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Daily link Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Associated Press is reporting that the Xbox Live service is getting a video phone upgrade. Oh, now I'm definitely buying my son one.

11:51:59 PM    comment 
11:50:08 PM    comment 

Who says the Tablet PC isn't dead? How about:

Dan Bricklin, here's his review of the Tablet PC.

Jon Phillips: Why my Tablet is indispensable.

Bob Frankston was proudly showing off his Toshiba Tablet PC at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference earlier this year.

But, don't listen to the guys who invented the spreadsheet, they don't know anything about this industry, right?

Who else loves their Tablet PC?

11:43:38 PM    comment 

I keep telling the Tablet PC team that if they don't actively keep their blogs, this is the kind of article that'll result.

The article, by Mary Jo Foley on Microsoft Watch, points out several things -- all of which would be rectified if the Tablet PC marketing team wrote a blog everyday and kept the community up to date as to their progress.

Why do I say that? Because the team has already answered all these questions to me.

In fairness to the team, they've given Channel9 awesome access and those interviews will be coming online next week. Many of those interviews answer exactly these questions that Mary Jo raised in her article.

Let's take on each of the points.

"At WinHEC, Microsoft execs almost went so far as to admit that the company is now resigned to positioning Tablet functionality as just another notebook computer feature."

Wait a second. The Tablet PC functionality is just another notebook feature. But it's a huge one. I can't imagine using a notebook without it. That's sorta like saying that when Apple came out with color back in the late 1980s on the Macintosh that color was just "another desktop feature."

"Many [OEM's] were counting on Microsoft to push the Tablet as a whole new kind of computer, not just a collection of whizzy add-on functionality."

You do realize that I worked for an OEM, right? NEC. And I was in the group that sold Tablet PCs. We never expected Microsoft to do anything. I never had a problem selling Tablet PCs. Once you see their advantages, you want one. Even Steve Sloan, my former boss at San Jose State, wants one, and he's a hard-core Macintosh fan.

"The "Lonestar" Tablet release is going to miss the back-to-school market."

This is a good point, and regrettable. Just proves that Microsoft does not ship products just to "make a date." If we shipped a bad product that didn't meet quality standards, I'm sure the market would yell even louder that we shipped too fast.

"Why didn't Microsoft just decouple the Tablet release from XP SP2?"

I asked Arin Goldberg of the Tablet PC team this question. First of all, such a decoupling needed to have been done months ago for testing and dependency issues, if it was going to be done at all. And even then, there might not have been much of a difference in ship dates. Imagine if the Tablet PC software shipped one month, then XPSP2 shipped the next. I bet the journalists would have had a field day with that cause of the market confusion that'd cause. XPSP2 has a bunch of new mobile features, including new wireless features that make using a Tablet PC much nicer. They really need to be shipped at the same time if they are gonna come out within a few weeks of each other.

Microsoft's myriad Tablet PC road shows have been running into roadblocks.

I don't know all the details, but it sounds like something was miscommunicated here. Again, we need one spot to go to to learn what's coming from the Tablet PC team. ESPECIALLY influentials like MVPs and press need one place (and an RSS feed). EVERY TEAM NEEDS to communicate better with the marketplace. Until we do, we'll see these kinds of problems where customers don't know where to go for the latest information (and the latest information might not make it to the Web if there isn't a team weblog or news page, er RSS feed, that's updated frequently).

"Retail has not been the Tablet's best showcase."

Oh, this is true! But that's by design. NEC for instance, who had arguably the coolest Tablet PC (it was Bill Gates' favorite) couldn't afford to put the Tablet PC into retail stores (a single Fry's Electronics, for instance, charges OEMs tens of thousands of dollars to put a new product onto retail shelves).

The first version of the Tablet PC was aimed at vertical markets (healthcare, factory workers, etc) but that's about to change in a big way. The new retail stand that's in the lobby of building 32 (which is where the Tablet PC team works) is evidence of that.

"But how can you market Tablets if there aren't any in stores; those that are there aren't working properly; and the staff charged with selling them seem to be clueless about how they are supposed to work?"

Oh, the sins of retailers are well documented. I wrote about my analysis of computer retailers at the end of November. Retail is a tough environment. I know this environment well. I used to work in a camera/consumer electronics store in Silicon Valley. Finding good salespeople who know their products well is very difficult, and keeping display copies of hardware up and working (especially since the Tablet PC needs to be picked up to really appreciate its attributes) is extremely tough. Stores care about theft and breakage. In San Jose Camera, for instance, they don't let most customers even touch the equipment they are buying. Why? Because that increases their costs by a great deal.

And then there's the fact that many PC sales are made online, and not in a store environment.

"The "rechristening" of the forthcoming Tablet release has created confusion.

Yup, agreed, but this version of the Tablet PC will be sold less than half of 2004 and through much, if not all, of 2005. The reality is that most people who own Tablet PCs don't even know that there's a new version of the Tablet PC coming out, and that it'll be free of charge.

Now for the good news. There's new Tablet PCs coming. There's new software coming (and it's a dramatic increase in functionality and quality). There's a new marketing push coming.

Oh, and note that I haven't even mentioned a Longhorn version.

11:24:29 PM    comment 
12:04:03 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:52:07 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). 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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