Microsoft Surface Team at MVP Summit

PB210253I was incredibly privileged to meet the Microsoft Surface team last week in Redmond at the annual MVP Summit. A person that really stood out was Panos Panay – the head of Microsoft Surface. He featured in the video below that I recently posted (design story).

Panos Panay is certainly an interesting character. He was a captivating and formidable presenter.

The inside word at MS is that his alternate career path was as a professional gambler. And maybe that’s not far apart from being the head of Microsoft Surface.

Personally I couldn’t stop comparing Panos to Ben Stiller’s magician in Arrested Development – “Tony Wonder.”

See what you think:

Maybe you had to be there… And watch the show… Crickets…

What I was impressed with is how engaged the folks at Surface were. We met with Panos Panay and Brian Hall. Both made themselves readily available for direct questions and discussions, despite their seniority and importance at Microsoft. There is little doubt to me that these guys are the future of Microsoft, but there they were, talking and engaging with 150 MVPs – 10 Surface MVPs and 1 Tablet and Touch MVP – me).

In the group session I asked Panos for his thoughts on the Wacom Pen in Surface Pro. “Is it just an after-thought? Or is it an integral part of the experience?”

His response was interesting.”What is the use case for 200 million people?” It is a good question. I suggested that the team take note of how many people carry pen and paper to meetings along with their tablets (iPad of course is the worst offender).

I did get a sense that Panos and the team are all on board with the pen. They are looking for ways to get the message across to a lot of people, and that is re-assuring.

We met with Ed Guiano, the head of Surface Engineering who oozed enthusiasm for his product. And it is a product worthy of such enthusiasm. Ed was incredibly forthright and knowledgeable. He certainly came across as someone that you would want leading your product engineering team.

The marketing team for Surface were accessible, open, dedicated and charged up.

On the other hand folks from the Windows tablet team were not present. There were plenty of great sessions on Consumer Apps, Windows 8.1 features and experiences, but nothing specifically on tablets (apart from Surface). Maybe that’s because only one Tablet and Touch MVP attended – me. There aren’t many of us left anyway in the Tablet and Touch specialty. But I hope that doesn’t mean that Microsoft are putting all of their efforts into Surface.

Surface is currently two amazing and worthy tablets. But they a not suited to everyone and never will be.

The strength of the Windows tablet sphere has always been variety of hardware. Let’s hope the OEMs like Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Fujitsu, Panasonic and Motion have their effort reflected by Microsoft with enthusiasm for their products like we saw from the Surface team last week.

Written by Admin @ in: Tablet PC | Tags: , , , , ,

Tablet PC Marketing: Telling the design story

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.

I’d love to see Motion, Lenovo, Samsung and Fujitsu produce a polished video for each of their Tablet PCs like the one Microsoft have produced above for the Surface Pro.

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.

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Congratulations to Motion Computing

Motion Computing F5v Motion Computing won the Microsoft OEM Partner of the Year awards this year. Whilst Motion are a big company in our terms, they are a minnow in the Microsoft OEM world, so it’s really great to see this award going their way.

I really like the way Motion pushes the boundaries with their products. Their display technology is the best of the best, Gorilla Glass is a must have for Tablet PCs and their battery technology is well in front of their competitors too.

We’re heading to Mackay in North Queensland this week with a bunch of Motion Computing J3500s and Motion Computing F5vs for the Queensland Mining and Engineering Expo. 2 years ago, Motion Computing Tablets were a marginal possibility for mining duties, but now thanks to the ruggedness of tablets like the F5v and J3500 – Motion Computing J3500which have seriously impressed companies like Rio Tinto, Newcrest and Northbridge Mining – the Motion Computing  brand can be found in many mining  situations.

So congratulations to Motion Computing on winning the Microsoft OEM Partner of the Year Award. Well deserved!

Written by brettg in: Tablet PC | Tags: ,

Tablet PC – why you need to be patient…

Microsoft MouseEvery article I read about Tablet PCs in mainstream IT press seems to want label the Tablet PC as a failed concept. As I watch significant numbers of Tablet PCs walk out the door every month in our business, I chuckle every time I hear about it… Of course, even I’m old enough to know that it’s all happened before…

Into Personal Computing History…

In its current form, the PC mouse is now 42 years old, but it is really only 25 years since it went mainstream with the Apple Macintosh – 1984… Here’s what a respected PC journalist had to say about that:

"The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the “why” out of the equation – as in “why would I want this?” The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I dont want one of these new fangled devices."

John C. Dvorak – Commenting on the mouse that came with the Apple Macintosh, San Francisco Examiner, 19 February 1984

Tablet PC Meeting With Paper And ScissorsThat pretty much sums up the way the tech journos  write about Tablets and UMPCs today…

Like the switch from keyboard to the mouse, most people will initially resist the change… I still know people who hate the mouse so much that they continue to operate completely without one.

That said, even I was still using PCs without a mouse well into the 90’s (we had PCs at home, not Macs). Nowadays, it would be practically impossible to work without a mouse (barring touch and pen input of course!).

I believe that the adoption of Touch and tablet technology is similar. Digital pen technology has been around in a commercial form for 20 years now, but it really hit the mainstream in 2001 (2006 for UMPC). So it’s been 9 years and things are getting exciting for a couple of reasons:

  1. Better hardware – outdoor / indoor screens, capacitive touch, low power processors, mobile broadband access.
  2. Better software – Windows 7, multi-touch, Android, better handwriting recognition and ink enabled apps like Microsoft Office.

HP TC1100 Convertible Hybrid Tablet PC with Docking StationSo the Tablet will continue to gain ground as  an accepted mainstream form of computing.

However, it won’t play out exactly the same. That’s because tablets are most useful in mobile scenarios, whereas the mouse could be used practically on a desktop. Practical Tablet PC use also has much higher software and processing requirements – like handwriting recognition and virtual keyboard input.

That means that unlike the mouse which is now attached to practically every PC, tablets will probably never gain that sort of presence. Additionally, they will take longer to gain mainstream acceptance.

Apple will have a good crack at it this year… like they did with the mouse, with the release of some sort of Tablet. But like the much like the mouse, they probably won’t be able to change the market overnight.

Also, if Apple do adopt touch input on a PC – as the mouse has taught us – it does not mean that Apple will ultimately own the market.


Message to HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo – Pull up your socks before Apple and Google spank your rear end with UMPCs and Tablets

computers The Microsoft Windows based Tablet PC has been around for over 7 years now, and Microsoft are pushing ahead with lots of tasty touch and multi-touch support in Windows 7.

What are the big hardware vendors doing though? Nothing.

Playing it safe with boring convertible Tablet PCs. No innovation. No imagination. I mean, I am a big fan of the Tablet PC, but convertible laptops are hardly risky.

HP have tried a couple of things, like the original TC1000 and TC1100. The TC1000 was a huge step outside the square on form factor. Unfortunately it was dismal failure because of the Transmeta Crusoe processor, but the TC1100 fixed that.

It was a compact 10 inch machine that weighed only 1kg. It could be used purely as a slate Tablet, but the design of the convertible keyboard that it came with was just brilliant. It was such a versatile machine.

But of course, to get people to pony up the money on a product like this requires sustained effort. It requires lots of marketing and some patience.

HP_TouchSmart_tx2_Front So what did they do with it? The hid it under a rug of course and did no marketing to speak of. When it failed to sell in large enough numbers, they reverted back to the usual dumb strategy above. Play it safe…

HP have tried a *bit* harder with the Tx2. They have targeted it at consumers and done some online marketing. They’ve built in a multi-touch n-trig digitiser to get some ooh and aah action going, but will it work?

There is a lot of interest in the Tx2, but I doubt that it will sell in huge numbers. The price is better, but the specs aren’t awesome. But hey, I should give them credit for having a go, even if it is a little safe for my liking.

The netbook trend shows the potential of the ultra mobile computing market, but why can’t PC manufacturers see past their noses? The only big consumer brand playing in the UMPC space is Samsung, and they are minnows in the PC world.

img_6036_4648_large_q1utlra_frontWe have had a Samsung Q1 in the house for six months now and it is always in use. It’s often in the kitchen being an online recipe book. For emailing, web browsing, IM and media it’s awesome. I personally wouldn’t be without a device like this, but it’s just too darn expensive to be a big hit.

If just one of these four big PC manufacturers took a risk and innovated in this space, the result could be incredible. There is a huge demand for mobile computing devices as netbooks and the iPhone has shown. But the iPhone only chips away at the edge of the potential. Ditto for netbooks.

Unfortunately, it seems that the hardware vendors have overwhelmingly taken a “we tried that once and it didn’t work” approach. They are too busy not making mistakes to ever learn anything. I think that they will pay for this missed recession proof opportunity.

iphone_hardware1_20081217In the meantime, the entire space will be stolen from them by an iPhone like device from Apple. More Apple devices in the hands of people mean that the Microsoft hegemony will die.

If it’s not Apple, it will be Google. Google and T-Mobile are about to go to market with a slate UMPC style device to run Android. There is a demand in the market here, and the capabilities of the hardware are able to meet it. It’s just a question of who is going to take the risk of making something to meet the demand.

Hopefully Microsoft will wake up like they did in the Netscape v Internet Explorer era and do something about it. But the cosy and boring little arrangement that they and the big four have going must come an end. They need to kick the big four into action before it’s too late.

Written by brettg in: Tablet PC | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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