So one of my favorite things to do with a Windows 7 PC that has a touch screen is take notes. While its sometimes seen as cold or disconnected to be typing away on a keyboard with the screen of the laptop as a “barrier” between you and the other folks in the business meeting, switching the computer to “tablet mode” where you can use a stylus to write notes in OneNote or Word I’ve found to be very useful. In recent times when I’ve done this, I’ve actually gotten many comments from folks about how useful it is to be able to use a laptop as a laptop but also use it inconspicuously in a meeting for note taking. In a sense, my Windows 7 machine can adapt to the situation and provide me a better solution than either writing on paper where the information can easily get lost or pile up AND it can be done in a “business friendly” way where others are not disturbed by the clicking of a keyboard or a laptop screen between them and me. With all the hype of out there around a recent piece of hardware released to the market, the option of easily taking notes seems to not be a priority. While you can get an external keyboard for the much-hyped iPad, the multi-touch screen doesn’t take pen input for this purpose. A true tablet PC should have the ability to be more than a point solution, for the money these devices cost, I would expect them to be much more multipurpose than just running some apps or reading eBooks.
PC’s with the tablet form factor have been around for close to 10 years and one thing that has changed drastically is the hardware to utilize the touch screen. When initially released, Tablet PC’s were specialized hardware with a specialized version of Windows XP running on them. This paradigm changed with the more modern versions of Windows namely Windows Vista and Windows 7 where the Operating System detects the instance of these touch screens and then enables the tablet feature set. From a hardware standpoint, the hardware manufacturers have adapted their laptops to include the touch screen as “an option” where almost identical hardware with non-touch screen displays are available side-by-side with touch-enabled models. For instance, the Lenovo X61 Tablet PC I have has an almost identical non-tablet model available without the touch screen. This laptop is quite small, almost netbook in form factor and weight, but with a full keyboard and of course a touch screen that flips around to do the note taking or whatever. Full function PC without the full function size and weight, PLUS a tablet form factor to boot. Nice. And the cost is only slightly more than its sister laptop without the touch screen. Lenovo isn’t the only manufacturer that has adopted this idea, so those who are intrigued by true Tablet computing, the options out there today are better than ever and more are coming.
The bottom line is that having a tablet form factor around isn’t generally a separate support issue from an IT perspective, so those of us who want these features can do so without a premium price and can actually use the hardware as a regular PC too without having to lug around a bag full of point devices that only do a couple things.
Apple vs. Adobe
So one of the other things that has been somewhat intriguing is the recent battle of rhetoric between Apple and Adobe. This is the first time I can recall that both sides are right and both sides are wrong since the consumer loses both times. Let me explain.
Apple has refused to put Adobe Flash on its latest versions of iPhones and iPads which is a fairly predictable occurrence since the Apple folks generally want full control over the entire environment which their hardware runs AND the Apple hardware is IMHO generally a little light on processing power at release time. Adobe Flash is probably one of the most ubiquitously used technologies on the Internet (for better or worse) but it has a very high requirement for processing and network connectivity to have a good experience. The rub comes in at the consumer layer when the millions of Apple devices can’t access the millions of sites running Flash. Apple always boasts that the iPad has the best Internet experience, but it doesn’t run the technology that many sites do, namely Adobe Flash. Now while I’m a fan of Microsoft SilverLight technology and prefer its use over Flash every day of the week, Silverlight’s market share hasn’t caught up to Flash quite yet, so leaving out access to this technology from Apple devices really hurts the folks with the iDevices. My guess is that the hardware requirements for running Flash on iDevices would not not be met and performance would be unacceptable, so this is as I said predictable from an Apple point of view.
On the other side of the argument, the folks at Adobe don’t seem to be on a track anytime soon to lower the hardware requirements for running the latest Flash-based web content. The rich experience that comes from Flash-enabled sites seems to have a hardware requirement that continues to go up at a steady rate which makes current hardware obsolescent much sooner than other applications. I’ve run some Flash enabled game sites on slightly older hardware that my kids use and the experience is abysmal.
So some could say the Apple vs. Adobe war is “protecting the consumer” from a poor internet experience, but I’d argue you have two large technology companies falling down on the job since they’re not interested in working on a solution together. So from the consumers point of view it’s a good thing that technology doesn’t stand still, as that fact will bring this issue to resolution. I’m guessing the advent of HTML 5 which is emerging as a standard to replace Flash-type content on the web will hold back Apple in the short term while websites move over to this technology but will also force Adobe to get smarter with its use of higher end hardware to get the job done. As technology emerges, this will become an irrelevant argument as Silverlight, HTML 5 and other web technologies are adopted to overcome technical shortcomings of two companies that refuse to work together to actually help the folks that buy their technology.