Most days, I follow a bevy of blogs and web sites and listen to as many podcasts covering the tech industry at large. Quite often most or all of these sources are often spot on when it comes to spotting trends and devices and categories that make sense and become hit products and categories. I tend to agree with them as well. The most glaring exceptions were with Vista and with tablet (or, now, slate) computers.
I tell you, I really do not understand the negative vibes with this form factor. The tech press is all agog over netbooks, which are just barely usable (but, still may have some use) yet they almost totally pan the tablet form factor. Even when the screen is the same size. Yet, those same people love the iPhone and Android (or any phone sized touch screen device.) Wait, what? Really? So, an iPhone sized device, like the Zune HD or the iPod Touch, is fine but something the size of, say a Kindle or bigger, is not acceptable?
They will often point to some of the over priced ‘mid’ devices from Panasonic, Samsung and others as not ever having caught on. Well, there is a reason why they did not succeed: PRICE. Simple. And, here, is where perception plays a very important role. To the ‘average Joe’, these little computers come with out a keyboard, are smaller, have no visible optical drive and other perceived short comings (and that is all they are, perceived) along with a price of over six hundred dollars, often in the thousand dollar range, make the ‘mid’ or tablet computers seem like a rip off. They do not see the technology that is actually in the device, just that they don’t get as much and they still have to pay quite a bit. It is, in effect, the Apple quandry. Why pay $1200 for a 13 inch Apple laptop when you can buy two very nice HP laptops and still have some money to buy Office Home and Student?
So, what these companies need to do is make the screens five to seven inch and TOUCH enabled, NO PENS, thin, USB, decent sized storage (RAM and HDD), WiFi and 3g and priced at no more than a netbook. These things NEED to be under four hundred dollars, preferably less. They also need to run Windows 7 or, at the very least, something nice like webOS from Palm or Android. They MUST be easy to use.
I’d buy one of these in a heart beat IF it met the above criteria. IF Apple brings one out AND it is priced right, I would seriously consider it. I would rather have a Windows based tablet, but if Apple had one that met every other criteria and priced under four hundred bucks, it would be something to buy.
Personally, the Lenovo U1, shown off at CES last week, is perfect: a ‘real’ laptop with a detachable slate. Awesome, but the price is going to be too high. Shoot, if Palm introduced a slate form factor Pre, that, too, would be a keeper. Heck, I just want slate. I think it is the perfect lounge computer. Laptops and desktops for working, Smartphone’s for travel and the slate for lounging or relaxed computing.
When these things get affordable and have some modicum of power, they will sell. You will wonder how you did without them. Just like with the iPhone. And whichever company can do this, will steal the market. For a couple of days, anyway. Trust me…