Zack’s Next Gadget

Category : Geeking Out, Mobility
Date : August 14, 2008

Computer Geek Smooch Zack’s response yesterday to my blog post of a few weeks back about my gadget lust got me thinking about this again.  Zack portrays me a keyboard hater so let me say up front that I have nothing against keyboards.  Some of my best friends are keyboards.     Ok so having said that I can say Zack is wrong on this one.  Anyone who’s used a tablet knows that inking is a wonderful thing.  It’s just such a natural way to use a computer when it works right and for the right task.  Touch in general is much more intuitive for most people.  I have one of those new-fangled Microsoft Surface devices just outside my office.  There are no end of folks sitting down to have a play with it.  To see the smiles and hear the giggles just proves to me that from a UI perspective gesturing is so much more natural.  People just get it.

Like I said in my original post Windows Vista is just incredibly good at inking.  And Zack’s post does highlight that most people don’t get that.  Most people have never used tablets.  The original tablets were over-hyped and didn’t deliver.  Follow-on tablets have slowly morphed into convertibles that are neither great laptops nor great tablets.  There’s a breakout moment coming for this category.

Jeff HawkinsAnother item that caught my attention yesterday on this topic is an interview with Jeff Hawkins in Investor’s Business Daily (yes folks I do in fact read them all :)).  Jeff is Palm’s founder and the guy responsible for the stillborn Palm Foleo.  He seems to echo some of the things I said in my original post.

As far as I know the category hasn’t taken off yet, but there’s interest in it.  My opinion has been pretty consistent. When I conceived of the Foleo, which was actually many years ago, it was like a real epiphany for me. I said, “Oh my gosh, people are going to want a small, lightweight solid-state computer” and there would be a demand for it. I personally wanted that product a great deal. I’m a frustrated computer user ? I don’t particularly like using computers.”

In the latter category there were more women (and) people who were more concerned about the weight of carrying things around and people who just didn’t care about having the latest and greatest and most technical sophistication. They wanted a little simplicity. I think there are a lot of those people out there, an awful lot. And the technology world doesn’t acknowledge them as much as they should. They aren’t the people who write the blogs. They aren’t the people who evaluate technology products.  If anything, my career has shown me that
there’s a demand for simplicity and size reduction.  I’m still convinced it’s a great category ready to really take off.

I’ve looked at a couple of the (new netbook-type products) and haven’t seen one yet that hits the right set of ingredients to really be successful. But they’re getting closer.

I think his comments on Palm’s execution of the launch is a little off the mark.  He appears to believe that problems were all about perception and puts most of the blame on the shoulders of Palm marketing.  He clearly doesn’t acknowledge that the product itself missed the target.

“And so this idea of launching it in a virtual way, where we had a lot of people reporting on it and writing about it who weren’t at the D conference, who couldn’t see it and had no way of asking questions about it, led to a lot of misinformation and negative press.”

Finally, one other story caught my attention this week.  Dell has started rolling out their E-Series laptops.  These look pretty good.  Unfortunately, they have not yet announced their netbook that was shown a while back.

DellBattery The feature that did make me sit up and pay attention was the eye-popping 19 hours of battery life (more details in this PDF).  Admittedly this is with a slice attached but even without that, apparently it’s still around 9 hours.  That’s just fantastic.  I’m sure this will be tested but even if Dell comes up a little short this is a turning point.  To be able to go a full work day with out a charge will help Dell sell a lot of laptops.  I know I’ll be looking at them when I upgrade.

Now if only they built a decent netbook tablet.