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HardwareTablet PCWe all are verticals

We all are verticals

This Arizona Republic article on the sale of digitizer-designer FinePoint Innovations points out some of the successes and challenges that Tablet PCs are having in the market.

As the article points out the Tablet PC is being marketed to verticals, such as healthcare, insurance, and education. It’s good to see the Tablet gain such strong interest in these areas. In my mind, much of these market successes has more to do with how Tablets are being sold than how they could be sold. There is so much more potential here. To realize it, however, I’m convinced now that it’s going to take consumers to pull, yank, and tug the market along.

But this reality, obscures a rather important trend that is going on–that markets are going vertical–and I don’t mean “vertical” in the five-letter-word, “small” sense.

Intel has caught onto this. During his keynote at the Intel Developer Conference a couple weeks back, Paul Otellini spoke about how the markets are getting more specialized. It used to be good enough that Intel made general purpose processors and anyone could plop them onto a motherboard and have a computer. In days past there often wasn’t much difference between a desktop computer, a workstation, and a server–except maybe price and a handful of peripherals. But those days are fading. People want more. People want computers to better fit how they work, how they do things, and when and where they need them. Sitting at a desk and forcing everything into a QWERTY keyboard isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Centrino is one example of this new thinking. The Centrino design isn’t simply a CPU. It has a system view. It’s not only a processor. It includes WiFi support. You can network unplugged. And when you are unplugged Centrino does a fairly good job of managing power consumption so you can use your computer longer.

In years to come Intel will be doing more of this. The result will be that new uses of computers will become practical. And this is the key. Practicality. With the right system design we’ll actually be able to run a Tablet all day on a single charge. We’ll be able to use our computers to communicate and share in ways that were way too complex for most up till now.

And so…what is so important to see here is that no other than Intel–which obviously has a huge impact on the computer industry–is betting on enabling new niches. Yes, Intel is going niche–in a big way. But niche isn’t niche meaning small markets. These are huge markets. And we’re all part of these markets too. You, me, your insurance agent, your doctor, your children. We’re all part of verticals. Thing is, for the first time ever, we can in practical terms get vertical solutions in a mass market way.

Look how fast things can change too. A couple years ago, who had a network in their home? Who had a notebook? Who blogged online? Who left their computer on at home just in case someone IMed or Skyped them?

Point is, Tablet PCs are not just a Microsoft whim. Tablets are part of an engineering trend. A trend that aims to make our work lives a little more pleasant, our play time a little more festive, and our ability to connect and stay connected with others little easier. There’s no reason to spend our lives in cubes or computer hutches tapping at keys. Besides, who has the time?

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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