06 October 2005

The ultimate marriage of paper and screen

This is a pipe dream right now but I'd like to do the blue-sky thing for a minute and go on the record with an answer to the question "What does the ideal tablet PC look like?" I've carried a paper sketchbook around for 25 years or so, and so I have had plenty of time to ruminate on the subject. Here are some thoughts:

  • It's convertible. It can be used as either a laptop or straight tablet.
  • It's not too small but not too big: about the size of an 8x10 sketchbook, and very thin: no more than three-quarters of an inch thick when closed. This would make it as light and easy to carry as a sketchbook, while keeping the screen large enough to function well with most software.
  • It's tough. It should be able to survive a three-foot fall at least. Maybe the corners have bumpers?
  • The screen feels like paper. The surface should have a somwhat tactile quality, not too glasslike.
  • Handwriting recognition is flawless, or nearly so.
  • It looks cool and is functionally thoughtful. For example, it could take a cue from the Moleskine line of sketchbooks: they look distinctive and have thoughtful features like a built-in folder to hold receipts and an elastic strap to hold the book closed. Note to engineers: this is very important if you want to make millions on the product. remember that a sketchbook is an accessory as much as it is a device.
  • It has a built-in microphone that functions equally well in laptop and tablet modes.
  • It's got built-in wireless and all the standard ports.
  • Its battery lasts at least four hours without a charge.
  • It should be able to interface with the non-digital world. For example, what if it had a built-in scanner or digital camera that could function as a scanner? Then you could scan receipts, napkin-sketches or other non-digital ephemera.
What does your ideal tablet PC look like? Please share your thoughts. Maybe one of you out there will design this thing and make a few million dollars!

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5 comments:

thambi said...

It should feel like the Nokia 888

Anonymous said...

You just described the Fujitsu Stylistic series of Tablet PC, except that it isn't a "convertible."

dave said...

Yes -- too bad Fujitsu hasn't figured that out yet. I came within a hair's breadth of buying it but the fact that it wasn't convertible was a deal-breaker.

I bought the Toshiba Portege instead.

Stewart Johnson said...

I've been using a Toshiba Portege M200 for a while now, and you've described it pretty well with your list of points. About the only one it doesn't fit into is that I'm not game to drop it 3 feet. It doesn't have a CD-ROM built-in (it's a USB connected one) which means it's light and small, and the handwriting recognition in XP Tablet is great. I love taking lecture notes with it (I'm doing postgrad, and *wish* I had one when I was undergrad).

It's a fast powerful machine too, so when I get home I chuck it in the docking station and use it with my 21" monitor and external peripherals just like a regular PC.

The great thing about a tablet PC is that the screen is _designed_ to be touched. With a normal laptop fingerprints are a burden, but a tablet screen is specifically designed to have your dirty fingers all over it, and it wipes clean. It doesn't feel exactly like paper, but they have made a pretty good effort to make it a good writing surface.

Having owned a tablet for quite some time, I'm simply staggered that they haven't been a huge runaway success!

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