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December 22, 2010

"10 tablets that never quite took off"

This morning, one of my longterm PR contacts brought to my attention a feature entitled "10 tablets that never quite took off." It was published by itWorldCanada, which is part of Computerworld. Now Computerworld is one of the world's leading resources of excellent IT reporting, and has been for decades (I used to contribute it in a former life as a corporate CIO), but the "slideshow" was disappointing and missed the point by listing some older tablets and mocking them.

Unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of this sort of stuff in the media now. Most younger editors seem to believe that Microsoft invented the Tablet PC in 2001 when, of course, tablets were around a good decade before that. Older editors who did not specialize on rugged vertical market hardware often have a distorted memory of what those pioneering efforts meant. While it's undoubtedly true that earlier efforts at commercializing tablets for the consumer market were met with little success, those tablets did succeed in many important vertical and industrial markets. Mocking older, pioneering technology for not being like the iPad is a bit like mocking the military Humvee for failing to succeed as a suburban SUV; different purpose, different time, different technology.

The slideshow presents some interesting benchmark products that were ahead of their time (such as tablets from Motion, Acer, ViewSonic, Xplore, etc.), but the commentary seems oddly uninformed/flippant for a respected entity like ITWorld. They mentioned "a firm named Wacam" and diss it for not being multi-touch. well, first, it's Wacom, not Wacam, and second, Wacom's electromagnetic digitizer technology has successfully been used for about 20 years (and remains part of Wacom's G6 input technology that combines capacitive multi-touch with an active digitizer).

The whole slide show seems ill-informed and condescending, sort of like a cheap potshot that disqualifies earlier, pioneering efforts as nothing but technological pratfalls. That is hardly true as what Apple eventually came up with, and what everyone else is trying to emulate now, stands on the shoulders of those pioneering efforts. If anyone is to blame for a lack of consumer market success it's Microsoft which, in its insistence on "Windows Everywhere!," never made more than a token effort to provide an OS suitable for tablets. In the light of this, the relative success of a ruggedized, special purposes tablet computers for industrial markets is even more impressive. A publication like IT World Canada ought to know and appreciate this.

Posted by conradb212 at December 22, 2010 06:35 PM

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