At PROFIT Magazine’s GrowthCamp conference this morning, the first session I attended was a hands-on demo of mobility technology from Hewlett-Packard, one of the sponsors. The GPS technology was fun, 'though the Bluetooth demonstration and the iPaq phone seemed ho-hum.
But what everyone loved was the tablet computer we each got to play with. These are sub-notebook computers in which the screen can be detached from the keyboard – and you just use the screen! You can cradle the thing in your arm and type using a “virtual keyboard” on-screen, or draw or write the messages you want using the attached stylus.
These computers have been around for a while, but they’re still rare at retail – sold mainly through bulk and “reseller” channels. Tablets cost twice as much as a comparable laptop, but they’re tremendously functional, and I think they will take off soon.
The key is the MS handwriting-recognition software, which seems much improved since I first tried out a version two years ago. Most human beings have trouble reading my writing, but Windows Journal figured it out immediately.
Here’s an example. The pic below is a typical sample of my messy handwriting as scrawled on HP’s TC 1100 (the black text is the “marker” font, the red is often used for correcting text). See if you can read my writing, before reading down to see the computer’s translation.
this is the marker.
No way this will read
The computer made just one mistake – it missed the capital T!
As our session leader said, taking notes in a meeting by typing on a laptop is unfriendly and distracting. But writing on the screen, just like in a real (paper) notebook – that’s accepted, and easy! Very cool stuff.
One attendee at the demo had just bought a laptop. But the 30-day return period hasn’t expired yet, so she’s thinking of trading hers in for a tablet. Wicked cool, as the kids would say.
(You can read more about tablet PCs here.)