Starting up a new blog related to tablet PC and mobile computing. My name is Robert Williams and I am the Director of Business Development and Partner Engineering for the Mobile Platforms Division. In this role my team and I work with partners (OEMs, ODMs, IHVs, ISVs) to bring new technology and products to tablet pc and mobile pc users. If I need to do an acronym table to help readers better understand this blog please let me know. I joined the tablet team in early 2001, about 18 months before Tablet PC Edition V1 shipped, and have been working with partners since that time. I recently did the video thing for Channel9. After reviewing the tape I don't think I am ready to quit my day job :). Here's the links:
It has been a really exciting ride to see our vision progress from early code and MS built HW prototypes to the 2005 Edition product and latest OEM HW I am using today. I just saw Peter Rysavy's blog about falling out of love with Tablet PC and a lot of the follow up postings on blogs and user groups. I found this disturbing, perhaps a little over stated in parts, but an honest expression of frustration and not unfair. Here's a few comments:
First, many of Peter's criticisms and concerns are valid. There remains a huge amount of work to be done in the OS, the apps, and the HW. However, sometimes I think it's too easy to forget how far we have progressed over a relatively short period of time. When I first joined the team the biggest challenge when doing a demo was to resist the urge to hurl the tablet across the room into the wall. Alpha SW running on duct taped HW will do that to you :). While I will admit to still getting that urge on occasion, it happens far less frequently today. The correct answer should be that it never happens, users should be continuously delighted with the experience, but we are not there yet, and I, for one, will never be. We need to celebrate our accomplishments but never become satisfied with the status quo. Thanks to Peter for continuing to push us, although it's painful to read. Believe it or not, we also continue to push ourselves. It's in the DNA around this place.
Second, there is a lot of great HW innovation work being done in the OEM/ODM/IHV community that I would love to talk about in detail in this blog, but cannot due to NDA. So I will stick to generalities. This fall we will see tablet models designed to be more in tune with the needs of a typical consumer notebook purchaser (eg, bigger screens, optical drive, convertible design, etc). One of the HW learnings from V1 was that it's not a one size or one style fits all market space. Some tablet enthusiasts value mobility above other features and capabilities. They focus on size, weight, and battery life as primary value criteria. These tablet users are more likely to go for a slate, hybrid, or ultramobile convertible design. They had a number of HW choices in V1 and have even more today. Other tablet pc users want a no compromise solution vs today's notebooks. They want bigger screens, an optical drive, an attached KB, etc., as well as tablet capability. These users have had limited HW choices until recently, but their range of choices, and the price range of the HW, will expand significantly this year. We will also see some new tablet designs focused more on testing new concepts and pushing the envelope than finding broad consumer appeal. It's the continuing expansion of the mix, the capabilities, and the price range that keeps me excited about Tablet PC. By making tablet capabilities attractive and accessible to more people we increase the opportunity for OEMs, ODMs, IHVs and ISVs to bring more value to tablet users. It's a virtuous cycle and all tablet enthusiasts should benefit..
Additionally, there are an infinite number of opportunities for improvement in the HW components, etc. We have focused a lot of our attention in the digitizer and LCD space, working with leading IHVs and some new “up and comers“ that are relatively unkown at this time. Key areas for improvement are viewing angle, glare and reflectivity, indoor/outdoor viewing, parallax, cursor accuracy, stability and linearity, feel of the pen on the surface, etc, as well as the total cost to “tabletize“ a PC. Some of these improvements are already in the market. Compare the displays in the second generation of tablet HW to the first generation. I think you will notice the difference. We'll discuss ISVs and apps at another time.
Third, “explain why tablet is cool.“ That's a really tough one for me. I'm a father with 3 teenagers. Is that cool? I don't think so. That's the antithesis of cool. Using words like antithesis is not cool. Please accept my apologies. It's just not happening for me. Heck, I wasn't even cool back when I thought I was cool :). My kids tell me that every day. They are avid tablet users and I get a lot of good feedback and ideas from them. My sons designed several of the game boards for the inkball game that shipped with V1. The challenge for me was dragging them off of that tool and back to their homework. Peter's right about kids promoting tablets. They almost instantly get it at a level the rest of us don't always feel. We need to keep listening to the kids and to other folks outside our sphere, and learning from what they can teach us. I'm not cool but I think I know how to do that. Peter, you're not afraid to say what you think and that's cool. Please keep it coming.