Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Thursday, December 26, 2002

If 2002 is the year of the blog (the great Glenn Reynolds said that), how about making 2003 the year when we all get jobs again?

Here's more info on Gary Kildall's life and death from an article in Fortune magazine.

Another famous photographer died today. Here's some of Herb Ritts' work. Official news says that he died of complications from pneumonia. My wife says that he probably died of complications from AIDS. That reminds me of my college days. One of my professors, Mack Lundstrum, was the obituary writer for the San Jose Mercury News. He told me people lied about how their loved ones died all the time. Most memorable was how Gary Kildall died. I was in the SJSU newsroom that day. Mack told us that the family had told him he died of liver failure or something like that. He wrote the story based on those facts. Days later he told me he found out that he had actually died in a fall at a bar. Even today there isn't a clear account on Google. Kildall, for those who don't know, was the one who Gates sent IBM to to buy an operating system. His failure to close the deal haunted him to the death. How would you feel if you let a multi-billion-dollar fortune fall through your fingers?

Heh, I was a "mystery caller" in the fifth hour of Chris' TechTV 18-hour marathon. Here's proof.

"What is Chris saying?" Patrick Scoble, my eight-year-old son says after I turned on Chris Pirillo on TechTV. Chris is in the 15th hour of an 18-hour-Call-For-Help Marathon. I was on with Chris at 11 a.m. this morning and he's still going. Chris, whatever they are paying you isn't enough. Not even close.

Hey, Mike, guess what? My division at NEC also sells laptops and PocketPCs, among other things. Anyway, he asked me to justify a TabletPC purchase to a small-business IT shop. Well, to do that, I need to ask a few things:

Do any of your employees do any of their jobs while standing up? In other words, do your salespeople pitch customers in elevators? Do you have anyone who does things like meter reading? Do you have people who work on a factory line all day long? Do your employees meet face-to-face with customers? Do they fly coach? Are they like nurses, who need to walk from bed-to-bed while taking measurements "how much pain are you feeling today, Mr. Murphy?" Do you have restaurant or retail salespeople who need to serve customers? (Imagine a retail salesperson who walks over with a tablet and searches a database for the sweater size you're looking for -- "oh, yes, Mr. Murphy, we have just that size in our Dublin store, would you like me to order it for you?") Are you a news station who has "news readers" who need to stand up on camera and have access to information? Do you have photographers who need to take pictures and show their work? Do you have architects or artists who would be more productive with a pen than with a mouse? Do you have people who work for you who type in a non-English language? Do you have a CEO who won't carry a laptop? Do you conduct business while at lunch or dinner? Do you have employees who write on top of printed documents or forms? Do you have employees who teach classes? Are you a lawyer? Are you (or do you employ an) idea guy? Does anyone at your office print out stuff because it's more convenient to read? Do you have anyone who avoids a computer because they can't type very fast? Are you considering buying anyone a laptop since they need to compute while on the road?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think I could make a good business case that you should consider a Tablet. If you answered no, then stick with standard desktop machines or what you're already using.

OK, so what's different about a Tablet?


The Tablet is bigger.

The Tablet runs Windows XP. The PocketPC runs Windows CE. That means that for every 10000 apps that run on the Tablet, one will run on the PocketPC. Oh, and when you see Word, Access, Excel, or PowerPoint on the PocketPC, keep in mind that they are very limited versions.

The Tablet can deal with photos from my Nikon digital camera. When I put photos on the PocketPC the PocketPC acts slower than a snail on a sunny day.

The Tablet has a much better digitizer (it samples the pen much more often).

The Tablet has a hard drive and USB ports. The PocketPC has no hard drive and wants you to store everything on Compact Flash cards.

The Tablet has 802.11 a&b wireless built in. My PocketPC doesn't (although there's one or two models available that do).

The Tablet has a full version of Internet Explorer (and can run a variety of alternative browsers). The PocketPC has a very limited version of Internet Explorer and can't view many Web pages well since most were designed for 640x480 or higher resolutions.

The Tablet PC has interchangeable batteries. Many PocketPCs only have a built in battery.

On the other side of the coin, the PocketPC is inexpensive (about $200 at the low end, and $600 at the high end) while the Tablet is fairly expensive ($1600 at the low end and $2800 at the high end).

And, the TabletPC can't be put into a pocket.


The TabletPC is built with Laptop technology. For all intents and purposes, it +is+ a laptop, albeit one with an outfacing screen (or a convertible screen) and one with a digitizer for a stylus.

The TabletPC (at least NEC's version) is thinner than a laptop (since it doesn't have a keyboard built in). It's about the same weight as an ultralight laptop.

Many laptops have drives built in. The NEC doesn't have a floppy or CD-ROM built in (rather you plug those in the side via USB ports).

Many laptops now come with Pentium IV processors. Most Tablets come with 800MHz to 1.2GHz Pentium III or Transmeta Crusoe processors. Why? Heat, battery life, and weight. If you need the ultimate in speed, you'll probably opt for a laptop.

Laptops come with keyboards. Oh, wait, many Tablets do too. The Acer, for instance, has a keyboard built in and the screen swivels around to switch from a "laptop mode" to a "tablet mode." Some, Tablets, though, are "true Tablets" or "slates" and have no built in keyboard. Slates are better for folks who stand up (they are thinner and lighter) but aren't quite as convenient for people who mostly want to type. I suggest you try both and see which fits your lifestyle more.

Laptops can use a wide-variety of operating systems. Linux. Windows 2000. Windows XP (Home, Pro, and .NET Server). Tablets can only really use Windows XP/Tablet Edition. So, if you need to use a wide variety of OS's, I'd stick with a standard laptop.

Laptops have higher resolution screens. There are some laptops now with 16" screens with resolutions of 1600x1200. Tablets only go up to 1024x768. If you're a software developer, or a graphic designer, this is a huge advantage to a laptop. On the other hand, since graphic designers often use Wacom Tablets to manipulate text and graphics in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, they might find the Tablet is far better for their needs.

Laptops are generally more expandible. Many laptops have bays for extra drives, lots of RAM expandability, and extra batteries. Most Tablets are more limited.

Durability? Laptops are potentially more durable because the screen is protected by facing inward. True slates have their screens facing outward. Also, Tablets, since they are more likely to be used while standing up are more likely to get bumped while using them. On the other hand, Laptops have hinges (my IBM ThinkPad is dying because the connections in the hinges are wearing out). Either way, the data is inconclusive.

Ink data type. The Tablet has it, laptops don't. What does this mean? There are a whole new range of applications that run on the Tablet that use the Pen that don't run on laptops. The Tablet has handwriting recognition software that is pretty darn good (with my handwriting, it's merely OK, but with friends it does much better -- your mileage my vary, but it still is impressive).

Here's what bugs me about some people who have opinions. They say stuff like this: "Tablet's have been done before, badly. Granted I haven't had the opportunity to play with the latest Tablet PC's, but it seems to me they are still lacking." Excuse me, but until you've had your hands on a Tablet for a couple of days, how can you say whether or not they are lacking in anything? Mike: you know your job. Go do it. Get your hands on a Tablet (there are more than a dozen manufacturers out there, not just NEC).

Good morning all you snowed-in East Coasters

Mike continues taking me on as a corporate shill. You're right about a few things Mike. I'm in sales for the Tablet. Every NEC Tablet sale will help me keep my job and feed my family (sorry, I don't agree with you that talking generally about the Tablet helps NEC all that much. If you decide to buy a Tablet based upon my comments, but you end up with a Compaq or Acer unit, that doesn't help me at all). You're also right about your (and every blogger's) role in the world (it's to point out what's good and bad about each product). One thing, though, you admit you haven't yet done your job. You haven't even picked up a Tablet and given one a fair shake. Why not? The Tablet, I'm convinced, is one of those products that will survive a thorough vetting. I'm betting my reputation on that.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 1:55:19 AM.