While few give Microsoft credit, the starts and stops of this progression away from the desktop was key to the success of the Apple iPad. Without the Tablet PC, the iPad would probably not be in existence.
The original Microsoft Tablet PC concept was an evolution in computer design, a migration away from the desktop-keyboard combination and toward a mobile scenario in which the individual interacts with the computer through a pen. The original Tablet PC (a slate with no keyboard) highlighted a natural activity, handwriting. In many ways, the Tablet PC concept was ahead of the hardware. In fact, the first generation Tablet PCs lacked performance that people were accustomed.
Since its introduction in late 2002, though, the platform has consistently been degraded and misunderstood by many members of the press. In turn, the echo-chamber of the blogosphere proceeded to repeat and increase the negative attacks against the platform. In reaction, some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) started to redesign the Tablet PC and present consumers with a hybrid or convertible Tablet PC – a computer with both a pen input and keyboard. Even HP, a big proponent of the Tablet PC and manufacturer of a great first generation Tablet PC, started to ship convertibles and moved away from the original design concept.
Ironically, as the enthusiasts started to provide hardware feedback, new OEMs entered the market. Three years after the original Tablet PCs hit the market, Lenovo hinted it would enter the market and two years later (2007) Dell made overtures. With each new entry, the idea of a slate slipped away from the manufacturers’ collective minds.
There was great hope when Microsoft started to provide a new generation of slates, known as Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs). Sadly, the market was not accepting (nor were members of the press) . Naysayers discussed the lack of pocket-ability, poor hardware performance, and lack of applications.
In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone and some people started to understand that Apple created the first pure slate, with an added bonus of including telephone features. The iPhone was not an immediate commercial success, though. It took the launch of iTunes to push the product deeper into the mindsets of consumers.
However, acceptance of a slate platform began at the point of the iPhone launch. Acceptance continued to gain ground as Apple opened up development of applications to third parties. Developer profit on iPhone apps became the golden ticket to wealth.
This brings our short story to the time period of the Apple iPad revolution – the demarcation point – in which consumers now understand something that Microsoft attempted to present a decade ago. Consumers can now see that a keyboard is not a requirement for interacting with a computer. While the iPad is a dedicated device and not a fully-functional computer, all Tablet PC enthusiasts should be excited that the original idea of a slate can actually be achieved.
As many manufacturers waited on the sidelines during the iPad ramp-up to delivery, they now are urgently attempting to compete in the “new” platform space. Google is going to present their idea of a slate. The WePad is making headlines in the blogosphere. The JoJo is out there – somewhere. You can probably think of many other slate products waiting in the wings.
Yes, the Apple iPad revolution has begun for some. In contrast, Tableteers know that this is finally the year of the (original ) Tablet PC. Yes – it finally arrived.[table id=3 /]