Lately, most of the tablet talk has centered on HP and the TouchPad/webOS soap opera. The drama continued today when various tech news outlets reported that HP may be making as many as 1,000,000 more TouchPads to fulfill commitments with their supply-side vendors. At an estimated loss of almost $200 per unit I’ve got to believe that those vendor contracts must have had some significant penalty clauses. In any event, in just a few weeks everyone’s $99 TouchPad dreams may be answered and the eBay scalpers may be facing a bit of a nightmare.
With TouchPad fans now in a waiting game, and Apple not introducing a new iPad until sometime in 2012, tablet fans turned their attention towards Germany and IFA 2011 (a super-sized version of the Consumer Electronics Show). Everyone is chasing after the iPad and using different methods of attack. Google’s Android OS is the base for at least three major manufacturers to launch tablets of different sizes, shapes, designs and price points.
Sony entered the tablet wars with a couple of devices; a standard full-sized slate (SonyTablet S) and an interesting clam-shell design (Sony Tablet P). Toshiba added a second tablet to its lineup, joining the “Thrive” is the super-slim (.3-inch) Toshiba AT200. Toshiba has always been great at making computing devices smaller, lighter and thinner. I expect their latest handiwork will be well received. Lenovo, who already has two full-sized and priced tablets on the market appears to be trying to garner some of the low-priced TouchPad interest with its announcement of the 7-inch IdeaPad A1 priced at $199.
Then it was Samsung’s turn…and today they decided to go small rolling out a new Samsung Galaxy Tab at 7 inches and a 5.3-inch little gem called the ”Galaxy Note” that made my heart flutter.
The Galaxy Note is a 5.3-inch phone/tablet that includes all of the usual top-of-the-line bells and whistles; HD Super AMOLED display, 1.4ghz dual-core processor, and dual cameras (8mp and 2mp). The big difference though is a real, honest-to-goodness stylus. You can use the stylus or your fingers interchangeably throughout the UI and it includes handwriting recognition capabilities.
Yes, I know that Steve Jobs has declared the stylus a sign of device design failure, but for those of us that need to input text or are sick of pressing the wrong link or are just tired of carrying screen cloths everywhere we go the stylus is a wonderful implement. Hey, Steve, we all finger-painted at one time, but most of us progressed to crayons and then pens and pencils.
My first tablet was the Apple Newton MessagePad. I purchased it back in 1993. While it took Apple a few revisions to get it right the Newton 2100 became my constant business companion. It was the right size for taking notes in a meetings, reading and composing emails, looking at websites without having to scroll side-to-side or zoom in and it could easily be held in one hand. While writing by hand isn’t nearly as fast as typing on a full-sized keyboard it sure beats pecking away on glass or, even worse, the thumb stretch we’re all trying to do with our iPads, TouchPads, etc.
When the iPad came out, Steve Jobs made a brilliant strategic move in downplaying a design decision Apple had made. Rather than be faced with the iPad as a finger only device and the others as the stylus UI he discredited the concept entirely. It worked, at least for a while; his competitors went along with the Jobs’ law of tablet input and created finger-only work-alike devices.
It’s my belief that there is a significant market for people that want a device that is smaller than carrying a “netbook-sized” screen around and larger than an iPhone-sized mobile phone. There was a time when almost every businessperson carried a calendar/notepad of sorts. Generally men carried them in the inner pocket of their suit jacket and women had them in their purse or business case. They were close by and allowed for notes to be quickly jotted down. In the early 90s companies tried to replace this item with the Personal Digital Assistant. It was a bit smaller, had a stylus for input and allowed for some form of handwriting recognition.
Then Handspring/Palm decided to insert a phone into the mix and created the Treo. Somewhere along the line the basic functions of taking notes, and real calendar functions got pushed into the background and gaming, video, and internet/app use took over.
There’s nothing wrong with playing games, watching videos, running apps or reading the web, but as screen size has grown to accommodate those needs phones are becoming more and more cumbersome to carry. A mobile phone should be smaller, and meant for the quick retrieval of information, short text input and even an actual phone call or two. The smaller and lighter the phone is the more convenient it becomes.
When we’re going to be in a situation where we need more such as a business meeting few people are going to try and type notes on their phone…or pull out a full-sized tablet. That’s the time for what I hope devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note will become. Small and light enough to carry around regularly, but not all the time, fully stylus capable for relatively quick and accurate input and still large enough to allow it to make sense as a notepad, calendar, email client and even a semi-reasonable browser in landscape mode.
Hey, we know that all of this technology started with Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek…and Starfleet officers always carried a communicator (which got smaller as the series went on ) and a tricorder for gathering information and then when it was time to kick back with a video they pulled out their larger PADD. If they all could work in the 26th century…I think they can work now.