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HardwareTablet PCIf you had $10 million, how would you promote the Tablet PC?

If you had $10 million, how would you promote the Tablet PC?

How would you improve the marketing of Tablet PCs? Would you pick a few areas to focus on? Make a broad push?

If I could snap my fingers and give you $10 million, how would you allocate it to increase Tablet sales?

What if the amount was only $1 million over a one year period?

What if the amount was $1? Yep, how would you encourage the adoption of Tablets with just one single dollar to spend?

How about this….

With a $10 million budget: I’d focus in two areas: high school graduates continuing on to college and resellers. I’d discount both heavily. The goal is to get Tablets into the hands of as many high school graduates as possible. I’d hand out “Tablet scholarships” to 1,000 graduating students ($1,500,000)–yes, 1,000 Tablets free and clear. And I’d offer another $300 Tablet scholarships to another 10,000 high shool graduates entering college to purchase a Tablet ($3,000,000). How do the students get chosen? Two steps: They have to blog as to why they want a Tablet. And two: They pick themselves–partially. Anyone gets to vote on who should get a Tablet. This makes up 50% of a scholarship score. The other half of the score comes from rankings made by a combination of college adminstrators and foundation workers. Let’s say 200 people volunteer to provide rankings. Each gets for their effort, guess what? A Tablet. ($300,000)

Now this would leave about $5,000,000. What would I do with the other half? Commercials? A contest? Nope. I’d focus on resellers. Not the super retailers. The ones that sell the most computers…the VARs, the local computer shop, the smaller internet retailer. Why go after this group? Because they can touch many people. Vertical customers, horizontal customers, family members, friends, neighbors, and on and on. Here’s what I’d do: Buy one Tablet and get one free–up to 3,000 Tablets ($4,500,000). They can use the Tablet for anything they want–except sell it online for a period of one year. They can sell it in a store, to a customer, or use it for themselves. They can only sell it to a customer they can touch. Or better yet, they can save it for themselves. I imagine, though, that there will be lots of Tablets unclaimed so the promotion would have to adapt. Maybe give Intel ICC attendees a chance to purchase a Tablet for $300. Any remaining money would get eaten up adminstering these two efforts.

I realize two events for $10,000,000 isn’t much. But it would reach two critical areas of the market.

OK. Now what if the amount to spend is only $1,000,000? I’d use a blog promotion again only this time open to “anyone.” Over a 45 day period, write a blog entry–one entry per week–saying what you would do with a Tablet. Again, other bloggers vote on who should get one in combination with a “judging” committee of “A-list” bloggers or well-known people that get–guess what a “Tablet” for their efforts. Schools, individuals, non-profits–anyone–can enter (For legal reasons I presume this would be limited to the US, but maybe not.) At 10 Tablets per day, that’s another 450 Tablets plus 50 for a rotating judging panel. That leaves about $250,000 to put the program together and manage it. I wouldn’t spend one dollar advertising it though. It should spread all by word of mouth.

Now what if I only had $1 to market Tablets? I’d blog, blog, blog, doing my best to get Scoble or anyone else to read and link to me.

How would you spend your $10,000,000 marketing money?

Loren Heiny (1961 - 2010) was a software developer and author of several computer language textbooks. He graduated from Arizona State University in computer science. His first love was robotics.

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  1. Spending $10 million to promote more Tablet PC sales you need to look at several area’s; End-Users with budget money for new laptops, ISV’s that don’t currently have a Tablet PC offering but is a high volume applications and the ODM’s.

    We are basically, looking at the same problem every new technology has, creating demand. It’s the chicken or the egg that came first. You can drive demand by having more Ink enabled applications on the market. Those of us who follow the Tablet PC market closely know that really there is only a small number of applications that are designed for our Tablet’s. So to drive demand I would focus on working with ISV’s that don’t currently have an Ink enabled application . Short term I would hire developers in Russia and India to use the SDK to Ink enable applications that are very popular but Microsoft has not gotten that ISV’s convinced to invest in the development of a full Ink enabled application. I would use software developers in these regions as it costs anywhere from 1/7 to 1/10 the cost over there as it does in the US or Europe for software development. So by using the SDK this would Ink enable more applications in a very short period of time. Thus, driving up the demand sooner. This should also work to convince the hold out ISV’s that they should really look at a full development project for the Tablet PC platform. Additionally, Microsoft could look at discounting services like MSDN. There are all kinds of ways to motivate ISV’s without paying them to do it. But in some cases they might look at doing just that. Offering to pay for the engineering hours needed to Ink enable there applications.

    Next Microsoft needs to work with the ODM’s to reduce the cost of Tablet PC’s bring them closer to the cost of a regular laptop. So this part is a guess since I have no idea what license fee’s the ODM’s pay Microsoft for Windows XP and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. But if it is say $100. Microsoft could cut a deal with these ODM’s to cut the cost by $300. Now I know this would be an extra $200 out of the pockets of the ODM’s. However, Microsoft should structure the deal so Microsoft discounts not only the Tablet PC’s that are being sold but the regular versions of Windows XP as well. Maybe a one for two type of thing. This would on paper make the Tablet PC’s from the ODM’s stand point look like they are losing money. But when you back up and take a 50,000 ft look at the over all sells, the ODM’s profit on these computer would be greater than it was before. Thus getting the ODM’s to buy into this plan. This would not even come out of the $10 Million because discounts are not recorded on the P&L. Now I’m sure some CPA will correct me on this. But if Microsoft can do this, it only lowers the income from these companies a bit if sales were the same as the prior period before. But those of us in sales know that each quarter the sales targets get larger not smaller.

    Now for the End-Users, targeting ones that Microsoft and the ODM’s know are about to upgrade send out Tablet PC’s to people in the IT, Sales and Marketing departments. As these groups are the ones that typically need to stay closer to the cutting edge in technology on their laptops. So Microsoft and the ODM’s give a way a few thousand Tablet PC’s. This will again drive the demand as these folks can help to justify why this End-Users company needs to buy not just Laptops but Tablet PC’s. When selling it always help to have people on the inside of the company trying to get the same thing done as you are from the sales perspective. With people from IT, Sales and Markets all saying they need this it’s more likely to get done.

    Now this is not a complete business plan just a ruff idea f what Microsoft could do.

  2. Encouraging more software development makes sense, although the question is “Is there enough market for these companies to sell their products into?” Software companies will need cash flow to survive–either from sales or investment. For the most part the investment community is still on the sidelines though I’m guessing that this would change if some large investments are made or a few of the companies do very well in terms of sales.

    In terms of the price of Tablets, I wonder that even if the price is decreased that the sales would not change. The issue would be: Where will people purchase them? Dropping the price doesn’t change this. People will still have to purchase directly from the manufacturers. It would be better, it seems, if a profitable ecosystem could be built around the sales of Tablets. If a reseller is making the same 3 1/2% on a Tablet or a notebook–why cary a Tablet when a notebook will do? The customer will have to pull the products through the channel–which is essentially the case now. Your suggestion of Tablet enabling more apps would help here.

    So good ideas, but how would you market the Tablet if you only had #1 milliion? Would you follow a similar strategy?

  3. Guys, stop being so logical.
    Tablet is fun. Tablet is cool. Tablet is a bit too pricy for a gadget, and will therefore be troublesome to push.
    1000 college student would never have the buisness impact of one tv episode of Alias, where Jannifer Garner walks around CIA grounds with a Tablet, or some TV doctor or lawyer shows his assistant something on the tablet (draws a few lines and then clicks send).

    It ain’t rational, it’s cool.

  4. A TV placement will do a lot for visibility, but it takes the ownability of a tablet out of the picture. If I see Jennifer Garner wielding a tablet along with laser lipstick, I am inclined to believe that the tablet is a gadget worthy of Q, not something for me.

    Now, I just saw a commercial for FX’s new series, The Other Side of Philadelphia or something like that, and one of the main characters was using a TC1100. Very practical usage of a tablet by a regular person. That’s the key. Average Joe marketing.

    I’d funnel a lot of money into education. College students are an ideal target for the tablet. 2006 is going to be the year of the tablet. I know it.

  5. The biggest problem for the tablet is that people don’t know it exists. It’s impossible to see one in any shop (in Europe). And you don’t see them anywhere neither. But when they see one, many people are quickly convinced by the product and they ask “But why no one has talked to me about that before ?”. I had a case recently with someone who had just purchased a very nice VAIO laptop, then saw my tabletPC. The tablet was perfect for her and she wondered why the vendor where she got the vaio from didn’t talked to her about that. Having tablets in shop with people capable have showing their possibilites is necessary I think. TabletPC will grow from word of mouth and buzz.

  6. I can see that folks around my area have not realized the importance of the Tablet PC and how it relates to the next big app.

    My ideas are good but typically, you get what you pay for.

  7. What is the real need/desire to make the tablet such a horizontal product? The product was never designed to be a horizontal product…so why do we feel we need to push it there?

    It’s like saying “why hasn’t the everyman consumer purchased 18-wheelers”. They weren’t designed for the everyman!

    The tablet has been very successful in the vertical markets where it makes sense.

    Don’t get me wrong. Growth is good–and the tablet is growing in these vertical sectors. But, why feel like you need to force the growth?

  8. Chad, the question is will the Tablet survive long term if it doesn’t grow horizontally?

    Adoption by students and small business VARs/resellers are the two markets I’d push in the US. Both groups are often open to new products and have a great enthusiasm and _motivation_ for creating new monies from new ideas.

    Large, vertical corporate sales are critical to the profitability of the Tablet echosystem, but small innovative sales provide just as critical cash flow and hopefully will provide new revenue opportunities.

  9. Like Apple with their IPods and cigarette companies, you have to hook them young. Tablet PCs in their most elegant form are ink-enabled note-taking machines. No amount of money spent on Internet, print, TV advertising or movie/TV placement aimed at a general audience will likely increase Tablet PC awareness or sales.

    There was no leap in sales when Tom Cruise used a Tablet PC (like a big PDA) in the movie “Collateral”. And despite making appearances on Alias and “24”, I doubt many people in the audience knew what they were looking at. “Was that a really fancy glow in the dark ‘Etch-a-Sketch'”? And why is it that no one is ever seen writing on a Tablet PC? At best, actors poke at it… “Now, that’s Hot?”

    Who, then, takes handwritten notes 24/7? Hint: “They” have to do it for at least four years. Self-evident answer: College students. No jumbo jet loads of over-priced business consultants can compare to the number of college students around the world. Does Microsoft make an effort to market Tablet PCs to them? No. Instead, we get the fondly recalled “Great Moments in Microsoft Office” ads that ran a few years ago? How about the current “Dinosaur” people ads? I’m surprised Microsoft didn’t demand that those ads feature people walking around with steer heads (“Longhorn?”, “Anyone home?”)

    You have two target audiences with the greatest ROI in the short term: Incoming freshmen and their parents who are paying the bills. Every Dell laptop that goes to a college student is like a sharp poke in the eye to the Tablet PC faithful.

    A print ad I’d like to see:

    * A dimly lit college auditorium or lecture hall filled with students taking notes mostly with pencil and paper (a chem/math class?).
    * A professor doing a PowerPoint presentation with a Tablet PC and using a stylus to annotate a slide with formulas or equations.
    * scattered through the room are just a few students using their Tablet PCs as God and Bill Gates intended: their faces lit from below by the glow…
    * Tag line: “The Revolution has started: Where were you?” or words to that effect.

    Take ads in college newspapers looking for students that have Tablet PCs. Ask if they would be willing to take part in an ad campaign for Tablets. Those without Tablets could be extras. Get permission from the school to use a lecture hall on the weekend to shoot the print ad. At the same time, have a Microsoft crew do demos at suitable spots on campus. Feature different schools across the country or around the world.

    Worth a shot? Anything is better than a “suit” sitting at an airport/hotel with a Tablet PC in his hands and with a picture of Asia on the screen. He makes a circle on the map with the words “the next big market”… You think?

    Final note: Apple has announced a month ago that it was moving to the Intel platform. And a few moths back, Apple applied for a design patent for what looked like a Mac version of a Tablet PC. Is a Tablet PC in Apple’s future? The patent alone didn’t mean much to anyone at the time, but now with their impending move to Intel, all bets are off. Imagine a Mac Tablet. Given the nature of the Apple faithful, it would sell like hot cakes…

  10. I am a conference room warrior. I spend much of my time in meetings reviewing documents or discussing projects. I have NEVER taken my tablet to a meeting without it generating interest. Seeing is believing. But the Wow! factor is in large part due to the fact that my tablet is a 3 pound slate.

    A slate comes off as something new. A convertible comes off as a laptop with a touch screen. When they see a convertible, people don’t make the connection that with a tablet you don’t need to type. They see it more as adding drawing rather than writing capability. I’ve also found that nobody believes the handwriting recognition until they’ve seen it.

    If I had $10m and I didn’t have to worry about the Toshibas of the world, I would run two promotions. First, I would offer about 1000 free HP TC-1100s and 5000 $500 off coupons to randomly chosen subscribers of Business Week who send in an entry form. Second I would offer 1000 free Motion m-1400 and 5000 $500 off coupons to randomly chosen high school valedictorians who send in an entry form. The goal would be to get as many tablets in as many places as possible.

    With $1m I would probably drop the business segment. It’s by far the larger market but it’s going to be harder to get an impact for only $1m. I’d make the student contest 10 free and 2000 coupons. An alternative might be to give a free slate to each of the Fortune 500 CFOs (not CIOs – you want it perceived as a working computer, not a tech toy).

    For $1 I’ll continue going to meetings and showing off my slate.


  11. Loren,
    There are plenty of successful products that exist only in vertical segments.

    Question is: Should you focus your energies on the segments where you know the form factor makes sense?

    It’s easy for a company–or product–to lose focus and spread themselves too thin by diverting energy to un-proven markets.

  12. I think promoting it to a general Joe Blow or Jane Doe is the key. I think TV will be very effective for this.

    I would spend the money on an ad campaign to get a buzzword in the minds of people. Something like the “Got Milk?” Campaign, showing Tablets are cool, practical, non-geeky, and can be used around the house to browse, send and receive email, play and listen to music, instant message, create and edit Word and Excel documents, and other run of the mill stuff that a general user can do.

    I would stay away from geeky stuff.

    Once the general public realizes that they don’t have to be died up to a desk or imprisoned in a basement office, to use a computer, they would be willing to pay the premium to get a Tablet instead of a laptop.

    Let’s face it, 10M is chicken feed for MS; it’s penny foolish not to spend it now.

  13. While all of these approaches are nice (and afterall who doesn’t like free, nearly free, or serious discounts) they do not address major reasons many serious people don’t choose a tablet PC.

    1. SOFTWARE. Yes, there are “neat” apps but much more needs to be shown and demonstrated that are “must have” apps in the tablet form factor

    2. Resolution. I use a laptop as my primary computer. For all that I would gain in weight savings with a tablet and in “coolness” factor – I lose most of that because the majority of tablets have small screens and relatively low resolution.

    So what are my suggestions:

    – Support seriously cool applications for the tablet PC. With $10M I would suggest offering large amounts – say $100k each to 10 of the best shareware/freeware apps for the tablet ($1M) and 4 grants of $500k ($2M) and 2 grants of $1M. All for serious, real, useful applications developed specifically for the tablet PC form factor. These might be split between great already finished applications which could use support and funding, and great apps which are only in early alpha stages at the moment.

    These should be true grants – not investments for a piece of the action – just serious showings of support for great development and developers.

    With the remaining $5M, I would suggest offering a tablet PC development package to ISVs but crucially also to development teams WITHIN CORPORATIONS. This package should be one or two tablet PCs along with ALL of the development tools (and sample code – see above grants for some apps to perhaps include in the package – perhaps the $100k, $500k ,or $1m bought licenses copies to include with the Tablets).

    I would suggest offering this package as widely as possible – so ideally to 100’s perhaps 1000’s of developers and development teams. One method might be to charge enough to “prove” seriousness but still give a great value – i.e. charge $1500 but give a package worth $5k (but which might not have a $5k cost).

    The key here is to SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT of serious apps and help spark internal to corporations demonstrations of tablet pcs within business environments.

    (and if in the process you can also hint more than broadly to the hardware makers to keep upgrading the screen resolutions – as a few of them finally are, that would be great as well).

    Yes, the “youth” are important – but if tablet pc’s are to be taken serious as a business alternative they have to have demonstrations of why they add value (and don’t detract any value) compared to todays laptops.


  14. Dude. Just give me the $10 million.

    You’re going on the wow factor on Tablet PCs versus the practical factor, and the practical factor is another input method for a computer.

    This means carpal tunnel relief. This means the ability to draw. You’re done.

    Focus your messaging around how tablet PCs help improve your computing experience because you have another input method to save your hands/arms and helps you be more creative/productive.

  15. Think of it as three seperate products:

    1. A vertical market play for slateswhere price is less an issue. Drive this with vertical market isv incentives in targeted markets, joint marketing, etc. health care, order tracking, whatever. Give MCS something to do.
    2. a web browser, media browser play for consumers — reduce cost of hardware, use more H/W codecs rather htan raw CPU speed, etc. Web isn’t that fast anyway.
    3. Support convertibles and see if people ever find a compelling use for the functionality

  16. Instead of airplanes why not Starbucks, Restaurants that have wireless access at lunch time? Locations that are in areas that are close to business districts. This will get it in hands of wide range of business people and get some visibility. I don’t know I know that I really want one but they are out of my price range for my use level.

  17. The $10 million figure is not the issue, you could spend $100 million and never get any traction, unless you get people to use these things themselves. It’s more complex than simply throwing money at something or buck-passing to the dime-a-dozen ad agencies that kick up a thrust or try and market Tablets at superstores by hiring IT dweebs to knock around a scripted (and deadly droning) demo.

    It just comes down to being passionate and proactive, and that’s one thing you can’t put a price on. But to answer the question, simple…beef up the marketing team, and start a nationwide tour that never ends, and goto every conference that has nothing to do with technology. Advertising only takes you so far, less here, and you don’t grow markets by eternal freebies. And pay not attention who to market to, market to everyone. And the product WAS designed to be a horizontal product, vertical is just the fall back cop-out excuse. They have the tech, post-memory leak fix…all they need now is the market. But you can jumpstart things the Microsoft way, without spending a dime — reorganize, bring in new blood. And with $10 million, they could hire some external Evangelists at least.

    But I am tired of these gotcha Microsoft mind-games of ‘what do you think’ questions endlessly. Eternal suggestion boxes and zero action. Just do something, don’t mess it up, and tell people about it, beyond the inner-circle. Can’t figure it out? Then quit, or change professions. That’s your job. You figure it out.

  18. Collaboration is the killer app on a Tablet PC. A SharePoint Portal configured with Tablet friendly Web-parts and a wireless Wi-fi connection is the alignment that constitutes the sweet-spot for Tablet PC adoption. Shortsighted OEM’s have created Tablet PC’s as laptops and even suggest that they are desktop replacements, you can share, view and collaborate on documents without so much as one keystroke. A pen is more precise then a mouse and a computer is so much more then just a typewriter or adding machine. With a Wi-Fi connection and a soft-phone who needs an expensive cell phone? With a 40 gig Hard Drive and Windows Media Player 10 who needs an iPod? Surfing the Web and reading email and blogs doesn’t require any keystrokes, but when I want to work on my novel I can easily pullout a tiny keyboard and connect via Bluetooth or USB.

    The Tablet PC will never replace my desktop PC as a home entertainment center, but when I’m out and about I can be connected and contributing value.

    If I had 10 million to demonstrate the magic of the Tablet PC I would set-up a SharePoint website and showcase all the Tablet friendly Web-parts. I would go out with a video camera and collect success stories on Tablet PC adoption and post them on the SharePoint site. The first series of videos I would create would be of children using networked Tablets and OneNote Shared Sessions drawing pictures of cats and dogs just to demonstrate how easy collaboration can be.

  19. Being someone who DESPARATELY wants one, and ALMOST bought one in the past 24 hours but did not, I think I’m qualified to speak on this:

    First and foremost – Get the units INTO the Best Buys and Circuit City’s. I was just at BB within the last hour and the only unit they had on display was an older Toshiba the the pen was MISSING. Even if you don’t have BB stock them, at least buy and install kiosks to demo them on.

    I really wanted to buy the Motion LE1600. In the end, the price is about $1000 more than I’ll pay. The price has to come down before this will ever be in the mainstream. Even I, a self proclaimed gadget geek, could not even fathom shipping $3000 off to some internet merchant that I know nothing about for a device that I CANNOT RETURN, having never seen or been able to play with the device.

    The same holds true for a Macintosh. I probably would have bought one of those a few months ago if I could go into the store and play with it. Alas, there isn’t anywhere around me (Fort Wayne, Indiana) to see one.

    Show people how cool it is and they’ll at least be more interested in the idea.