on the Galaxy Note 10.1 or the iPad when I switch between pages they reload. I don’t know how people can stand this, especially on iPad where it’s by far the worst. It’s just irritating.
On the other hand, my F5t has 16Gb of RAM, and that’s enough to hold a practically infinite number of web pages in memory. Even the most lightweight of the tablets (the Samsung Series 7 Slate) has 4Gb. Compare that to iPad that typically has only a tiny 512Mb of RAM (only the latest version has 1Gb RAM). No wonder they have to reload web pages every time you switch between them. They just can’t remember.
The keyboard options in Windows 8 are great. The flat design and layout works perfectly and auto correct works great. I love the swipe keyboard on my Samsung Android devices, and the Windows 8 tablet keyboards only come in second to that. Not a lot of typing is done in the home of course.
The app store is a little light on, but there’s enough there to entertain. So from a home use perspective, Windows 8 Pro hits the spot on a tablet.
At work however, it’s a different story. As a long time tablet user Windows 8 is just not working out. When I upgraded the Solid State Drive in my main Motion F5t this week, it stayed with Windows 7. It’s likely to stay that way for some time.
Don’t get me wrong, Windows 8 is good for business as I wrote here:
Consumer tablets will continue to have a place in the enterprise thanks to their cheap prices and cachet. But for anything more than the most casual computing Windows 8 tablets will give enterprises a tool that solves a lot of problems. It is a tool that has been missing until now.
But I’m finding that the changes to the desktop environment are hurting me most. There’s a couple of problems:
The new Tablet Input Panel forces us into a 2 line handwriting recognition box that covers too much of the screen. A real problem for desktop apps.
The handwriting recognition panel has lost the ability to click to insert (you used to be able to click in your word document for example and the text would go in automatically, great for correcting but probably too scary for nuff nuffs!)
Two finger right clicking with touch is gone. The fast way to right click now only gives way to the slow way (press, hold, wait).
Touch flicks have disappeared off the face of the earth.
Pen flicks work intermittently and appear to be a bit broken. The ie10 web page area appears to have an overlay that prevents them from working anywhere apart from on the toolbars and program edges.
OneNote doesn’t seem to be able to determine if touch or pen is in use reliably and so scrolling with touch is not working well.
I’m hopeful that these technical glitches will be looked at. I certainly hope to raise them with the people in Redmond when I visit next month… Anyone who will listen that is!
No doubt these issues stem from the radical changes to so many interfaces in Windows to accommodate things like smooth touch scrolling and speed responses to touch. But I would hope that Windows returns to it’s roots and allows power users to customise the user interface.
If you haven’t used a Windows tablet before, then the new Windows 8 tablets will satisfy. They are without doubt the best, fastest, most flexible and easiest to use tablets on the market.
For long term Windows tablet users like me we’ll have to see what happens at SP1…