Watch out! At least one of the better known portable computer makers is ratcheting up marketing efforts for tablet PCs.
The company is Toshiba (which has a three-member family of tablets). This Japanese notebook maker is taking its tablet PCs out on the road, hosting a series of seminars that show how tablet PCs can be used in a variety of applications.
Unfortunately, until now, the tablet PC has been marked by "if You Build It They Will Come" marketing. Well, notebook makers have been building these devices for over a year now and clear uses for this type of notebook have yet to show up.
(n.b. Opening day at Dodger Stadium in LA is next week and I'm anxious to test my very own tablet application.)
Toshiba's marketing efforts will benefit all tablet PC makers, irrespective of what brand name is stamped on the cover of a machine. Lenovo, Hewlett Packard all have equal shares in this game but none have yet to actively market their tablet PCs.
When it comes to market presence, Toshiba is still both a technology and market leader. Of all the notebook makers, In the last 15 years of my career, I probably spent more time with Toshiba than I did any other manufacturer. And one of the many things I've noticed about this company is its button-down attention to detail and willingness to spend money to pioneer new markets and shore up existing segments. And now Toshiba is spending money to create awareness of tablet PCs.
I just hope Microsoft joins the game soon, since they have a huge direct marketing stake in this business. When it comes to passive "Oh, we're here too" marketing , Microsoft wins the prize. Initially, they were one of the driving forces in tablet computing, but I'm beginning to doubt its long term support in this category.
Each of the three mainstream tablet PC makers; Hewlett Packard,Lenovo and Toshiba have considerable clout with Microsoft. HP, in particular, has been a driving factor in the development of operating system software features and extensions it needed for branded products like its New Wave environment and it's first subcompact notebook, the OmniBook 300. Toshiba has also gone head-to-head with Microsoft, working most notably with Redmond in improving memory and portable power management. Lenovo also has considerable clout with Microsoft. But right now Gates' spat with IBM (which through the process of "guilt by association" effects Lenovo) may have soured the relationship between those two companies.
Bu try as hard as Toshiba may, it's going to take Microsoft actively evangelizing the tablet PC category to make it soar off the launch pad. And for that to happen the software extensions tablet PCs need will have to be added directly to the operating system. And, Microsoft will have to lead the way in developing applications that take advantage of the versatility of the three top-ranked tablet PC makers. All kinds of applications. Programs for education, medicine, logistics, law enforcement or any of the other categories now using notebooks where the emphasis is on capturing or sending data, or where portability is important. But first, Microsoft has to wake up and start pushing the tablet PC bandwagon up the hill.
In looking at Microsoft and Intel's Origami announcements, I'm not unconvinced that what we'll see is a bifurcation of the technology. one branch could be rooted the fertile tablet PC market. The other branch will most likely end up rooted in a field presently over run with Apple iPods and functionally equivalent devices. Every such device sold represents a potential operating system sale for Microsoft. That's something Bill Gates and Steve Balmer really understand.
That's not to say that manufacturers should rely on Microsoft. There is considerable room for innovation in this category. First and foremost, tablet PC makers have to deal with the issue of agonizing boot-up times. Once that's solved other features on the small "must offer" matrix include: "Instant On" (which quietly died when HP discontinued its sub compact Omnibook x00 line) followed by power management schemes (including brighter screens) that don't take an unhealthy bite out of battery life. Furthermore, I believe card reader sockets would be a boon to this category.
Also, I really do believe that biometric security is a must have for any tablet PC user that wants to sell to coporations or the government entities. My problem with the current biometric technologies for all notebook ctegories is the penalty they exact in boot up times. In the theoretical tablet PC, machines have to be ready for immediate use. Time is money and excessively long boot up times waste money and will cost manufacturers market share.
Lenovo, Toshiba and HP got several things right on their tablet PCs from day one-- they paid attention to the devleopment of keyboards that can be used easily for long period of times and knew there was a good chance that many tablet PCs would be used as keyboard-based subcompacts for nearly as many hours a day as they were used for stylus-based data entry.
I'm a born again tablet PC user with a very long memoy. I currenly worship at the First Church of the Lenovo X41 tablet PC, and while this faith fulfills my spiritual computing needs, I have wandering eye and sometimes lust in my heart.
Can I hear an "Amen" my technological bretrhern and sistern?
Jim Forbes-- wirelessly on incredibly small notebook from inside my garage looking at a rain falling on my garden and outside office here in rural northern San Diego County.