WARNING: This blog contains random thoughts on technology, software engineering, and general all-round nerdery. Read at your own risk. Nerd is contagious.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tablet PCs and Origami

As some of you may know, Microsoft released details of their secret project, codenamed Origami. Essentially it is a very tiny tablet PC, with no keyboard or mouse. It fits somewhere between a PDA and a subnotebook. It runs a special version of Windows, so it can play music, videos and normal applications too. Microsoft isn't selling the hardware, it basically created the specs for it, which is where my issue with it is. I think we're headed down the same road that Tablet PCs did a few years ago.

Technically, the MS Tablet PC works great. The screens are rock solid (you're supposed to touch them, put your hand on them as your write, unlike normal LCD panels) and the OS integration is great. So where did they go wrong? The Price to Performance ratio. To adjust for the cost of the tablet screen, many manufacturers went up in price. When that proved unpopular they cheapened other specs to bring the price down. The result was you'd pay top dollar for a not-so-powerful laptop, but HEY, you could write on it!

However, I don't think price is the only problem for tablet PCs. Most people I know use their tablet PCs as a notebook first, tablet second. While Windows Tablet PC edition is good, it still essentially treats the pen as a mouse alternative. Microsoft's OneNote is a great (almost killer) app, but it's it's too structured for the note-jotter. It's extremely powerful but it the end of the day, it's like running Outlook. When you exit out of it, you're back to (basically) windows. I think OneNote (or its feature set) should have been tightly integrated as part of the Tablet PC OS. I think that Live Lists are actually a great complement to Tablet PCs.

Another useful way to integrate the pen further with the OS is to incorporate mouse gestures at the OS level. Make a pre-defined gesture with your pen, and windows reacts with the response you designated. Make a large swooping right-click-drag from the top of the screen down, and all your apps minimize, for example.

At the end of the day, it'll be interesting to see whether Origami (which is a tablet first, notebook second) will win over hearts. It faces the same price/performance challenge as Tablet PCs did, since MS is leaving the hardware up to 3rd parties. If the thing is $1000 but you get limited hardware, then you've lost the consumer. Let's see what happens...


Blogger Panda said...


9:38 PM

Blogger Twinsen said...

Regardless of the success of Origami, it's still a step in the right direction. I've love one of these little suckers in every room - if only I had the dough.

I've been wanting a sonos system ever since they were released. It would be rad for someone to sell a mini audio system for the home that would function seamlessly with an Origami console.

I can imagine walking into my home, the console detecting my home lan and morphing into a home automation system (or audio automation) system). It's only software right? (And only a matter of time).

8:43 AM

Blogger Sree Kotay said...

I think you nailed the issue - at that price, its not interesting (enough).

5:40 PM


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