Astute observers of this blog may have noticed that I not too long ago posted a note that I’m using a Lenovo T61p. (Coincidentally nearly one year ago.) However, I’ve got another notebook that I use now, a Lenovo X200 Tablet. The reason for the ADDITIONAL (not replacement) notebook takes a moment to explain. Obviously, I’m preparing for the SharePoint 2010 release. SharePoint 2010 is 64 bit only. Running a virtual machine as a 64 bit guest requires HyperV or VMWare. HyperV requires Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2. That means many of the client applications that I run on a day-to-day basis won’t install cleanly. Add to that issue the fact that once the HyperV role is installed your notebook will no longer hibernate or go into standby and you can see how things might be a bit difficult to use. Of course, at this point I’m likely settled on VMWare Workstation for my T61p for the reasons listed above – however, I need to keep my options open for running HyperV machines. That means I need to plan on something different for my day-to-day computing.
I looked at some NetBook type computers like the Asus eee PC, however, I felt like this was just too small and not powerful enough for my day-to-day computing. I realize that Word, Internet Explorer, PowerPoint, etc, aren’t necessarily all that demanding from the perspective of computational power. However, I also wanted to be able to do light development on the system – just stuff to play with not real projects. This means that a NetBook just didn’t seem right.
The idea of a tablet computer to me has always seemed sort of silly. They’re typically underpowered compared to their notebook cousins and are a little more expensive. As I dug into this some more I realized that while both of these statements are true, they’re not *as* true as they used to be. The X200 I have seems quite snappy. The Core2Duo it runs is nearly as fast as the one in my T61p. The X200 was definitely more expensive than a Netbook but no more expensive than most of my other laptops have been. The funny thing is, however, that I’ve used the machine as a tablet much more than I would have thought.
I’ve used Microsoft OneNote as a tool for taking notes for a while. Back in 2006 I wrote an article about it for requirements gathering. I knew that it had direct support for inking on a tablet – but I didn’t think it would be that valuable. (Anyone who’s seen my handwriting can explain why.) What I found, however, is that where it’s perfectly acceptable to everyone to take notes on a tablet (PC or paper) it’s less acceptable to type notes into a laptop. There’s that natural barrier of the screen between you and the person you’re talking to – so it’s not the best for getting folks to open up. With all of that all being said, I’ve been really pleased with the experience of inking on the X200. It’s smooth – and it even recognizes some of my handwriting. I’ve also been using it just for sketching out ideas for myself. It’s been really handy as I’ve wanted to send notes off to folks to get their ideas. Even the process of requirements gathering has been good because I can sketch out screens and send them to clients.
I admit I do have one problem with the unit. I bought a multi-touch screen which by definition should mean pressure sensitive. Tablet’s primary method of determining the location of a pen is electro-magnetic resonance (EMR) which means a special pen. However, the multi-touch screens are supposed to support touch as well because EMR doesn’t make the most sense with multiple points of contact. Of course, I’m running Windows 7 and the drivers aren’t quite caught up yet. Where does this really matter? When I am reading PDFs as I’ll explain in a moment. It would be really cool to be able to gesture on the screen in PDF reader view.
All in all I’ve carried this notebook by itself … no power cord… no mice… no extras of any kind … to client meetings with confidence. Confidence I’d have the battery power to continue working and confidence that I’d have what I need. It’s a bit heavier than the Tree of Life Leather Writing Journal that I normally carry for notes. (which is in and of itself beautiful), however, being able to just carry the notebook vs. the whole backpack of stuff is a great leap forward. I should say that I do still take notes in my journal from time to time – but I find that I don’t go back into the journal like I go back into one note—and I’ve got stacks of old notebooks with notes and lists that I’ll never look at again.
Microsoft Live Mesh
One of the challenges with having multiple machines is keeping your files in sync across them. That’s where Microsoft’s Live Mesh comes in. It transparently synchronizes files between all of your machines and a data center in the cloud so that you don’t even have to think about whether you have the right files on your machine or not. It takes a few minutes after saving your file before it’s visible on another computer and slightly less to be accessible via the web interface – but it’s fast enough for most situations.
Live Mesh only allows 5GB of storage right now – but I’m expecting that once it’s out of beta it will allow you to purchase more storage. Not only does it solve my synchronization need it solves a disaster recovery backup need. (If I do something stupid and delete a file it will delete it from all – so it’s not a complete solution.)
Another thing that’s cool is that it will allow you to invite others to your folders. I invite my assistant to some of the folders so that she can proofread my documents.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is how the Tablet PC (with appropriate price reductions) might be a Kindle killer. Why? Well, there are a handful of things that make the Kindle interesting. Not the least of which is the ability to read on screen. The tablet PC supports screen rotation so you can get a portrait view rather than a landscape one. That’s a good starting point. The second piece of the puzzle is the reader view in Acrobat. It allows you to tap on the screen to advance to the next page. It would be great if this could just take gestures on the screen w/ touch instead of the pen to advance and turn back pages. A 12.1″ screen on a tablet is larger than that of a Kindle (6″) or the Kindle DX (9.7″) and oh yea, it’s in color.
The other ideas of a Kindle are the ability to wirelessly download new content. That Tablet PC is on par here – except for the software.
The final area where the Kindle does still hold a slight advantage is battery life. I’m getting between 4-5 hours of battery life from my tablet where the reported battery life is much longer.
All in all, my decision to purchase the tablet pretty much negates any chance of getting a Kindle unless it’s given to me.
Give the Tablet a Try
So my input is … give the tablet a try. It might just be it’s time. It might be the next step past a NetBook.
[Update: I just stumbled across an old article I wrote for TechRepublic on the Tablet PC. It’s worth a read. ]