Hardware

Do you really want a slate or tablet PC? Really?

Call it a slate or call it a tablet, but whatever you do don't price it as if it were a notebook. Do we really want a slate PC?

TechRepublic Editor in Chief, Jason Hiner, is at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show absorbing all the buzz around the latest, greatest gadgets. While most of the gadgets being announced don't specifically apply to Windows, Microsoft did have a press event in which they announced a series of what they call "slate PCs."

Now a slate PC is basically the tablet form factor we have been ignoring, for the most part, for the past few years. However, there is increased interest in this form factor now that we have witnessed the success of the Kindle and other readers and are anxiously awaiting Apple's announcement of its entrance into this space. It could be that the slate/tablet is coming into its own as a viable form factor.

But I remain skeptical. I think the new slate PCs Steve Ballmer is touting in the video look great, but I question where the market lies for these devices, especially if they are priced at notebook levels. An inexpensive device that I can keep on my coffee table with a few books loaded in it and with which I can do a quick Google search is one thing. An expensive notebook PC with no keyboard is another.

What do you think? Are you interested in the slate/tablet PC? Why or why not? What would you use it for?

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

76 comments
tech-chick
tech-chick

I have had a tablet notebook since late 2005 and almost never use the tablet functionality. Although the handwriting recognition is pretty good, I find it cumbersome to use without the keyboard. The only time I ever use the tablet function is to play around with drawing and painting in ArtRage. I wish I had instead spent the extra dollars for a wider screen and full keyboard instead of for the tablet capability. I am beginning to think I am just old fashioned. I finally joined the throngs of IPod owners, but my IPod Touch hasn't become the "must have" item in my every day life that many of my friends predicted it would be. My husband offered to buy me a Kindle for Christmas, but I declined. I still enjoy going to the library and reading from the printed page. Thus far the Kindle hasn't offered me a compelling reason for me to change. I guess I am a dinosaur!! :)

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

I want the Caprica device or a Lenovo :)

Tig2
Tig2

I have a Linux and a Windows net book that convinced me that my home computing platform needed to be a desktop instead of a laptop. The primary driver here is ease of portability and weight. The lion's share of what I do with a computer away from my desktop is centered around Internet, email and a couple of resident applications. Most traveler's rests have wireless available and it was way easy to pull out my Asus netbook and check routes and highway reports, for instance. I can keep a small device in a tote bag (in a hardshell case) and have it available anywhere. I have a Touch also and use it. The problem with making it my portable platform is that I have lousy vision and the small screen is difficult when using Google Maps, for instance. It was wonderful for watching the Mythbuster episodes I downloaded though- beautiful resolution. I had been spending a considerable amount of time every month at a location that had wireless available. Having an ultra portable device was a great solution for that. I could keep on top of a forum I moderate quite easily even though I was away from my base. In going to a desktop machine for home use, I have the powerful level of computing I want at my fingertips along with a 21 inch screen with dynamite resolution. I can easily see what I am doing and have significantly fewer headaches. That is a REAL bonus! I think that the ultra portable form factor DOES have an audience. I would be a part of that audience.

benwal91
benwal91

I don't know what I will use it for mainly... But I will use it just for anything. Take notes in meetings, watch movies, list is endless.

swilsonw
swilsonw

Not sure about work, The workplace computing paradigm is based primarily around desktops and laptops. Trying to integrate tablets into that is not going to be easy except for meetings. But personal use...Yeah! In the home, on the bus, in the washroom, in bed, in the family room, in the kitchen, n order of magnitude improvement over laptops. It's size and form require much less dedicated space than either the desktop/tower or the notebook. and space is at a premium in the home since there are fewer dedicated workspaces. Make sure they are rugged tho. I don't want to have to buy a new one every year. Plus, make the user profile is independent of the tablet. That way if you lose it or replace it then, when you log on, the profile is downloaded from the web and you are ready to go. They must be cheap!

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

The portability and powerfulness of these tablet PCs is a great combination. I see them being popular for recreational use, multi-media, and travel, but probably not for real heavy or work related use for some time. Besides the price, what shortcomings do you see with slate PCs?

carlsf1
carlsf1

To put it simply of no use. Another MS ploy to further their $$ take.

sharrison
sharrison

I would use one for quick reference and simple searching, and casual reading.

BobManGM
BobManGM

I have one by Fujitsu. I've had it for years. Good little unit.

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

I would even consider one would be if I could finally get all of the medical providers around the office to stop grabbing their tablets by the screen and torquing the swivel joint out of whack. Then they complain when they don't work. Sheesh!

dvermehren
dvermehren

Just to be able to browse a little bit and watch some videos online, perfect. For everything more "advanced" I have my macbook. But the price is the key, some sites suggest depending on screen type up to $1500 for Apple's version. If so, they will garner a lot of dust on the shelves.....

susanunger
susanunger

I only would use a tablet with no keyboard if it has handwriting- and voice-recognition capabilities. I curently use my Toshiba tablet (with a keyboard) for these functions.

leedguru
leedguru

I would use it for home automation for sure. The current cost of touchpanels is prohibitive. To have a lower cost touchscreen that I can use to control my environment AND some spontaneous surfing = home run! I would probably buy 2. One for each floor

dogknees
dogknees

With a 17" screen and lots of grunt. For drawing and painting, editing photos, writing music, all sorts of things that I do on other PCs. But, with no extras to drag around. For example, as a replacement for an artists sketch pad. As a mixer console for sound engineers and musicians,..... This is assuming some basic things like performance comparable to a high end desktop (particularly with 3d graphics), an interface that is as rich and deep as the mouse/kb combo, high resolution, and pressure sensitive multi-touch, lots of storage, bluetooth and wifi, full sound hardware, instant on,.... All the things I take for granted on new systems.

douche_alert
douche_alert

i think that mark kaeilin person is a complete douche and i would never purchase anything that he is selling or promoting point blank.

ke_gordon
ke_gordon

The problem is that it will probably be overpriced for what you get and loaded with DRM. I couldn't justify it for personal use if the price was greater than $150. Not much chance of that. :) For business use I have no use for it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As a Windows desktop without a keyboard; yawn.. It's also a little big after mucking with the little versions since the Newton 2000 (currently N810, hoping for N900 next). While not compelled to own one as the above mentioned N900, I could see it as used for mobile computing. Put a dock, screen and keyboard on your desk for this thing. Use the touchscreen input when on the go, drop it into the matching dock/screen/keyboard at work and carry on. As other's have said, the software will make the real difference though. We'll have to see how/if a more tablet like interface develops around it. Also, does it come in a "no OS" version and does the BIOS boot from USB drive? Does the touchscreen support industry standards or will HP remain open minded enough to release drivers for platforms outside of the Windows family? (imagine how fast a custom UI could evolve out of those crazy OSS software hippies) So, while I have no compelling need for one now, it is something that could become very interesting as it evolves.

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

It's about about the software in my opinion. From my experience, tablet PCs were typically far too bulky and combined with their lack of power it made much more sense just to get a regular laptop. I think the key would be to develop software that really makes sense given the formfactor. I think software developers would have to target niche business needs. Any kind of position that require people to be moving and recording data wound seem like a good target.

jck
jck

The "Slate" seems kinds pointless. I mean, these have been around for a while although in somewhat larger versions. I was programming Windows NT apps for tablet PCs in the very late 90s. Besides, I am mostly skeptical about the direction they are taking with Microsoft calling them by their own venacular ("slate" instead of "tablet", "software as a service" instead of "hosted applications", etc etc). TBTH from a business perspective, I can't see much of a market for them. Motorola and others already have point-driven devices that also give qwerty-style input as well. They might not be as "sleek" looking, but they are great for what are considered "mobile users" compared to these shiny new toys being pushed. I am just gonna take a step back from "Kindle-style" platforms. I have no use for them. So, I'll keep sinking my bucks into...faster CPUs and video cards lol :^0

CG IT
CG IT

a tablet is a good idea rather than a laptop. The medical field is on area where tablets will be big. another is inventory control. the 7-11 chain uses tablets for inventory tasks. The however is the computing power of the tablet. If it's just a dumb device, the cost might not be worth the benefit when a laptop that has the computing power costs about the same thing.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Color me skeptical of the whole slate/tablet idea, but I am willing to be persuaded. Give us you best argument for or aganist this form factor.

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