I was trying to resist the urge to blog on this, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Peter started out a couple of days ago on a great rant (well maybe a heart felt confession?) about Tablets and how he’s no longer in love with them. I say “great” because it was from the heart and he’s a great guy who has been a very vocal member of the tablet community singing the praises for anyone who would hear it. Secondly the perspective is extremely valuable. Seems people got on his case (wasn’t me, I swear!) about how he came across so he wrote another article defending Tablets and saying that he still likes it, but the honeymoon is over. In both posts he’s really pointing out the major disconnects for those of us in ivory towers (e.g. in the walls of Microsoft) from what he sees happening in the market place. Loren also jumped into the fray and had another good post on the topic.
In addition to all this, Christopher Coulter sent me a whole bunch of links relative to news articles, tablet postings and reviews of new hardware. Am I to become the latest link monkey for Christopher? Maybe just this once…
So I wanted to throw out a couple of small things into the overall fray just because they’re points of information that I know some people have already questioned or asserted etc. These are in no way meant to be excuses or justifications, but rather they’re my perspective and remember I don’t represent the Tablet PC Team and the hard work they are doing, nor am I representing Microsoft, but these are my own opinions and insights
In store sales…
As part of my job in the past, I’ve gotten to travel to Japan (among other places) during several of these trips we would head down to the computer shops in various parts of Tokyo to look at the technology and to see how devices are portrayed. During these visits, I’d always hold my head in shame when looking at how the Tablets looked compared to all the other laptops around. You could see these incredible screens and demos running on Sharp and Sony machines where the displays were so bright and colorful – that you just had to go out and buy one. In comparison, the tablet screens were often washed out since the screen backlighting was set to be lower, the screen saver was on and the pen was no where in sight to get it out of the screen saver mode to even see what it could do. Part of all this is that we all know about is that Tablets don’t really sell themselves and when put up against the latest in display technologies in laptops, they pale in comparison; so much so that they were actually hard to find among the display items since they just don’t pop-out in the same way.
Not too long ago I was in CompUSA which had some Toshiba 3500 on display. Here the machines had some more dedicated space, the pen was tethered so you could interact with it, but it looked a lot like any other laptop that you might see. This isn’t to mention that the sales associated knew less about it than the average consumer could get from reading the materials that surrounded it.
Lots of people have mentioned in lots of posts (I’d link to them all if I wasn’t being lazy) that when they demo the Tablet to someone and have the personal interchange they can build the story about how the Tablet can fit into their life and what it can do for them and how it can help them be another tool in increasing their productivity.
The real challenge for not just Microsoft and but for many other companies as well is how you get that level of interaction/experience into a tangible marketing effort that can work at point of retail and educate people about what they can do is and why they should care is an important exercise. I’ve been exposed to some of the upcoming marketing plans and think that we may make some good strides here, may not be perfect and it may be late, but it’s a new and better direction IMHO.
Being a part of Windows…
Life is simpler at Microsoft when you’re not part of the Windows organization. I’m not saying that it’s bad or good, just that there are things that you can do that involve much less coordination and process when you’re outside of this sphere of influence. I personally don’t understand the majority of what goes on here, but from my perspective shipping Lonestar was a lot harder than shipping V1 of Tablet. Again from my perspective (and I’m not entirely knowledge-able here) the percentage of development time appeared to be substantially greater given the same period of time for V1 than Lonestar. As part of Windows there’s more emphasis that has to be done on compatibility testing, localization, compliance work, security, stabilization, etc. than you might have to do if you were part of a different organization. Thus I too have the same perception in that I saw lots of features a long time ago that are now just shipping. This isn’t to say that there weren’t lots of very minute refinements made in some of the interactions, but just that it takes a long time to get all the “i” dotted and “t” crossed. The Tablet team isn’t a startup any more…
Are there challenges here for the Tablet team? Sure there are.
Is the Tablet team listening? You bet. (I know they are as I’m sending lots of stuff their way and there are lots of threads that get generated which I’m still on).
Am I being a pest to some of the tablet team members? Most likely.
Are core members of that team blogging and talking about the experiences first hand? No. (But that might change)
Is this a healthy discussion? By all means!