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What I want in a tablet PC

I love the idea of a tablet PC. They make sense to me, but whatever tablets come out this year – Apple, Microsoft, whoever – they need to include one thing for me to buy them: let me write on it.

I just want to write

And that means a stylus. I want a digital sketch pad. PDAs are handy but too small to be useful with handwriting. I like the idea of what is basically a paper-sized PDA that lets me write on it. I don’t even need that fancy handwriting recognition. I don’t want my writing translated, I just want my notes/sketches to no longer require paper.

If a tablet can’t help me eliminate paper and pens, then it’s no good to me. The hook for a tablet is ease of use (control) with awesomeness of technology (digital archiving). If it doesn’t offer that then we’re all better off with just laptops and netbooks.

Apple Tablet

Digital pens come close

This morning in a meeting one lady had a digital pen, a Livescribe. It was a normal ink pen but tracked her writing so she could download it later as a PDF. This is cool and all but it requires special paper to write on. What a waste? Yes, you get your notes in PDFs that are searchable – huge, huge time saver – but in the end you’re spending $10 for a notebook that you can pretty much throw away when you’re done.

I’ve seen some pens that don’t require special paper and use some sort of position tracking to create digital versions, but even those require extra accessories to function well and, from what I’ve read, have some issues in producing quality images. And you still start and end with paper.

A tablet must eliminate paper

So if digital pens are ruled out that leaves a digital tablet. No special paper. No special pens. It starts digitally and ends digitally – as it should be.

These upcoming tablets have a chance to hit a good niche with consumers, but I think they’ll miss the mark. I’m going to guess that tablet makers will see tablets as nothing but giant smartphones (iPhone) and provide nothing new beyond a bigger screen and easier touch interface. And if the price of near-$1000 is accurate (at least for the Apple tablet) then it better let me use a stylus with it.

Even if Apple doesn’t offer stylus input on their fancy new tablet, someone will eventually. And hopefully it will be reasonably priced because I’ll want one. Bad.