Writing this blog on the plane. Up at 4am this morning to catch a 6am flight. Arrrgh! Gotta love this job J. Went to the Mariners game last night with my sons and caught a rare win. Inspired by the Mariners, we are going with a Boys of Summer theme in this post.
The first pitch:
Dave P, writes that tablet pc is not for the road warrior, it’s for the cubicle warrior. It goes to meetings, replaces paper for note taking and organizer functions, ensures background documents are always with you and at the ready, supports annotating Power Point slides in presentation mode, virtual whiteboarding, etc. In other words, for Dave it’s not as much a notebook replacement as it is a paper replacement and a new way of working. Dave, we totally agree with your analysis. Much of our market research, field trial observations, and focus group research pointed to these scenarios. A key focus of our initial evangelism and positioning for tablet pc was as a tool for the corridor warrior (our term for your cubicle warrior). A corridor warrior may or may not also be a road warrior. It’s a highly mobile professional where mobility is defined as not chained to a desk or a single physical location for the majority of the day. The scenarios you described in your post are almost exactly the ones we targeted as our entry into the highly mobile computing space.
Dave, I score this as a triple into the gap. Nice piece of hitting. You nailed the exciting V1 scenarios. I would give you a home run if not for the fact that you recommended requiring a detachable KB. While dedicated tablet enthusiasts like you, and esp those that are also poor typists like me, prefer a slate or detachable KB to maximize portability, there are many users that absolutely cannot give up the KB. Without the convertible option to ensure the KB is always there when one needs it, these users would not take the plunge into tablet computing. Unfortunately, I have to give us only a single on this one. We had the scenario visions that you describe, so we get credit for a base hit, but the fact that our marketing and positioning is perceived to be aimed at the wrong people is disappointing. We were aiming exactly at the people and scenarios you describe. Thanks for the feedback.
Seventh inning stretch:
One of our guiding principles in V1 was “first, be a great notebook.” One can argue whether we succeeded or not but it gave us clear direction when making HW and SW decisions. We had to deliver a notebook plus more, not force the users into a compromised, either/or decision. Our research told us this was a major shortcoming of many previous attempts at tablet computing. That is one of the major reasons we elected to build our OS on the XP Pro code base. However, we deliberately abstained from form factor requirements to allow OEMs and ODMs the maximum opportunity to innovate and differentiate with their designs. This was a difficult decision for us because we had some strong design opinions on the team and we did not want PC manufacturers and end users to miss out on the benefits of our “wisdom” J. Instead of loading up on requirements, we published and evangelized our POV as recommendations, but did not make them requirements. IMHO, this turned out to be a good decision. The market was rewarded with slates, convertibles, and detachables at the V1 launch, rather than a series of reference design clones differing primarily in color and badge. No single design captured the market. End users embraced the HW design that delivered to their particular set of scenarios and needs. There are a lot of really clever designers out there. Better to encourage them to be creative than to box them in. End users will tell us what works.
JK writes: “Convertibles will continue to merge tablets with laptops, a trend I fear will kill off the tablet. Tablets should differentiate themselves from other form factors, and instead I see them converging.” Sorry JK, I gotta give you a swing and a miss on this one. Tablet features will converge with laptops, but this will help ensure life for the tablet, not kill it. Tablet is probably a poor choice of name for what we are trying to achieve. It’s too easily associated with a single form factor. So we also get a swing and a miss. Tablet PC is all about a highly mobile, always available, natural user input, computing paradigm. Note: I’ll try not to overuse the p-word in my blog, but it works here so I went with it. I don’t mean to imply that we are driving to a single convertible form factor exclusively. In fact, the opposite is true (see above). However, we are not taking a purist approach and limiting our focus to slates with pens and no KB. That approach significantly narrows the market, and consequently, our opportunity to bring in a broad range of partners and work with them to impact mobile computing in a major way. Sounds ambitious? You bet. Sounds challenging? Absolutely. Gotta have something inspirational when that alarm goes off at 4am.