Putting an End to the Tablet Con Game

Michael Vizard

Depending on your perspective, the Apple iPad is either one of the greatest innovations of all time, or the best con game ever perpetrated. There’s no doubt that people have a major appetite for a mobile computing device that allows them to quickly and easily consume large amounts of content. But the idea that somehow the device needs to preclude the ability to effectively create content is part of a larger con that the late Steve Jobs essentially hoodwinked people into accepting. After all, why settle for selling one mobile computing device when it’s possible to get people to buy two: a tablet for consuming information and a PC for creating it.

Alas, due mainly to the limitations of Windows and a desire to ape an ingenious marketing strategy that they saw as a way to sell more machine and software licenses, PC manufacturers pretty much sat back and watched Apple gain share at their expense. In fact, even with the coming of Windows 8, most PC manufacturers are still hoping to sell people two mobile computing devices instead of one with the notable exception of Lenovo.

Lenovo later this month plans to unleash a series of “convertible” mobile computing devices that can easily switch between being a PC and a tablet. According to Dr. Peter Hortensius, senior vice president of the product group at Lenovo, it really doesn’t make much sense to, for example, consume Facebook or email content on a tablet, but then have to switch to a another device in order to make use of a keyboard to actually respond to that content. While Apple may have sold millions of tablets, the fact is that most people are switching between using their tablets and PCs multiple times a day. That not only disrupts the computing experience, but it creates an IT nightmare in terms of the number of devices that need to be supported.

In contrast, Hortensius says Lenovo deliberately set out to create “multimodal” devices such as the new ThinkPad Twist or IdeaPad Yoga series that would allow business users to rely on one mobile computing device that is priced well below $1,000. What most people don’t really appreciate, says Hortensius, is that instead of relying on manufacturing companies that essentially sell the same PC and tablet designs to everybody, Lenovo invested the time and manufacturing capacity to come up with a mobile computing device that addresses the way people need to both consume and create content.

Longer term, Nick Stam, director of technical marketing for NVIDIA, adds that the graphics capabilities of the next-generation mobile computing devices are only going to get richer, making everything from playing a game to manipulating CAD/CAM files more feasible. NVIDIA is a supplier of graphics processors that Lenovo already includes in some of its new mobile computing platforms.

More than likely, Lenovo is on to something here. If manufacturers of Windows PCs want to gain share back from Apple, they have to provide a better user experience. Windows 8 probably still needs some work, but in all probability, by 2013, Microsoft will finally have created a reasonably attractive mobile computing experience. Once that reality begins to sink in, having both a PC and a tablet will not nearly be as cool as most people for some unexplained reason seem to think it is today.

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