to this article at
The Register, TabletPC sales are terrible. Which is not surprising at all to
me. What is surprising is that they are trying to blame Microsoft for the
The OEMS basically have 3 main reasons why TabletPCs aren't selling:
- Cost. Microsoft is over charging for the Tablet PCs version of Windows
- Marketing. Microsoft isn't marketing Tablet PCs hard enough.
- Bundling. Microsoft isn't delivering compelling software to make Tablet
PCs stand out.
These are probably contributing factors but they're not the main one. Instead of blaming Microsoft, they should be looking in the mirror. Tablet PCs aren't selling because the tablets they produce is not compelling. Sure, the software isn't perfect but the problem is mainly one of hardware. The
image on the right is the Tablet PC I own. It's considered to be one of the best
ones out there. And like every other Tablet PC I've used, it sucks.
But the suckitude of Tablet PCs is a team effort. It's not just Microsoft
fault. They all have worked very hard to create an inferior product that doesn't
meet the needs of the market the claim to want to support.
First, they're too heavy. That kills them right away. This Tablet PC is over
3 pounds in weight. 3 pounds isn't a lot until you try lugging it around like a
notebook (real notebook not a laptop) for an hour or two. Us geeklings have weak
arms you know. The OEMs are to blame for that. Until they can get the weight
down to 2 pounds or less, they should just not bother.
Secondly, they're tedious to write input into. Microsoft's hand writing
recognition doesn't work. I mean that. It's not just bad, it basically just
doesn't work. If you are one of the 47 adults on earth that still use
cursvive to write, then it works fine. But the other 99.999% of us write our
characters in print and for that it fails dismally. Microsoft can be blamed for
Thirdly, the voice recognition flat out doesn't work in any useful way. I
even bought an expensive headset to train it. I went through the lessons and
trained the thing. It's unworkable. I've used the products from Dragon and
IBM and they work pretty well (at least on the PCs I've used them on). What's
built into the Windows XP Tablet Edition is just junk.
Fourthly, they're not durable enough. There's not much one can do about this
but anyone who's had a PocketPC or Palm Pilot knows that in the back of their
head, they're worried about dropping it or damaging it but can at least take
solace that they didn't cost say $2000 like the above TabletPC costs. And you're
a lot more likely to drop a big thing like this and do real damage than a Palm
Pilot which you can, literally, fit into your hand.
Fifthly, the screen edge is a few millimeters below the writing surface which
makes drawing and taking notes much more awkward than good old pen and paper. On
a similarly sized paper notebook, I can take real notes with a pen. Yet on
the Tablet PC, all my writings tend to be overly large because I can't get quite
the precision on a Tablet PC as I can with a paper notebook.
Lastly, Tablet PCs just don't solve any common need. They have to compete
with paper notebooks which do the job pretty well and cost almost nothing. I'm
not sure the OEMs or Microsoft have really thought out what exactly we're
supposed to use a Tablet PC for. Sure, there are niches galore I can think
of that these things can come into play in. But for the average user? They have
too many downsides and cost too much to be compelling.
The bottom line is that it's too early. The technology just isn't there yet.
I don't think it's an engineering possibility to build a 1 pound TabletPC that
is remotely affordable. I don't think the software (XP) is quite ready for
the task yet. They need to license Dragon Naturally Speaking and better
hand writing recognition. But even those things wouldn't make much difference in
sales. The first issue I mentioned, weight, trumps everything. Until they
can get the hardware to be more practical it's just too early to expect much of