So what are we going to call Tablet PCs in the future? We’ve had convertible Tablet PCs, slate Tablet PCs, and hybrid Tablet PCs. (We don’t hear much about hybrids anymore.) Those labels pretty much defined the platform early on and still do today, but that’s changing.
Gateway’s new entry on the scene is positioned as a Convertible Notebook. Marc Orchant reports that the only mention of the word Tablet in any of his new Gateway documentation has to do with the OS. Haikus, Rubys, where do they fit? Mini-Tablets? What about Nokia’s 770 Internet Tablet? Is that going to confuse the market? What will Vista’s addition of touchscreen functionality do for the market?
I agree with Marc and Rob Bushway that Gateway’s positioning of its new entry as a Convertible Notebook makes sense on a marketing level. But does it do the job completely? I’m not so sure. Where do slates fit into that picture?
There’s been a long running debate out there that Tablet PCs will fall under the Mobile PC label. The Tablet PC Team actually works under the Mobile PC division, or whatever they call it at Microsoft. That also makes some sense as one of the major selling points, in my opinion, is the mobility factor. Look at some of the key markets where we’ve seen recent success stories: sales, students, the medical profession, the military, first responders, all rely on the mobility factor.
But again, I see a definition problem here. Mobile PC covers a lot of ground and a lot of different technologies. While the Gateway can certainly be seen as a mobile pc, my opinion is that is more of a desktop replacement.
Then there’s Tablet PC. I’ve got this suspicion that some of the confusion over what to call the platform stems from the less than stellar results after launch, trying to avoid a bad connotation. Whether that is true or not is beside the point.
In this week’s discussions around the community about wish lists, killer apps, etc… there’s been one point being driven home by Colin Walker. It’s about the pen and it’s about ink. Whether that pen and ink is used on a desktop behemoth, a Toshiba M200 sized convertible, or a Motion LE1600 slate, or even a LS800 slate, it’s about the pen and ink. And yet, even that’s not enough of a descriptor, now, and with the hints we’ve seen of the future.
I think timing is going to be a key here. There’s a lot of wait and see happening on so many levels. What will Vista bring to the table (Tablet?) We already know ink is going to be a part of the OS, which is a plus. Mobility is already a given. (Can you actually buy a notebook these days without WiFi?) The Office 12 UI from what I’ve seen looks much more pen centric. Dual core processing, caching technology that allows for near instant on, all of the potential advances point to some mobile advances. But all of this is still down the road.
I’m not a marketing wizard by any means. But I can see timing working against clarity here. I can see confusion down the same road that rich promises abound. I can see Tablet meaning different things to different segments of the market. I can see folks trying to grasp the difference between a convertible notebook and a mini-tablet, an internet tablet and a mobile pc. I can also see Apple upsetting the entire apple cart by releasing an iTablet. I hate to say it, but that would be clarity.
What are your thoughts?
UPDATE: Check out the comments for some interesting thoughts. Also check out Colin Walker's ideas here.