It’s lunchtime and I have some time to kill, so the perfect moment has arrived to field-test my brand new toy : The Hp TC1100 Tablet pc. "New?" I hear you ponder ? And you are indeed correct in your assumptions that the term "new" might be slightly overrated. Sure its new to me, but neither is this particular model "new" to the world of computers (I think its about three years old) nor is it "New" as in freshly off the shelf. I bought it as a second hand last week, for the preposterous price of 90 euros. After upgrading the hard disk from a 40 to a 160 gig Ata and splicing in some extra memory (a spare stick of 512 meg ram) it was time to tinker with this little intriguing device. First of all let me confess : This is NOT the first TC1100 I have owned. I got my hands on one a few years ago and we only had it in the house for a very short while. As a gift to Nyana (To serve as her "main laptop") it proved to be far from successful. Nyana hated the keyboard, despised the small screen, disliked the jumbled mess of cables that resulted after plugging in both a web-cam AND an external mouse AND pretty much explained to me where I could ‘Stick that tablet" for all she cared. And she was right. As a primary laptop (with some accessories and so on) the TC1100 just does not cut it. Its a little bulky, Windows-XP tablet edition is far from a "great solution" and you might as well carry around a single volume of an encyclopedia when it comes to weight. But 4 or 5 years after selling ours to the next lucky owner.. I bought another one ..
Why ? Quite simple : First of all : The price !
90 euro’s ? Bargain Baby ! Ok, the tablet is 3 years old, has a small scratch on the display and might not be the fastest hippest baby in town compared to all those fancy netbooks.. but still i bought it. For one to see : What could I do with it. After the memory upgrade, the addition of a larger harddisk AND some googling I dual booted the baby into Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.04, just to see how it worked. And it works darn fine ! Windows 7 runs fairly smoothly, but Ubuntu 9.04 is a breeze on this baby. After copy and pasting some code into the terminal that I got off a great website, i was able to do everything this little baby could do in Windows, using Ubuntu Linux (and with about half the recources). Since I have been pretty fed up peering and staring at the small 9 inch screen of the Acer Aspire one, I thougt the 12 inch display of the tablet was a welcome change. Time to see what this baby could do.
This is not a production device.
The biggest reason the whole tablet market becoming one gigantic failure, was aiming the tablets at business people. They could go to meetings, jot down notes, master their calendar etc etc . The tablet was like a PDA on steroids. So why did it fail ? Not the pricepoint ! Ok, tablets where (and are) expensive but that is not gonna stop some fancy smancy manager from letting the company buy him one (Cause he wants to show off with it) but the flaw lies in the design. Due to the compact nature of the device, being ‘productive’ is not a very managable goal with a tablet pc such as this one. Ok maybe in a meeting, (to take down notes, when you’re not IM-ing your mistress) but during "the rest of the day" the tablet turned from "fancy-showoff-scribble thingie" to overwheight, underpowered piece of crap with a keyboard that is too small an a cablehassle that could snare a moose should it ever get close. The "stylus" that is "fancy" during the meeting becomes a pain in the arse if you need to use your "tablet" as a regular laptop. So pretty soon tablets were discarded and turned obsolete when the netbooks took over the small form factor market.
This is a consumption device.
With your data up in the cloud and a good operating system at your fingertips the tablet suddenly rises from its ashes. To me : This is not a production device, no long winded emails, endless excel sheets or elaborate multimedia editing on this baby. THIS is my way to CONSUME content. Instead of cramming away on the small keyboard, I flip the device to portrait mode, open up Firefox, navigate (using the stylus) to my Google reader page and start "consuming content" happily "clicking away" through article after article without bothering to type anything using the keyboard (If i need to, I just call up the on-screen keyboard and tip-tap away) Board with that ? Why not switch to you-tube and watch clip after clip. Or pop the device back to landscape mode, swing the keyboard to the back and open up Miro to view some podcasts while I’m having my breakfast. The stylus helps me navigate and click through the menu’s and selections. The idea here is I do not work with my tablet like a regular laptop. Its more of an interactive screen that has the "option" to produce content as well.
Tablet on the road.
But instead of going for the somewhat frustrating experience of working with the Acer aspire one. ( still somewhat slow and with a not very practical screen) I’m taking the tablet with me on this weeks "tour of the country" using it to type away during my lunchbreak (small things) or using my 3G stick to hook up to the net and "consume" some content either is "standard mode" (screen flipped up, keyboard in front of the screen.) "Portrait mode" (keyboard folded away behind the screen, tablet used as a "notebook") or "display mode" (Screen flipped up, keyboard BEHIND the screen, so i can use it as a "standing display".) And so far I love it. The tablet fits nicely in the car (between my lap and the steering wheel) does not fry my pants (all the hot stuff is leaning against the steering wheel and not "sitting on my lap") and for short essays like this one, the keyboard is just "purrrrdy"
The funny thing about tablet pc’s is that they were made in the wrong time for the wrong people. Made for managers who were too stupid to use them and wanted to use them for the wrong purposes (production machines) AND at the wrong time. Now with ‘full killroy 2.0 ‘ mode in swing I’m starting to appreciate this tablet PC. ITs like its been timewarped to the future and is only NOW starting to come into its own. With data up in the cloud, Point’n’click navigation using web 2.0 sites and a gigantic user-contributed web out there to consume the tablet is just fracking perfect. The files that I DO produce (like this blogpost) are dropped into "Dropbox" and get synced to my "production machines". With both Windows 7 AND Ubuntu 9.04 installed I get to choose what I want to do with the device. The Pcmcia slot that used to be "obsolete" now holsters my PCMCIA 3G card that pops into it nicely (the Usb Dongle that I have is a little flimsy and unpractical) Both on Ubuntu AND on Windows 7 allmost EVERYTHING works ( flipping from portrait to landscape mode, using the stylus, extra buttons etc) + since this thing has a "touch screen" its awesome to run "podproducer" on it (Kinda like ‘Castblaster" but for free). The one thing I also like about the stylus is that its a new way to input digital content. Ok , Wacom tablets aren’t the newest thing since hot water, but I haven’t had a chance (yett) to play around with it and "produce" handwritten content (scetches , handwriting) to upload to the web. So in all i’m spending too much time on this baby concidering the fact I have far more powerfull laptops lying around. (Is that my Macbook Pro sobbing somewhere in the corner) but it turns out its a pretty versitale piece of kit.