What is Really Holding Tablet PCs Back?



Scoble is defending the Tablet PC team from an article at Microsoft Watch.  I wish that there wasn’t so much to defend.  Tablets are one of those things that I’ve wanted to see take off since the 486 Fujitsu days.  Every few years someone has a go at it, and Microsoft (along with their hardware partners) have a better shot at it than anyone before them.

But there are problems.

Price is probably the number one factor that is keeping the Tablet PC install base down.  I’ve looked at a few TabletPC models at my local Micro Center, which usually has a few in stock, and their sales guys know much more than your standard CompUSA or Best Buy.  I played with a Tablet PC.  It was a compelling experience.  Unfortunately it wasn’t two grand compelling.  It wasn’t twice as much as I ended up paying for a higher spec’d but bigger (and non-tablet) laptop that I ended up getting.

Twice the price is no big deal if the price itself does not concern the buyer.  Unfortunately we don’t all drive 7 series BMW’s and we can’t all write it off as a business expense.  I could quite easily pick up a well endowed mid-range budget notebook (like the $1000 HPs, Compaqs, E-Machines, etc) plus a good desktop and a LCD panel for the price of one of the Tablet PCs that was on display.

I know that Tablet PCs are different.  They’ve got to be a little lighter, they’ve got to have a detachable keyboard or that cool little rotating double swinging hinge thing that rocks so much.  That’s more expensive.  They also tend to use the (more expensive) little low-powered chips from Intel.  I know that all of the more expensive components combined with a big R&D bill equals a higher price tag.

But dude, we can’t afford it.

If there had been a $1000 Tablet PC right next to a $1000 laptop, I’d pick up the Tablet PC, hands down.  I’ve never seen such a thing in the flesh though.  I would so rock a Tablet PC.  It’d be with me ready to whip out at a moments notice.  Tablets promote casual everyday use that you just can’t do with a laptop.  You can cradle the tablet in your arm while scribbling, while I can assure you that balancing a laptop and typing while moving is no easy task.

The moral of the story: make these things cheap.  It’s the only way you’re going to get market share.  There are lots of people that would buy a Tablet PC in an instant, they just can’t afford the tablet tax.