CES this year included lots of amazing things to lust after. 4K big-screen TV sets approaching $2000, little robots and drones to terrorize your pets with, wearable technology that is designed to keep you fit or safe, and amazing cars, like the new Stingray, all of which were working to make my wallet a lot thinner. But some interesting business-oriented efforts came out of the show, too. Two of the products were similar in size but targeting different audiences in business and both were unique enough to cover this week.
Let’s take each in turn.
HP’s Android Monitor/All-In-One
When I first saw this, I thought they had lost their minds: An All-In-One PC for business running Android. Taken alone, I’d likely still conclude that. But now consider the whole idea of the PC + that a number of OEMs are chasing. PC + is a Windows 8.1 PC running Android so that you get both a Windows 8.1 experience for business with Windows applications, plus you can run a host of Android applications and games. I personally think this idea is a non-starter because neither Microsoft nor Google supports it, but I get that the idea is that by doing this, you can sell a machine that has most of the tablet apps folks want that don’t run currently on Windows 8.
But now consider this: What if instead of running Android on top of Windows you instead ran it native in the monitor. That’s a simple switch; you’d still get access to the Android apps, you’d still have the Windows 8.1 touch experience, but the two products wouldn’t co-reside. They’d be physically separate so the support problems and conflicts you’d likely get in PC + would be eliminated. You’d get most of the benefits of PC + with none of the disadvantages. You’d also get a unique redundancy in that if either the Android or the Windows part of the solution didn’t work, you could fail over to the alternative and keep going.
You’d also, with the monitor, have additional utility because it could also perform as a thin client. HP is one of the top providers of thin client hardware. So rather than being nuts, this is actually a rather innovative product and potentially an incredible value because it does the PC+ thing better than PC + does and it has the additional utility of being a decent Android thin client.
Crazy maybe, but crazy like a fox.
Panasonic’s iPad-Crushing Tablet
Here is the thing: We have tons of tablets but we don’t have any that really target the professional artist, architect, engineer etc. Yes, they can use an iPad, but this class of user typically doesn’t use an off-the-shelf PC. They use something far closer to a workstation and they pay a ton of money for what really is some incredibly powerful gear. Well, the Panasonic Toughpad 4K was designed to focus specifically on them, but damned if I don’t want one.
This is a full-on 4K tablet and it has workstation class hardware driving it. This means that if you are an artist, engineer or illustrator, there is a tablet for you and it is amazing. I had a chance to mess with it just a little and got a little tablet lust. If you are one of these professionals, your reality is that most of your time has to be spent in an office working. You are nowhere near as flexible as someone like me, who writes, and can write almost anyplace, from a French restaurant in Paris to poolside in Belize. This is because the power you need just isn’t available and that’s the problem this tablet fixes. It would be particularly useful for architects, advertising execs or designers, who often have to take work to clients. There are no compromises in this box and it is vastly easier than having to bring along a projector, or figure out how to get someone else’s projector to work, and then not being able to use touch to guide the client through the project.
Panasonic has generally come at the market in very unique ways and has, at least with regard to mobile devices, remained solidly focused on the needs of professionals. The Toughbook 4K is an excellent showcase of that focus.
Wrapping Up: Honking Big Tablets
At the end of the day, both products are a blend of tablet and PC function but actually may break new categories and reflect creative solutions to known problems. In HP’s case, it is the lack of an elegant way to add Android apps to Windows PCs. In Panasonic’s, it is the lack of good mobile solutions for creative professionals, even from Apple. Innovation and PCs have been avoiding each other for some time, but apparently that has changed, particularly with regard to business solutions. I’m thinking that is a great thing.