Tablet PC, too disruptive?

Thursday, April 14th, 2005
A week ago, I publicly teased my friend, Michael Sampson, by challenging him to cancel his order for a new PowerBook and to purchase a Tablet PC. I even asked for your help with persuasive arguments. Michael responded with a bullet-list of requirements and how the PowerBook suited his needs just fine. Several people posted or emailed comments with their experiences and opinions.

Mike Hyatt had this to say to Michael Sampson:
As you know, I have made the same journey. Initially, the Tablet PC was a delight to use. But then, like all Windows systems, it started bogging down with a bloated registry and annoying "bugs" that just wouldn't go away.
Mike, I've designed configured some amazing systems for some of the most productive people I've ever met. Over the years, I've developed a protocol for designing and tuning my client's systems so that they run exceedingly well. Still, I'll admit that it does take a lot of work to achieve this - I wish it was not so involved.

Most of the business applications that I use with my clients (and their clients, and their client's clients ... ) are PC-based; changing platforms is not a viable option.

In addition, the technology is just too conspicuous. I couldn't walk into a room with my Tablet PC without becoming the center of attention and people getting side-tracked from the business at hand. This made me very uncomfortable.

Mike, I am intrigued by your comment that  your Tablet PC was a distraction - especially in light of the quote from Michael Linenberger on your blog on  why you bought a TabletPC:

Placing a laptop with the screen flipped up in front of you on a conference room table creates a physical barrier between you and others in the room. This is literally a barrier to communication. The Tablet PC is normally on your lap, and out of sight. Or it is flat on the desk like a writing pad.

I would have expected that after a while people would pay no attention to your Tablet. I'm sorry the Tablet PC did not work out for you as you hoped it would. I'm still willing to give it a try. [I would be happy to send you my shipping address. :-)]

I've gone low-tech for meetings and love it. I carry a Moleskin notebook and write down everything. I put a "star" symbol next to those things I need to follow-up on. When I get back to my desk, I quickly transfer these to Entourage. My workflow is simple, unobtrusive, and 100% reliable.

I've been following the analog approach to note-taking. It's an attractive option. It's one of the key reasons that I plan to move to a TabletPC - I want the simplicity of analog note-taking and mind mapping with the benefits of digital recall.

And, I absolutely love my PowerBook 15". In my humble opinion (sorry, Eric), you're making the right choice.

I've since had many discussions with Michael Sampson, and I agree, that for his stated needs, it would appear that the PowerBook is an excellent option. As for me, yes, I would have to agree, the TabletPC is too disruptive - I think about it way too much.

Robert Peake wrote about a Linux-based Tablet:

If you've lost faith in Microsoft and are looking for a budget option, the Helium 2100

Robert, I've not lost faith in Microsoft, but I am discouraged at the effort it takes to get my hands on a new TabletPC. The Helium 2100 looks like a nice machine at a great price. I might even consider it. Too bad you have to buy 24 of them at a time. :-(

Several others chimed in with equally compelling arguments for either the Tablet PC or the PowerBook.

LBE made an excellent point:

[Eric,] you are confounding two distinctions - the operating system and the form factor. In the same form factor, an increasing number of people are finding Mac OS X to be more productive and stable for their needs. The rest just haven't tried it. If the tablet form factor works better for you than a standard laptop, then you are currently forced to by a Tablet PC.

and a good observation:

But that's not a reason to buy a Tablet PC, let alone advocate them. It's a reason to wish that Mac OS X came in a tablet form factor.

Good point, LBE. While I was having some fun with the  "PC vs Mac" debate at Michael's expense, my real comparison and interest, was Tablet vs traditional laptop. I should have been more clear about this. I hope Apple DOES jump in with a Tablet offering. It will no doubt raise the bar.

I'm still sold on the Tablet PC for my needs.
Michael Sampson lamented that it took Apple NZ 6 weeks to fulfill his order. I checked with him today, and he's since received his PowerBook and is happily working away. He plans to bring it with him in June, when he flies up to spend a day with me in the digital sandbox.

As for me, I have ... well, at least I'm still blogging about the Tablet PC.

Discussion/Comments (8):

Tablet PC, too disruptive?

C'mon Eric ... Apple says you could have that new PowerBook 15" the day after you order it (I just checked { Link } That would mean you could have a Mac on your desk, to add to the one in your chair ;-). It can even power the 30" cinema display which I know you'd love, unlike a Tablet.

Posted at 04/15/2005 1:49:33 by Michael Sampson

I think the amount of disruption depends ...

I think the amount of disruption you cause very much depends on the group of people you are with. I've personally had a few people ask to have a look/play with my Tablet but in general most people haven't taken any notice.

Maybe things are different here in the UK and we're all being very British about not putting our heads over the parapet.

To reduce the disruption you can always opt for a portfolio case for the Tablet and, if holding it on your lap, no one will be any the wiser a lot of the time.

In general I would expect the 'WOW' factor to wear off pretty quickly with most people. Those who want to see more can be given a demo after you're done with work/the meeting etc. If they are that interested then a 1-to-1 demo will either help sell them on the idea of getting one themselves or satisfy their curiosity and the matter will most likely end there.

Posted at 04/15/2005 6:05:59 by Colin Walker

iMack procedures

Great thread - I've been tempted by the siren song of Tablet PC's and will continue to follow this.

You also mentioned you have a protocol for building productive Windows systems. Do you have that written up anywhere? As someone who rebuilds my notebook a couple of times a year I would love to adopt your best practices in this area.

If you like, I'll even add a sign on the outside of my notebook lid that says "iMack" or something like that ;^)

Posted at 04/15/2005 8:02:58 by Dwayne Melancon

Waiting a few years for the pen to mature

I tried the HP tc1100 and found the pen response to be sluggish and inaccurate no matter how much calibration I did. That was the deal killer for me (a pen nut). It wasn't a 15 minute decision as I had one at my disposal for more than a month. Still, when it came time to buy a new laptop, I went with widescreen notebook instead of the HP. Perhaps the other tablet pc's are better? Not so sure about their quality, though.

Waiting a few years for the pen to mature and then I'm getting one.

Posted at 04/15/2005 8:39:03 by freecia

Tablet PC, too disruptive?

The fact you can't buy a tablet-form PC with MacOS, only Windows or - if you make an effort - Linux, doesn't mean that you mustn't buy a tablet-form PC. If you want it and you deserve it and you can afford it, then buy it. If you want to get at an Apple desktop with it, can't you run VNC? And you can buy an Apple tablet later if anyone ever makes one.

Posted at 04/16/2005 3:29:38 by Robert Carnegie

Helium 2100

Eric - The Helium 2100 was originally released as a standalone Tablet PC for Linux. I wrote about it here: { Link }

However, after calling the salesman and actually talking to them I learned it wasn't a 'real' Tablet PC .. it doesn't come with all tools you'd want and expect a Tablet PC to have. Instead, they want you to go the typical Linux route: go out and scavenge the necessary programs you need/want. I'm not saying this to condemn Linux but let's face it, I want to buy hardware, turn it on, and start using it. I don't want to spend $1,000 or more on it, then spend time trying to get all the things I need to make it work.

Apparently, many others felt the same way and the Helium 2100 must not have sold to expectation, so their new target market is buy in bulk. As you inferred above, that likely won't be a successful strategy either.

Posted at 04/16/2005 12:33:16 by TDavid

People are talking ...

The folks over at TabletPC Buzz are discussing TabletPC's and whether or not they have found them to be disruptive in the workplace.

Posted at 04/17/2005 10:28:56 by Eric Mack

Tablet PC, too disruptive?

Checkout Michael Hyatt's blog about switching from the Tablet PC

{ Link }

Posted at 04/18/2005 5:07:51 by Rob Bushway

Discussion for this entry is now closed.