Mobile computers have transformed the way we conduct business. With the right device in hand, we are free to do our jobs from not only our desk, but a hotel room, airplane, coffee shop or even a park bench. For those of us that have lived through the transformation, it has been astounding. Still, one of the promises of mobile computing has never really gained traction. Tablet or pen computing, for all its potential, hasn’t lived up to expectations. The notion that we would eliminate the need for paper by capturing our notes through digital ink or handwriting recognition has proven to be elusive.
Clearly today, with devices like the Apple iPad generating a lot of media attention, tablets computers (convertibles or slates) may be turning a corner. Still, I’m amazed that in the digital age, more people take notes with pen and paper than digitally. I see this even with younger professionals who grew up with digital technology.
Why is this? Let’s face it; we have been hearing about the pen revolution since the 80s. Technologies like the PenPoint OS and Windows for Pen Computing and devices like the Momenta tablet or the DynaPad were early attempts to make pen computing a mainstream reality. Well, it’s 2010 and the use of tablet computers is still a niche market- at best.
There are a number of reasons we have never been able to fully make this transition. Weight has always been an issue, with early devices simply too heavy to carry around for long periods of time. Battery life has also been a factor. You can’t realize the benefits of mobility if you need to be tethered to a power supply because your device only gets a couple hours of battery life. Performance has also been an issue. In many cases, tablets didn’t provide the desktop experience, resulting in the need for two devices – a tablet for mobility and a desktop for performance. Durability has been an obvious shortcoming in this space. Today we see an industry average failure rate of 22% for notebook computers used in a business environment. When it comes to tablets, most vendors take one of these business notebook models and simply add a hinge that allows the screen to swivel and lay flat. Obviously, when you place a device that already has a high failure rate in an environment that is even more mobile, it’s highly likely your failure rate will increase. Ergonomics is another area that has slowed the adoption of the tablet platform. I challenge you to find a tablet computer that has taken into account that people might need to carry and hold the device for long periods of time. Rather than engineering a device that is optimized for a tablet environment, notebook vendors have asked users to take their modified notebooks and make do. There are certainly other reasons that can be pointed to, but I believe these are major contributors to the lack of tablet adoption.
For tablet computers to be adopted in an enterprise environment, they need to address all these issues. At Panasonic, we feel we’ve done this with the new Toughbook® C1. At a scant 3.2 lbs., the Toughbook C1 is the world’s lightest (by a healthy margin) 12.1” convertible tablet and offers up to ten hours of battery life, an Intel® Core™ i5 processor (for desktop performance) and the Toughbook brand’s legendary durability. An integrated hand strap system perfectly balances the tablet in the palm of one hand for effortless long-term use in tablet mode. When you add features like twin hot-swappable batteries, Gobi2000™ mobile broadband, multiple data input options, a quick release 250GB shock mounted HDD, a fingerprint scanner and smartcard reader, it’s clear the C1 may be the ideal tablet for highly mobile professionals.
2010 could be a turning point for the tablet computer and the Toughbook C1 convertible a major contributing factor. It may finally be time to retire all those notepads and complete your own digital transformation.