Why Have Tablets Flopped? Here Are Five Reasons

By BRAD STONE

Steve Payne for The New York Times Apple’s Newton was withdrawn by Steve Jobs in 1997.

As the editor of publications like Rugged PC Review and the founder of Pen Computing Magazine, Conrad Blickenstorfer has been reporting on tablet computers for over two decades. He still remembers, for instance, when a Microsoft executive predicted in 1991 that “the impact of pens on computing will be far greater than the mouse,” creating low-cost portable PCs “that will appeal to a broader spectrum of users than ever before.”

It didn’t happen, of course, and today, in response to our article on the new enthusiasm for this market, Mr. Blickenstorfer sent in five reasons tablet systems haven’t really caught on.

  1. Commitment. No one has ever made a truly committed effort to design a great tablet, though the original I.B.M. ThinkPad was, in fact, a tablet, Mr. Blickenstorfer wrote.
  2. Technology. The underlying software and hardware were not ready for
    prime time, especially touch-screens. “The sole reason for the renewed interest is that with the iPhone, Apple has shown that touch can work elegantly, effortlessly and beautifully,” Mr. Blickendorfer wrote. “Copycat efforts will not succeed unless the copies also work elegantly, effortlessly and beautifully, which will be quite a challenge.”
  3. Input systems. Tablets were based on immature technologies, like handwriting recognition and voice recognition, that weren’t ready. One promising effort — Palm’s Graffiti — was subject to an intellectual property dispute, and Palm ultimately gave up on the effort. Another initiative, dubbed ParaGraph, was “absorbed by Microsoft and now lingers in the mediocre Windows handwriting recognition implementation,” Mr. Blickstorfer wrote.
  4. Price. Tablets have been positioned as premium-priced products. “No one wants to pay a lot extra to get a pen, especially when there is no compelling reason to do so,” he wrote.
  5. Finally, software. Windows was designed for use with a mouse and is simply not suited for tablets. Considering most tablets have run Windows for the last eight years, “this is by far the most important reason why tablets never succeeded,” he said.
1. October 5, 2009 5:52 pm Link

I think tablets could be a hot item if hardware manufacturers would think outside the box. They’re stuck in two modes: smart phone or laptop/netbook.

I think they need to consider the device as a portable device (versus one in which you need a data plan) like an iPod Touch or the Archos Internet Tablet 5, but also as a *stationary device.*

A great place for tablet would be in the kitchen, or one that could attach to a refrigerator, to simply retrieve information or check email.

Multi-touch technology paired to an OS like the iPhone, Android or WebOS makes it easy to use particularly since they all feature instant on and off–unlike full-blown OS’s like OS X or Windows 7.

— marina

2. October 5, 2009 6:00 pm Link

Come on down to Academy of the Holy Angels and see tablet computing doing a great job in education.

— mare chitko

3. October 5, 2009 6:36 pm Link

I have two replies to this:

1. As a graphic artist, I hope that some company (Apple? Wacom?) can get tablet PCs to market so that I can do all of my work on a single flat device, instead of requiring a computer PLUS a tablet. (Not to mention the tablet I’m using at the moment doesn’t have a screen).

2. Conrad Blickenstorfer has the greatest name ever.

— M.M.

4. October 5, 2009 6:51 pm Link

Quote:
“a Microsoft executive predicted in 1991 that “the impact of pens on computing will be far greater than the mouse,” creating low-cost portable PCs “that will appeal to a broader spectrum of users than ever before.”

is that the reason Windows Mobile is still stuck with a stylus and why Microsoft want resurrect the pointy stick for their Courier project?

— Beluga

5. October 5, 2009 7:39 pm Link

I’ve had a convertible tablet (Lenovo x200) for about a year. I actually use it mostly as a desktop machine, connected to a monitor, or as a regular laptop.

When I do use it as a tablet, it is for sitting on the couch to “read the paper”. And for reading PDF’s when I’m at a boring lecture. Then for marking up PDFs of research papers, mostly through highlighting.

It’s interesting to note that other than the bundled MSFT software for marking up PDFs (which converts them to another format), there isn’t a good way to even jot ink notes in the side columns of a PDF. Apparently this is going to be a “slow burn.”

— Paul

6. October 5, 2009 8:16 pm Link

“lingers in the mediocre Windows handwriting recognition implementation”

Mediocre? Seriously? I know the person being quoted is supposedly a knowledgable person in the field – but is he talking Tablet PC or Windows Mobile?

The current version of Windows Tablet PC is Windows Vista about to be replaced by Windows 7. The handwriting reco in either of the these is exceptional – often getting nearly incomprehensable scribblings right.

If the author means ‘the handwriting reco which is poorly integrated into apps or even the desktop’ THEN I’d agree, but as an actual handwriting recognition system, Windows blows everything else away and is’surprisingly good.

— Jeff Lewis

7. October 5, 2009 8:38 pm Link

Actually, there is already a very successful tablet PC. It’s called the iPod Touch or iPhone. It is a full PC. It works great. It has all the right things you list and a whole lot more. Apple has done a great job with it.

— Walter Jeffries

8. October 5, 2009 8:41 pm Link

I had a tablet computer. First and last time I ever crawl out on the leading edge. I am convinced that the computer companies throw this stuff out there and then laugh at those of us who are stupid enough to believe them.

— CWP

9. October 5, 2009 9:05 pm Link

For people doing work on a computing device by entering text or numbers, no input device except voice can beat a keyboard and speech recognition software is still not very good for correcting the inevitable errors that occur every 10 or so words. Back when few people could type, a touch/stylus interface was a potential game changer, but no more.

If you type 20 wpm, probably average speed these days, it is just far more efficient to use an old-fashioned keyboard than a touch or stylus driven “soft” keyboard or hand writing which take at least twice as long.

That is the reason why tablets are not adequate for anything other than specialized applications (those with minimal text input). It is indeed possible to do “real work” on a mobile device, but you wouldn’t want to if you had access to a keyboard-equipped device such as a notebook computer.

— NC

10. October 5, 2009 9:07 pm Link

Fingers are not always mightier than the pen.

The problem with current (stylus-driven) tablets is that handwriting is inefficient. And I don’t mean that perfect handwriting recognition is what we’re missing – what’s missing is the keyboard. Even if I had perfect penmanship, I still couldn’t convey thoughts as fast as I could type them. I’m very excited about the new work being done to create *usable*, multi-touch on-screen keyboards – even if it’s a larger version of what’s on the iPhone.

But wait!! Don’t take my stylus away (i’m talking to you, Apple). For visual creativity, a stylus is essential. I’m not going to fingerpaint new visual ideas, nor am I going to manipulate photoshop with my fingers – they’re just too blunt and imprecise.

I’m very excited about what Apple may be doing, but so far I think Microsoft has the right thinking in that you have to enable both multi-touch and stylus input.

— Olen Ronning

11. October 5, 2009 9:15 pm Link

Why do tablets flop? History lesson: Why was the typewriter invented? Not for neatness, as many think. It was invented to provide a way to write that didn’t involve holding a pen and getting hand cramps.

Tablets can do some nice niche applications. They will not replace keyboard PCs for intense users.

— Walt

12. October 5, 2009 9:16 pm Link

where would you carry a tablet? (that you don’t already have a more efficient and cheaper device)

Where would you use a tablet? (that you don’t already have a more efficient and cheaper device)

It seems to me that the kinds of purposes and places when/where you would use a tablet, either a laptop or a smartphone will do it better.

— killstead

13. October 5, 2009 9:19 pm Link

The real reasons are:
1. resistive touch screens with poor response.

2. everyone one of them favors landscape mode. Come on, everything else we deal with is in portrait save computers. As long as these devices come keep coming in landscape mode they are fail on delivery.

3. weight and size; too big can heavy to be carried around with you all day. the ideal tablet would be no bigger than a steno and just about as thick to be useful.

4. lack of constant connectivity.

5. price. if you can’t get it to market well under $1000, heck $800, then go back and try again.

— D.V.

14. October 5, 2009 10:46 pm Link

I just wrote a piece on tablets. My suggestion is this should be an option to notebooks in general. Instead of trying to sell it as a pure tablet make it an upgrade option. Prices have reduced enough for manufactures to implement this feature. A tablet should not just be a tablet. This technology should become a standard in notebooks in the future.

Check out the post.
http://bit.ly/3xiaWr

— drewgunn

15. October 5, 2009 10:50 pm Link

Although I’d love to see a great tablet, this article is bizarrely off target.

1) Commitment. Huh? Really? Slate? PenSoft? and Microsoft’s own Tablet with BillG’s personal support? How much money has to be lost on tablets before it counts as a commitment? That is just goofy.

4) Price? Oh, so you want additional technology and functionality but at less cost. And what else do you want from Santa?

2). Technology. Really? Most people are talking about not finding the right application, or as Steve Jobs reportedly said, “What would you use this for?” But, yeah, if a Tablet implemented the Vulcan Mind Meld API it would really cool, right?

5) Windows. Yup, and they were probably introduced by the wrong religious group or political party as well. Really meaningful.

Does anyone actually edit these minor blogs on the NYT.com ? Just asking.

— JimF

16. October 5, 2009 11:06 pm Link

I remember the first tablet, from Go. Twenty years ago, it was a prototype using an Intel 80286 and was, well, slow. The first Newton was very sluggish, but the last one was usable. I still have it. Today’s processor are one thousand time faster than the PenPoint. You would think that after twenty years and 1,000 time faster they could get it to work by now. Of course, we haven’t been back to the moon in almost forty years too.

— Michael

17. October 6, 2009 1:43 am Link

I have a Sahara Slate PC with a touch screen running Vista…

Its actually pretty good. I don’t really touch Vista other than to launch documents or Firefox, so I don’t really care how it looks like. I use a keyboard when I do intensive work at the desk, however I use the touch screen when I am leaning back and doing emails. I have no problem typing faster on the touch screen than I can think anyway. It is also fabulous for surfing while watching the golf channel. Biggest barrier is the price. If Apple comes in with a price that is competitive, I know a dozen people who would be looking at it.

— Mike

18. October 6, 2009 2:00 am Link

The real reasons tablets have failed:

1) Price tends to be hundreds of dollars higher than a notebook with comparable specs. Tablet models are priced at the high end of what notebooks sell for, but never have high-end specs or even high screen resolution. Nobody wants to pay more and get less. Adding touchscreen to a computer is comparable to adding a fancy mouse – and even expensive mice typically cost under $90.

2) Products are way too heavy to carry around in your hand all day the way you would a clipboard or folder of paper. The iPhone and Kindle are notable exceptions.

3) Most people need to do a lot of typing at some point during the day or week, for email at the least, and typing on a regular keyboard is several times faster than typing on an on-screen keyboard. The only people who can use a tablet all the time are people who never type very much at a time (like UPS delivery people, those doing warehouse inventory, etc.) and people who can plug in an external keyboard part of the time.

4) Nobody has said what exactly is wrong with having a keyboard! A format more like the Kindle is great for reading documents or web on the couch, which is a large percentage of what many people spend doing. However without a keyboard, the user is stranded and unable to participate in conversations.

— Marco Andrews

19. October 6, 2009 2:23 am Link

Maybe the writer should have done a little more research.

1. Commitment. As noted above, there was a lot of commitment from lots of companies. Yes, they cut and ran when things didn’t work out, but that was after spending hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars.

2. Technology. The technology was good enough, especially compared with other technology of the day. Sure, the Eo and Newton was slow, but not so slow compared with standard laptops.

3. Input systems. Plenty of pen software worked with taps and drawings, with little or no handwriting recognition. True, the gestures used by Go and copied by Microsoft were forced and didn’t help, but lack of good handwriting didn’t kill the machines. Witness the success of the iPhone with no handwriting recognition at all.

4. Price. Palms were cheap. The Newton wasn’t expensive. Laptop size machines were more expensive, but they weren’t the highest priced machines — and the price had to be high enough to pay for the still-expensive digitzers.

5. Software. This repeats the old canard pulled out by Go — that an OS had to be designed from scratch for tablets, or pens, or touch screens. The problem is there’s no evidence to back it up and Go worked pretty hard to prove themselves wrong, by creating an entire operating system that did everything differently (and usually worse) than the MacOS and Windows. Sure, plenty of poorly designed applications might not work if existing operating systems support pen input, but that’s true of any OS upgrade. It’s true for Netbooks with small screens. And you only have to look at OneNote to see that it is possible to build an application on Windows that works very well with pen input. Go built an OS because they didn’t want to be just a Microsoft ISV — they had visions of gandeur. And they repeatedly said it had to be that way to justify their decision.

— Roy

20. October 6, 2009 4:36 am Link

If I am inputting a paragraph, I would like to use all ten fingers.

— Jeff Bowles

21. October 6, 2009 5:15 am Link

It’s not the tablet, it’s the service. What people want is decent portable internet without lugging a laptop or peering into a 3-inch phone screen. To get convenientely get this EVERYWHERE you need a wireless broadband service. People are resistant to this because they view it as a duplicate cost; nearly everyone who desires such a thing is already paying for broadband service to their home and/or mobile phone browsing service. Hotspots just don’t cut it.

— Tony S.

22. October 6, 2009 6:48 am Link

Having worked on Wang’s tablet PC (the second production pen PC ever released, after NCR’s), I too have thought about why tablet PCs have failed.

The main reason is vendors’ mental models–they never think about the user. Instead, they view the problem as, “How can we reuse parts we already have?” Hardware manufacturers initially thought, “Let’s take a laptop and slap a digitizer on it.” Now they’re thinking, “Let’s take a smartphone and make it bigger.” Microsoft never rewrote Windows for tablets–it just slapped a few widgets on regular Windows (Windows for Pen Computing, for those who don’t remember).

A better mental model would be an electronic book–a Kindle with a lot of smarts. A tablet will never compete with a laptop when there’s a lot of data entry. However, it’s in its element when users are browsing or making selections.

— Guy Creese

23. October 6, 2009 7:40 am Link

The “tablet” I’ve used for the past few years is the Ipaq H4700 with purchased handwriting recognition – it’s fine for lots of things, plus it’s small and light. But for choice when writing slabs of text, the keyboard and dictation software beat handwriting ‘hands down’. My handwriting skills have been let slide – too slow.

If designers want to sell a tablet they need to think carefully about who will use it and for what.

The artist /photographer needs a tablet, but one with extremely fine and precise control – and at a good price. Plus the screen needs to be a top quality monitor for accurate colour rendition.

People who need point and click mobility (form fillers etc) need a tablet, but they already have the portable pc which is generally quite adequate.

I plan to add a few old pocket pcs to different rooms as ‘mini-tablets’ for home automation. As it is, I find it quite handy to just pick up the ipaq and turn lights on and off wherever I happen to be. Laptop sized tablets would be good for this as well but cost a bit too much to justify for such a purpose.

Kiosks need touch screens, maybe call centre operators as well. Do they need a tablet or simply a touch screen?

For writing reports, spreadsheets etc, it’s awkward to have to touch a screen on the laptop – I prefer voice recognition and a keyboard. (These days VR is pretty good, often with fewer mistakes than typing.)

— Mim

24. October 6, 2009 8:36 am Link

My friends, #14 speaks the truth – this is a usability issue, with a feature misinterpreted as a product category. As a tech executive with a background in running a user experience lab and as a 6-year owner and user (although for increasingly marginalized home uses) of a tablet PC, I can speak with some personal experience: http://guengerich.wordpress.com.

— live in Austin

25. October 6, 2009 9:03 am Link

What I would like to see is a tablet-type device modeled after the comic book: Based on flexible electronic paper (example: http://www.plasticlogic.com/ereader/plastic-display.php), 6×10 size when closed, opens to a double-page spread, can be rolled up and inserted into a protective container. Should come with a stand so you can prop it up on a table. Touch and stylus interface, can be placed into a docking station (frame) that enables mouse and keyboard use. I like the suggestions above for handwriting and voice recognition.

What we’ll get will probably be a far cry from that, but I guess they have to start somewhere.

— NC

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26. October 6, 2009 9:05 am Link

I believe you’ve got the reasons spot on, but I would add that the Microsoft operating system just isn’t reliable enough, especially Vista; so walking around with a device that crashes or freezes of screws up every half hour could also be a reason why tablets running windows just didn’t cut it. The iPod is such a success because of a great design, has a solid foundation, and a crap-load of really cleaver applications.

The iPod isn’t perfect, occasionally crashes, and is expensive; but it works about 100% better than anything with Windows underneath. People want and need reliability and how Windows got to be king of the mountain is beyond me.

About a year ago, after living with and developing for Windows since the original Windows and putting up with its’ unbelievable instability, I found the supposedly more expensive Mac not only stable but also far less expensive when everything is considered – no anti-virus, no separate backup utility, no hour a day wasted recovering from one problem after another. When Apple comes out with a tablet, I’m convinced it will work well, be well designed, and be useful in education and business. The Newton may have been too early and been based on immature technology, with the iPhone as a proving ground, the Apple tablet will soar.

— RtB

27. October 6, 2009 9:18 am Link

I have been using Tablet PC’s since they first came out and I think that the handwriting recognition in Vista and Windows 7 is exceptional. I could not live without my TabletPC and it goes with me everywhere. Today there is a push to go green and using the tablet and Microsoft OneNote I have almost totally eliminated the need for paper; besides it does not get any heavier when I add more content to it!

— Arun

28. October 6, 2009 9:24 am Link

I just feel that tablets haven’t taken off because no niche application has been found for them.

Computing in 2009 is either your basic day to day office management that require a mouse and keyboard to be efficient or on-the-go “lite” smartphone computing where niche apps like Facebook or looking up your Expedia reservation can simply meet the customers’ needs.

What’s the in-between?

— MitchP

29. October 6, 2009 9:42 am Link

Of the issues cited, I believe that price is by far the largest issue, though hardware technology has also played a role. Microsoft has really made great strides with its software, first with Windows XP Tablet Edition, then Vista (despite its issues) and now Windows 7, so I think the software issues cited are minimal at best.

If users only had to pay a $100-$200 premium, tablets would have likely caught on much faster, but the premium for a tablet is often $500+, even today. With low-end computers retailing for around $400, it is hard for many users to spend $1000+ on the most low-end Tablet PC available, though there are signs that Tablet PC netbooks may change this.

Hardware is also an issue – I used early passive digitizer tablets, and the stylus didn’t work nearly as well as today’s hardware. With the new Latitude XT capacitive screen I have, I can switch effortlessly between my stylus and multi-touch finger gestures. Too bad it still retails for around $2500.

— Josh

30. October 6, 2009 10:19 am Link

I had a Compaq TC1000 for three years. Loved it but it was horrendously slow (RIP Transmeta Crusoe). I would buy another tablet in a second if it came with a snappier processor just so I could experience OneNote again.

— Ken Hong

31. October 6, 2009 10:25 am Link

I know Conrad Blickenstorfer a little. I emailed with him a couple of times over the years. He was someone who I could complain to when I saw that pen computers were not taking off.

He knows much more about these devices that I do, and I have been at times an avid reader of his magazine (which used to be in print as well as online – maybe still is, not sure). I will pose a slightly different take on his comment that handwriting recognition was not up to par. I owned a Compaq Concerto, one of the original pen computers and a magnificent machine. With that machine I learned that one must learn to write so that the machine can read my writing – and not to expect the machine to read any scribble. People did not understand that they needed to adapt to the machine. If one was willing to do that, the recognition worked very well.

Reader M.M. wrote above, “As a graphic artist, I hope that some company (Apple? Wacom?) can get tablet PCs to market so that I can do all of my work on a single flat device…” In fact, I used my Concerto for precisely that – in 1994. I was a graphic artist, and I did some beautiful (I think) artwork on the machine, airbrushing with the stylus, and clicking “undo” whenever necessary.

Reader Paul wrote above, “other than the bundled MSFT software for marking up PDFs (which converts them to another format), there isn’t a good way to even jot ink notes in the side columns of a PDF.” This point is well taken. The problem is that the market for PC OSs was established and dominated by a single player and so there was no latitude for software makers to write for niche market OSs and provide a truly pen-focused approach. The fact that Microsoft crushed the pen computing pioneer Go Systems is well documented in several books. Microsoft took over the market and then failed to implement the technology in an “elegant, effortless, and beautiful way” as put by Mr. Blickenstorfer.

— Cliff

32. October 6, 2009 10:36 am Link

The above posters are right – the author doesn’t seem to have ever used a tablet.

(1) Several companies (particularly IBM/Lenovo) have devoted enough time to this to produce fantastic products.

(2) The technology claim is simply false. Tablets work great. Mine moves as fast as I can move my pen, and is more accurate than paper.

(3) Vista handwriting recognition reads my writing better than (seriously) I can.

(4) Getting more costs more. But tablet options on laptops are usually only $100-$200 extra. (Cheaper than an iPhone…)

(5) Software is an issue, but OneNote and PDF Annotator are fantastic products, and Vista (despite its well documented flaws as an OS) is great to control with a pen.

The real issue with tablets is the Steve Jobs issue: The space of things that tablets do better than keyboards on one hand, and paper on the other, is small. But for scientists, students, and doctors who need to maintain large amounts of handwritten information digitally, the technology is there, it works great. And people in those niches know and use them.

— Joe B.

33. October 6, 2009 10:57 am Link

I could (and probably would prefer to) read the NYT on a tablet, as opposed to on my laptop. But ordinarily , without a real keyboard I cannot imagine finding the motivation to type out a comment like I’m doing now. It is too much work.

Then again, maybe software keyboards on a tablet would be more usable, given the extra space avaialble in that form factor.

So they might just work out.

— AmarP

34. October 6, 2009 11:58 am Link

I worked for a Table PC software developer. I knew we were screwed when I saw a local news report that showed the average type speed of 6th graders in the state of Utah was 50 words per minute. Youth today are NOT using pen and paper. They use keyboards. There will be a niche market for digital ink, but not a mass appeal.

— Brad Baldwin

35. October 6, 2009 1:44 pm Link

If Apple makes a tablet, I will buy it.

— Grant H

36. October 6, 2009 1:54 pm Link

For much of what many of you say, its not the technology that’s the problem with tablet adoption, its the behavior and processes around it.

Yes, there’s a case for the technology to have been used better. But, as many of you have pointed out, twice in Apple’s history have they been able to code aronud those limitations and offer a compelling-enough user experience.

The behavior is what you can’t code around. That’s something that tablets – as a niche use case – cannot get away from. Unless you can make the technology fit a use that answers a concern – the artist, the teacher, the system admin all have these with tablets – then you can never rightfully expect adoption to be more than what it is…

…that is, unless you build a solution with that hardware ad software, not just a technical showcase.

— ARJWright

37. October 6, 2009 4:10 pm Link

I guess I’m in the minority. We have a motion computing tablet and love it. we can’t get the times delivered where we live, so we depend on the times reader, and I love the times reader on the tablet. click on the articles and sections works perfectly.

Even better is Microsoft OneNote, which to me is the perfect marriage of handwriting and computing. It’s great to sit with the tablet in my lap taking notes in my own handwriting, that I can either translate or just keep as handwritten notes.

And I say this as a Mac person who generally has no use for windows, but in this case for us it’s great.

— jeff kisseloff

38. October 6, 2009 4:19 pm Link

Writer Cliff above (and Paul previously) claim

“…other than the bundled MSFT software for marking up PDFs (which converts them to another format), there isn’t a good way to even jot ink notes in the side columns of a PDF”

That is not true, and hasn’t been for years. PDF Annotator allows one to annotate PDFs anywhere on the page, and save as PDF. It’s one of the main reasons I use a tablet.

Those who disparage the lack of a keyboard on tablet pcs must be under the impression that they don’t have one. Most of them do, and can be used in the usual notebook format in the usual way. If one wants to use the pen, one can flip the keyboard up and out of the way.

There are a lot of situations in which information flow, production or recording is not in the linear sort of format at which the keyboard excels. Lectures, for example, are rarely delivered that way (if they are, they’re usually pretty lousy lectures). They might include quick diagrams, tables, sketches, and dynamic emphasis done on-the-fly.

Taking notes at a meeting or in a classroom is a *lot* easier with a pen than a keyboard. MicroSoft has a remarkable program called OneNote which has somehow been kept secret from the consumer. As a note-taking device at a meeting a tablet with OneNote is very efficient.

— GSchlitt

39. October 6, 2009 4:55 pm Link

Reading all of these comments makes me think that there are so many ideas of what this ideal tablet should be. Perhaps that’s really why there’s been limited market penetration?

The iPhone’s success is based on the fact that most people need a mobile phone that has basic text messaging and perhaps web browsing capability. The iPhone builds on a need in a visionary way and markets it accordingly (similar to the iPod). The Kindle also been relatively successful because it focuses on a core function. (In the Kindle’s case however, it’s competing against not only paper-based publications, but smartphones like the iPhone as well).

The tablet/pad/slate form factor is really coveted by many as the ideal size and shape for a general mobile computing device. The two big reasons beyond core function that the Kindle is successful as a tablet form factor device is because of it’s low power consumption and non-existant wireless service fees. I think if a general purpose tablet could somehow overcome these two hurdles, we would see much more market penetration.

— Ankush Narula

40. October 7, 2009 12:42 pm Link

Here’s my two-bits on why tablet PC’s, including Apple’s, will never make it big. Tablet’s are a single surface or plane. For the great majority of purposes, we look/read at things that generally are on a vertical or near-vertical plane (think book, newspaper, TV, computer screen). But we write/type generally on a horizontal plane. Putting both functions on the same plane is doable for short efforts like taking notes on a clipboard in your hand, but when we have to do an extended amount of writing we put the clipboard on a table and write there. I don’t believe there is yet a breakthrough technology that will overcome this on larger devices. Laptops and netbooks will remain the favored device.

— waybacmac

41. October 7, 2009 2:52 pm Link

waybacmac,

except our tablet (and many others, I suppose) also has a regular keyboard that you attach via usb. also works perfectly for when I need it. we keep it on our kitchen table, and mostly use the stylus, but when the situation arises, just tap on the keyboard.

I do think apple would be making a huge mistake if it doesn’t allow for a regular keyboard. tapping out a url or any amount of information with a stylus really stinks, and it’s not much better with two fingers.

— jeff kisseloff

42. October 7, 2009 6:17 pm Link

The first thing I have tended to do when I’ve gotten tablet-like devices is to go looking for a cover for it. Palm 100, Treo, iPod Touch, BlackBerry.

Manufactures tend to think of the laptop or flip phone and the tablet or smartphone as mutually exclusive categories. They’re not. A peel-off notebook is one good solution; a tablet with a hinged cover that becomes a base is another.

Try it, Apple/Palm/Dell. Please?

— MH

43. October 7, 2009 7:06 pm Link

I use a convertible tablet pc running windows 7 everyday and never use the keyboard. It takes about a month to rid yourself of the typing habit…but once you do the os is up to the task.I’m also an artist and this device has saved me hours upon hours of time.Web browsing is awesome with the grab and drag extension for firefox. This is my second Tablet and as long as they keep makin’ em I’ll keep buyin’ em.I paid 800.00 and if I could have afforded more I would have went with the modbook from Axiotron or a windows slate.I have Influenced at least a dozen peers to purchase tablets as well.
-Tablets rule..Mice suck

— Rob Sweet

44. October 8, 2009 2:54 am Link

I want a tablet that effortlessly converts my handwriting into typing, that I can lay flat on a desk and write on OR prop up and use as a monitor for a separate keyboard. That is all.

The obstacle, as this article says, is the pathetic handwriting recognition systems available. Continual errors slow me down and frustrate my creativity. It’s a dealbreaker. My handwriting is not that bad. Why cannot this technology be improved to usability point?

— anon.

45. October 8, 2009 6:42 pm Link

Part of the problem is that touch screens wear out fast because of dragging the stylist across the surface. Palms work because the life is not that long.

I recently purchased a Dell Latitude 2100 I came with a touch screen but the resolution of the screen was so bad that I reinstalled drivers to give normal resolution.

I have not seen a touch screen app that was that much of an improvement over normal types.

— David

46. December 7, 2009 9:53 pm Link
1 You cant use a keyboard, outdoors on a cold day with gloves on.
2 You can’t fit a tablet in a shirt pocket.
3. You can do both those things with a Palm.
4 Palm has shafted it’s users by not updating its software.
5 Palm could redeem itself in the eyes of it’s frustrated former customers by open sourcing its Grafitti abandonware so that they could fix its short comings by simply deleting the foreign character sets that make it overly complex, resulting in an overburdened CPU and sluggish performance.
6 The problem your article covers has been solved already, the business problem of making money out of it remains for some intelligent entrepreneur to put together from freely available pieces.
7 A generic palmtop that reads handwriting as a data entry system should be cheap enough for school children. In other words it is a commodity item,not a luxury product, that is why it is a business problem , not a technology issue, more like a pocket calculator than bling.
Incidentally , this is why Apple never fixed the Newton.
— Noel Quinn

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