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Why you've got to feel sorry for Steve Jobs.
After a fantastic few of years Apple products are even more synonymous with quality and style: MacBook Pros, the iPod phenomenon and of course the iPhone. MacWorld and Steve Jobs keynote speech have also become two of the most important things in the computing/electronics calendar so the pressure is really on to keep coming up with the goods.
After the iPhone it was always going to be hard to come up with that killer device and, obviously, the MacBook Air was Apple's attempt this time around. You can't deny that the Air is sleek, stylish, sexy and very thin with decent specs right out of the box but, as I mentioned before, this has all come at a price.
A lot has been said about the Air being a let down and the power users etc. won't buy them; I agree about the power users but disagree about the let down. The real beauty of the MacBook Air is that it introduces another element of choice, not just for Mac users but Windows users as well. If you are doing your homework then you buy a device that fits your usage pattern rather than try to make your usage pattern fit a particular device and I believe that there are a lot of moderate users out there who will really be able to make good use of the MacBook Air.
As a Tablet user I am always espousing the flexibility and choice offered by the form factor but recognise they are not for everyone. I am also painfully aware that they took a while to become decently spec'd devices. The same with UMPCs. Both of these form factors were fabulous ideas that didn't fulfil their promise straight away.
I believe the same can be said of the MacBook Air. This is Apple's shot at establishing a new product with new goals but, while it is an attractive device, it is not perfect. The Air will develop with alter revisions and I feel we have to forgive it's shortcomings. It is just a shame that Apple's shortcomings are so public that they are akin to a national disaster
Why my Tablet is no longer a mobile solution.
I have always been a firm believer that the Tablet PC form factor (especially the convertible type) offers some of the best flexibility around and would be far more popular if it wasn't for bad marketing. It is with a heavy heart that I must say my old device (an Acer C111) can no longer cut it as a mobile solution.
It's not the weight of the device, it's not the size - the 10 inch screen is perfect and has served me well reading ebooks on the train to/from work. So what's the problem?
Well, there are two issues that have stopped me taking Tabby out:
  • design flaws/component quality and
  • battery life
According to the sticker affixed to its belly, Tabby was born on 16th March 2004 - nearly four years ago. Even under ideal circumstances it would be fair to say that the device is getting a bit long in the tooth. Even after a clean install of Windows it doesn't perform as well as it used to - maybe the hard drive is getting a bit worn out. This on its own would not cause me to stop taking Tabby on the road.
As I mention above, design flaws are a big problem with the device. Over it's life, it has been back twice for repair with the same problems each time - they have also become manifest again since but it's not worth getting them sorted now (that's if the parts could even be sourced). The weak points, which a lot of people experienced problems with are as follows:
  • the latch which holds the screen closed snaps off so that the screen will not stay shut
  • the side latches which hold the screen in place when upright break so that the screen wobbles
  • the plastic bezel surrounding the screen is too thin and breaks too easily
Not very good for a mobile device which needs these parts intact to perform it's specific role.
Other manufacturers, such as Toshiba, have recognised that the screen latch needs to be as solid as possible and make them out of metal - come on Acer it doesn't take a genius to work that out. The same can be said of the side latches; the screen of a Tablet PC is the prime component so should be protected at all costs. Would a few small, metal latches have raised the weight or cost that much that it was felt necessary to scrimp here?
When you have a convertible Tablet in slate mode the whole point of the active digitiser is that you can rest your hand on the screen while writing without it affecting the ink (unlike a passive digitiser) so, again, why design such a crucial component as the screen surround so that it just can't take the punishment the device will obviously get.
 Screen surround damage
It strikes me that Acer didn't really think through the whole Tablet PC concept before putting the device together.
I have gotten to the point where I am afraid to take Tabby out for fear that it will fall apart whilst using it.
With regards to battery life, we all know that batteries degrade over time and mine are prime examples. I have two batteries: the original and a spare which I purchased a couple of years ago and I'm lucky if I now get much over an hour out of either of them - not much good when you're mobile.
All this combined means that Tabby has now, unfortunately, become a Stay at home Tablet.
2007, the year in review: October - December.
Also see: January - March, April - June, July - September.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
As mentioned before, I had to remove beta 1 of Vista SP1 from my PC due to issues but we soon had the first build of Windows XP SP3 to keep us occupied.
Acer bought rival OEM Gateway in October and I immediately wondered what impact that would have on Gateway's line of Tablet PCs seeing as Acer had already axed their own previously. Luckily, things turned out okay with some Tablets being retained and others now being sold by MPCCorp.
The Queen described 1992 as an "annus horribilis" in her speech that year, well November was our bad month. Chloe developed Meningococcal Septicaemia and ended up in hospital on a course of intravenous antibiotics. Things were touch and go and if we had delayed any longer it could have gone in to full blown meningitis. We were all deemed at risk until a second round of blood tests came back negative. We were given the all clear but 10 days later we were involved in a car accident when a woman lost control the other way and hit us head on. Luckily no-one was injured too badly - bruising, whiplash and a good dose of shock all round. They say bad things happen in threes: our third thing was the main desktop PC dying and needing the motherboard, CPU, memory and graphics card replaced - wonderful!
As expected, the iPhone came to the UK on November 9th which prompted me to run a series of posts called "2G for a day" in which I turned off my high speed connection on the phone to see what difference only having GPRS would make - not as much as you would imagine.
On the beta front Vista SP1 hit a Release Candidate Preview build and Windows Messenger 9 was released to testers but then leaked within 48 hours.
One positive thing to come out of November was for me to reach my 4th anniversary blogging. The blog has been through a number of incarnations and most of the posts before June 2006 no longer exist on the web, although I have recreated the most common old items elsewhere on the site.
The PC failure meant I had to reactivate Vista and I then started experiencing a number of issues with Vista SP1 but I originally put these down to the hardware issues I had experienced.  It wasn't until a lot of other people starting reporting the same problems that I realised the issue was actually with the SP1 RC Preview build AND the actual RC build itself. Bugs were being closed on Connect as "won't fix" without any explanation so I posted about the issues and accused Microsoft of sweeping the problems under the carpet. It turns out that the RC builds were causing problems with activation so Vista was entering "Reduced Functionality Mode" despite Microsoft saying that this would be removed from SP1 - obviously not yet.
In December Dell finally entered the Tablet PC arena but were immediately slated for releasing a product which was far too expensive. They're response? We're dearer because we're better - hmmmmm.
HTC announced that the long suffering Shift would be delayed further with mixed reports as to why (software, hardware, battery life) causing people to cancel their pre-orders in the fear that the Shift may never see the light of day or, when it does, be obsolete. Let's see what UMPCs come out of CES 2008. Problems also confronted Windows Home Server with reports that certain types of files were corrupted when stored on a WHS machine - defeats the purpose when you have to take a separate backup as your backup solution doesn't work properly.
Aside from all of this December was unfortunately dominated by the tragic loss of Marc Orchant who died a week after suffering a massive heart attack and never regaining consciousness. Marc had a big impact on anyone who came in to contact with hmi and is a big loss to the tech community and the world at large. Rest in peace, Marc.
2007, the year in review: April - June.
Also see: January - March, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
April saw more Windows Home Server goodness with a CTP build. Ed Bott over at ZDNet wrote a really good overview of what WHS does which is still worth checking out now.
The best news in April, however, that my article entitled "Microsoft: Fried or Foe" was published in Micro Mart magazine - you can read it here if you've not seen it. The article garnered some mixed responses on the Micro Mart forums but I was generally accused of being a Microsoft fanboy due to my view that MS have been treated unfairly at times just because of who they are. The article was called a "gag inducing ode to Bill" and that it essentially said Microsoft = good and Mac = bad - not the case at all. At least I achieve my goal in getting a conversation started.
May saw Tabby (my old Acer Tablet PC) come home to roost after spending a long time with my father in law and, while we're on the subject of Tablets, Dell finally announced that they were going to be releasing a Tablet PC. Despite Dell being perhaps the most recognisable consumer brand of PCs they were determined to focus on education, healthcare and business - I feel they really missed the mark. 
June came and went with the new TouchFLO interface from HTC and the release candidate of Windows Home Server while I introduced a new feature on the blog: posts called "From the front line" where I would relay specific issues working in the IT industry and resolutions where appropriate.
And then came June 29th - iPhone day. Will the iPhone change the world?
Third quarter to follow.
2007, the year in review: January - March.
Also see: April - June, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Let's get started with the first quarter:
January saw me open the year with my "open letter to Micrsoft" which was a plea for MS to lead the way in the UK and actually try to get technology to the masses. UK tech adoption always seems stunted - we don't have the major OEMs with a presence here, there are no opportunities to get hands on with new devices etc. - so I thought that MS would be in a perfect position to start partnering with OEMs or even retailers to get the technology out there by way of road shows, demos, decent retail opportunities etc. Some great products have come our way from the MS stable (Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and now Windows Home Server) but even the best products fall flat without the marketing to support them and this was sorely lacking, and still is.
January was also dominated by CES and MacWorld with two big announcements. Firstly, Windows Home Server was officially announced and got a lot of people (myself included) very excited about what was to come. Next, however, came the big one - the story that took over the web: Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone at MacWorld and I ran some initial thoughts about the device.
We also saw a report from Forrester Research giving details that companies were finding the move to Office 2007 harder than expected and having to invest in more training for the new "Fluid Ui" than first thought. Around the same time we caught a first glimpse of an add-in being developed internally at Microsoft called "Scout" which would help users migrate to the new UI but this failed to materialise. A big shame.
The start of the year witnessed an explosion in the Vista/Lexmark saga that began at the end of 2006. The issues that I, and many others, experienced with Lexmark printers drivers on Windows Vista were indicative of the problems faced by many when OEMs did not do a good enough - or quick enough - job of getting their drivers out of the door in time for Vista to go RTM. In my case there were repeated delays in releasing a driver for my printer and when they finally did materialise they wouldn't work. Not only that but an uninstall utility from lexmark trashed my system! Lexmark printer driver issues on Vista are probably the single biggest reason people find my blog in search engines.
January ended on a low note, on the 30th we were burgled and had our keys, wallet/purse stolen which meant we had to cancel cards etc. and get the locks changed on the car so that the thieves couldn't come back and steal it. This coincided with the RTM launch of Windows Vista which meant I obviously had far more important things on my mind than blogging about the launch of the new OS from Microsoft.
After the Vista launch the tech press was full of "should you, shouldn't you" articles which all seemed to be saying the same thing: that it just wasn't worth the upgrade yet. One particular magazine which caught my eye was Micro Mart here in the UK running the cover story "Is this 2007's most pointless upgrade?" I blogged a knee jerk reaction not having read the actual article (bad form I know) but felt incensed that customers would get a wrong impression. In response to my post I was contacted by the editor of Micro Mart about writing a piece for them so it all worked out okay in the end.
February included the beginning of the Windows Home Server beta program on Connect. I was lucky enough to have been contacted when it was invite only but the program was opened up and people registered in their thousands - 40,000 by the end of Feb to be exact, with 10,000 invites being sent.
I finished my article for Micro Mart and now just had to wait for it to be published but March was HTC Shift month. The news about HTC's UMPC offering was everywhere and, having both Vista and Windows Mobile 6 on board, really captured the imagination. The Windows Mobile 6 side of things turned out to be a cut down offering called SnapVUE and there are concerns over battery life - even now the device still hasn't made it to production.
Second quarter to follow.
New Tablet PC area at Zimbio.
I subscribed to Zimbio a while back to see if it would generate some traffic and I have have had some success. Zimbio is a completely user driven site when bloggers create the content and the areas or "wikizines" that the site covers. as with any site of this nature there is a good deal of "noise" but I have found some good information.
I thought it was about time that I got back in to using my Tablet so I have created a Tablet PC wikizine over at Zimbio should anyone else want to sign up and have somewhere to put their tablet PC related posts.
There is an RSS feed here but Bloglines doesn't recognise it as such - YMMV.
Dell finally enter the Tablet PC market.
As Rob reports Dell have now officially launched the Latitude XT Tablet PC 5 years after Tablets first came on to the market. It is fantastic that a company like Dell have taken this step showing some faith in the Tablet PC and they have launched a bit of kit which is jammed full of great features including touch and an active digitiser for maximum flexibility.
The XT also includes a Core 2 processor, dedicated graphics up to a 64GB solid state drive, and is even multi-touch ready but all this comes at a cost. Obviously, it's too early yet to speculate on UK prices but the XT starts at $2499 in the US. Yes that's right STARTS at $2499 before you start customising it. Ouch!
OK, Dell may be targeting business, education and health care but this price is still way too high.
It has been said that Dell's entry in to the market will validate the form factor and help it go mainstream - not at these prices it won't. From past experience, companies with limited IT budgets want to get the most they can for their money and I think many will find it hard to justify the cost of such a unit especially when you add in support time.
Large companies rebuild their machines from a standard image and will normally not let PCs that do not conform to this anywhere near their network. It can take months to get a normal desktop image working correctly without the additional complications that a Tablet PC creates.
Dell need to be offering some serious discounts for bulk buys or they could find themselves off to a non-starter.
Gateway, Tablet PCs and the Acer acquisition.
I posted back in October asking what the Caer takeover of Gateway would do for their range of Tablet PCs in light of Acer's decision to scrap their own.
TabletPCPreview originally posted that gateway would indeed be scrapping their Tablets but that doesn't appear to be entirely correct as confirmed by the guys at GottaBeMobile.
It seems that Gateway E-155 (12") series has been sold off to MPCCorp so will still be available there but the C-120X series is in fact end of life and therefore discontinued.
Gateway is not, however, dropping the C-140X (14") line and has no plans to do so - good news.
When is a Tablet not a Tablet?
No, it's not a version of the "when is a door not a door?" joke (when it's a jar! Ouch!) but until I get the main PC sorted the Tablet has been hooked up to the main monitor, mouse and keyboard to act as a desktop replacement; it's a good job we've got it.
Anyway, I've just ordered a new Core 2 Duo processor, motherboard, memory and graphics card (all for less than £150) so I'll be able to get things back up and running once they arrive.
It's never simple though. I'll either have to buy a 4-pin molex to 6-pin PCI-e power converter or swap the cases over for the desktop and the server - only the power supply in the server case has a PCI-e power connector.
What does Acer's acquisition of gateway mean for Tablet PCs?
Gateway have been coming up with some good Tablets (or convertible notebooks as they call them) while Acer decided to discontinue theirs.
Now that Acer has acquired Gateway what is going to happen to the convertible notebook range?
Did Acer decide to scrap their Tablets as they always had plans to go for Gateway? Will they in turn scrap the convertible notebook series as it appears they don't want to be a player in the Tablet space?
Acer have said that the acquisition will create a "multi-branded" company so we can only hope that Acer keeps the existing ranges, however, only time will tell if they continue to develop new products.
A busy time.
Between tiling the bathroom over the long weekend and starting at a new site today things have been a bit hectic - hence the lack of posts.
I'll try to catch up tomorrow but in the meantime here's a few things that have caught my eye:
HTC officially announce the Tytn II (Kaiser).
Battery life not as bad as I thought.
After listening to Hugo and Warner on battery optimisation I decided to tweak a few things on Tabby. Hugo suggests turning off hibernation as this uses extra power when the drive churns to save the hibernation file, so I did. I also made sure that a few other things weren't starting up, reduced screen brightness and reduced the times for the screen to turn off and hard drive to spin down.
When I had finished I closed the lid and left Tabby in standby. That was Tuesday afternoon.
This afternoon I grabbed Tabby out of my bag and had forgotten that it had been left in standby. Well, it was dutifully still in standby with some juice left in the battery. How long should it normally last in standby? Anyone got any ideas?
Personally, I think 48 hours is pretty good with an old battery! 
Back and blogging in ink.

Back to XP, and SP3 can't come quick enough.
I'm stepping back to XP on the Tablet - at least until I get a RAM upgrade (I plan to go up to 1GB from 512MB).
The performance under Vista has been significantly worse than under the betas and, even though I've disabled SuperPreFetch the hard drive is still being thrashed. This may well be having a huge impact on battery life as I can sit and watch the battery drain.
So, no Vista for the time being.
I'm currently going through the updates for XP (post SP2) and have a total of 94 to apply. Yes, 94! XP SP3 can't come quick enough if you've got to go through that every time you do an install, and there'll only be more before SP3 hits next year.
Drivers, patches and Office.

So, we left Tabby getting a Vista upgrade in the hope that drivers for things like hardware buttons etc. would work more reliably. The hardware buttons upgraded fine (I had experienced some difficulties during beta testing on cleans installs) but had to reinstall drivers for both the onboard audio and wireless (good job I've got a spare LAN cable and port on the router).

The Acer uses keyboard shortcuts for volume up/down and screen brightness up/down and, as with the beta, the bright controls work fine (Function button + Left/Right arrows) but the volume controls (Function + Up/Down) show the volume adjustment on an overlay on screen but do not affect the actual system volume. Presumably this will be due to the new audio architecture in Vista so no big deal. What I am pleased about is that the dedicated hardware button to toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth works perfectly (at least it does now the wireless drivers are in place).

All Vista updates have been installed and is was then time to turn to Office 2007 and its updates – a painless install.

As I am on the OneCare Perpetual beta this has been installed as the anti-malware software of choice – we'll see how it performs.

Now that the core is ready I can get down to the serious business of ensuring that everything is set up "just so" and get back to having fun with the Tablet. It's been strange having it back for two days and not once yet flipping the screen and inking away but this is all to come again. Due to the timescales involved I've not yet used the RTM version of OneNote 2007 with Ink so I've got some interesting times ahead as I reacquaint myself with everything.

Tabby is back home.
At last, my old Acer Tablet PC came home to roost yesterday and it's good to have it back.
As promised I will be documenting the process of getting back up and running so, here goes the first installment.
Re-imaging the device with the Acer Restore CDs is a pretty simple process but does drag on a bit as, once you have reached the desktop, it runs through installing of the stuff we have come to know and love (read hate) as crapware (including a few reboots).
Once this was all removed the next step was preparing the PC for upgrade to Vista. The Acer CDs format the hard drive as FAT32 so conversion to NTFS is required for upgrade:
convert c: /FS:NTFS
As the drive is in use and can't be unmounted this happens after yet another reboot.
Now, Vista will not upgrade from XP unless Service Pack 2 is applied and, as the Acer CDs are quite old, this needed to be installed. I left this going as I went to bed and then kicked off an upgrade to Vista before leaving for work this morning.
Why have I done it this way rather than a clean install of Vista?
Acer have released Vista drivers for some of the more recent Tablets but not the C100/C110 series as they do not meet the "Vista Capable" criteria:
  • A modern processor (at least 800 MHz)
  • 512 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • A DirectX 9 capable graphics processor (GPU)

This is a shame as the PC is perfectly able to run Vista but you will obviously not get Aero due to having onboard graphics which are not DX9 compliant.

As such, I am checking how well the upgrade to Vista goes with all of the hardware button drivers etc. installed on XP first. While I was beta testing certain drivers would not install correctly on a clean install of Vista so I'll check that when I get home tonight.

Next up will be to get Office 2007 installed.

Dell missing the mark?

So, the big news last week was that Dell is finally coming out to play with the Tablet PC crowd. The announcement was made in a video posted to the Direct 2 Dell blog in which Jeff Clarke (Senior VP) said of the forthcoming Latitude Tablet PC "it is designed for the education, health care, and corporate marketplace" and simply signs off with "we're coming".

Reaction has, rather predictably, been huge as many have said that – just like with IBM/Lenovo – a Dell Tablet really legitimises the form factor. Some have said that Dell has taken too long to join the party (which Dell say has been due to waiting for Vista and the Intel ULV Santa Rosa platform) with something that looks rather like a Gateway device, while others think that this may finally draw the Tablet out of its "niche market".

Although Dell have been saying that they may be boosting sales with retail availablility (Via GottaBeMobile) the sheer fact that they are targeting their Tablet towards education, health care, and the corporate marketplace does not bode well for the future.

Dell is one of the most instantly recognisable PC brands from the consumer perspective and a concerted push could really raise the profile of Tablets in the consumer market. Dell are well versed in offering relatively cheap hardware to consumers, no doubt as they have a large economy of scale but will they be able to apply the same ethos to Tablets? Will they even want to? With a name like theirs they could easily dominate the consumer market for Tablets and drive competition which, in turn, would drive down prices. That Dell has waited so long to enter the Tablet space at all leads me to think that they will not be willing to take to the risk to dive in and lead the way. Whilst I really hope they do only time will tell.

Tabby's homecoming delayed.
You've probably noticed that there have been no Tablet PC related posts since I announced that I was going to be getting my Tablet back and that is because my Father-in-law's new employer is dragging it's heels.
He's been with them for two months now and is getting a car and a laptop but neither have turned up yet. It's a job job he's got one of each he can use or productivity could be a bit lacking ;)
It's coming home, it's coming home...
No not football (sorry if you're not from the UK and don't get the reference).
I'm actually talking about Tabby - yes, my old Acer C111TCi. After an extended absence Tabby is coming home, hopefully this week!
I actually had to give the Tablet to my Father-in-law so he could use it at work (as it helped pay for our holiday to Disneyland this year) but he's since got a new job which comes with a laptop so I'll be getting it back.
You'll all be able to follow me as I get reacquainted with an old friend and once again discover why I love the form factor so much.
I'm looking forward to it and to sharing my experiences with all of you as I take a fresh look at using a Tablet after an extended break.
You don't see that every day...
In fact, I hardly ever see it!
Today was only the second time I have ever seen a fellow commuter using a Tablet PC on the train on the way to work. It was a ThinkPad X60 with extended battery and the good thing about it was that the screen was flipped round and the guy was frantically scribbling away. Good stuff!
The only other one was an Acer C111 - the same as my old Tabby - but that was only being used in laptop mode.
I am seeing an increasing number of Windows Mobile devices though and, rumour has it, the investment bank I am currently based at is considering a move to Windows Mobile away from BlackBerry!
Congratulation Kevin Tofel - Tablet PC MVP.
Well, he may have initially thought it was a spoofed April Fool's Joke but it looks like Kevin Tofel - one half of the jkOnTheRun team - has been awarded the Microsoft MVP award for Tablet PCs.
Many congratulations Kevin :) It's well deserved!
Happy 1st birthday to
Warner Crocker has posted that yesterday (26th Feb) was the first anniversary of the launch of everyone's favourite Tablet PC news site
Things at GBM keep getting bigger with more staff, Ink shows and forums but one thing never changes: the great, quality content that Rob, Dennis, Warner, Matt and Eddie keep dishing out.
Many thanks and congratulations guys. Here's to the next year!
Windows Mobile 6 getting "proper" Ink support.
Now that  is official one of the biggest questions is always "when will we get it?" especially when talking about ROM upgrades for existing phones.
Another question that is frequently asked by Tablet PC users is "why can't I get my Ink on my Windows Mobile device?"
Well, that question may have now been answered.
The Mobile and Embedded Devices group have posted to their blog that Windows Mobile 6 now includes "a new API for Ink input and gestures" which is based on (and essentially a cut down version of) the Windows Ink Services Platform (WISP) used on Tablet PCs.
This means that strokes stored in "Ink Serialized Format" will be both viewable AND modifiable on the Windows Mobile platform. Cool!
Does this mean that Office 2007 SP1 may see a new version of OneNote Mobile which supports Ink and give you true synchronisation between your phone and Tablet PC? Let's hope so.
There's not much more info but you can read the whole posts here: Will o' the WISP Lite.
Most popular old items.
Two of my old posts are requested far more often than any of the others and these are:
Now that Vista is publicly available it's not surprising that some people with less than adequate hardware may want to try to force Glass on their device (a laptop with an integrated graphics chipset for example) although I'm pretty sure the registry hack I used during the betas was killed off.
It's surprising to see so many requests for the OMA issue, I wouldn't have thought that quite so many people would experience the same issue. As such I have decided to update and re-post the item and have taken a fresh screenshot so that it will be complete.
Craig Pringle reviews the new Toshiba R400 Tablet PC.
The new Toshiba R400 Tablet PC has been criticised for having a relatively under powered CPU and slow 4200rpm hard drive but it looks like a very slick unit with the sideshow "Edge Display" and it's innovative wireless docking station.
Craig Pringle has been loaned a review unit and he has started posting some good information.
You can check out his initial thoughts here: Review of the Toshiba R400 Tablet PC.
Tablet PC downloads for Vista.
Microsoft are quick off the mark and have made the following downloads for Tablet PCs available for Vista:
Experience Pack: This includes the apps -
Media Transfer
Copy or stream media files from your home computer to your Tablet PC, so that you can enjoy your favorite music, videos, or pictures wherever you go.

Ink Crossword
Solve crosswords on your Tablet PC using your tablet pen. Twelve puzzles come with Ink Crossword. You can also download a free daily puzzle and purchase more puzzle packs online.

Equation Writer
Easily add mathematical expressions to your papers. Handwrite a math equation, and then convert it into a neatly typewritten image to paste into a report or a presentation.

Ink Flash Cards
Create flash cards to help you learn facts or study for an exam. Handwrite a question on the front of a card and put an answer on the back. Draw, insert graphics, and add text, too.
Ink Desktop: If you have a Tablet PC, you’ll love using Ink Desktop. It’s like having a portable dry-erase board on your screen all of the time. Whenever you want, you can jot down a phone number, directions, or top priorities for the day.
Go grab 'em.
UMPCs won't run all Vista apps - big news?
James Kendrick has linked to items on CarryPad and jkkmobile which point out that a lot of UMPCs currently on the market won't run all of the apps included in Windows Vista - the two in question are Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. Both require version 2.0 (or later) vertex shaders and version 2.0 pixel shaders which (along with DX9 support) are the requirements for Glass.
This is something I have mentioned repeatedly in connection with Tablet PCs but, to be honest, I don't see why there is suddenly such a fuss over it in relation to UMPCs.
Warner Crocker over at GottaBeMobile has a healthy attitude over this and says that "tradeoffs are many in the mobile scene and will continue to be so".
While it would be nice to do some video editing on the road with a UMPC you really can't expect current units to give you the power you need in such a small package. My concern over this issue was for those using their Tablet PCs as their primary - and sometimes only - computer and this is not a position UMPC users are generally going to find themselves in whereas a number of Tablet owners do not own another PC. UMPCs are, after all, intended to be companion devices
Most Tablet PCs are not Vista Premium Ready so will have these problems and there is not much you can do about it other than buy a new unit. If you have bought a UMPC with your eyes wide open, fully aware of the specs then I don't think you can really be in a position to complain.
ModBook unveiled.
Following on from the news that Other World Computing are releasing an OSX based Tablet PC solution (note: not an official Apple product) the ModBook has now been officially unveiled and The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a slew of pictures.
You can view all the shots here: ModBook Unveiling.
Let's hope that a bit of competition has a healthy affect on the market.
Update: Loren points to a first look at the ModBook over at Arstechnica. It appears that at present you can only use the device in landscape mode but rotation will be supported when the next version of the Mac OS (Tiger) is released.
An interesting comment in the article compares the ModBook to a ThinkPad X41: "The ModBook feels better. I'm impressed" but "the handwriting recognition seems better on the X41".
Read the full item here: ModBook rules Macworld.
GottaBeMobile in geek heaven at CES.
Well, it looks like the team from GottaBeMobile are in absolute hog heaven at CES this year with plenty of good Tablet PC information coming out already.
I must admit, I'm a tad jealous ;)
As well as a two part demo of the new Toshiba R400 Tablet with it's wireless docking station (how cool is that!), there is what I've been looking forward to - a look at the new HP tx1000 Tablet PC.
Here's why I have been looking forward to the HP offering - it is the first Tablet which is being touted as a consumer device! That's right, one of my big bug bears with Tablets is finally being answered. The HP website states:
"You get Vista Home Premium, which includes Windows Aero, Windows Media Center, tablet, and instant search functionality".
At last, someone's listening! It then goes on to outline why you could also choose Vista Business or Ultimate Edition based on your requirements.
Both devices are redefining what Tablet PCs are all about - there is certainly no comprise of power or functionality with these units; the tx1000 comes with an AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core processor and the R400 with a Core Duo.
The R400 is the first device we have seen so far which utilises Windows SideShow (or Microsoft Active Notifications as it is referred to on the Toshiba website) which allows you to see important info like calendar appointments even while your device is closed.
 Edge Display
My first though about the Edge Display was that it would be too small but, then it hit me: the display is in the perfect location for maximum convenience. When carrying a laptop around you normally hold it by the edge where the hinge lies (at least I do), this means that the Edge Display will be pointing straight up at you as you move about with your Tablet - you don't even need to move it.
Both of the devices above are 12.1 inch widescreen units which I personally think is ideal for a Tablet PC with Vista installed. I used to love the ultra-portability of the Acer C111 with it's 10 inch screen but Vista ideally needs a widescreen display if you are going to be using the sidebar otherwise, on a standard 4:3 display, things feel a bit cluttered (even on my 19 inch LCD at home).
Keep watching GottaBeMobile for more information as CES continues.
Check out Tablet PC Counter.
By now, we are pretty much all familiar with sites like Techmeme and Digg which - in one way or another - present us with filtered snapshots of the current news so that we don't have to browse round hundreds of websites.
Now, Layne Heiny has posted over at What Is New about a new project that has recently taken a step forward: Tablet PC Counter.
Tablet PC Counter 
(click for full size image)
This website aims to be a community led resource for the very same community. You sign up and can submit stories as well as vote on the ones that are already there.
As Layne says:
"Sites devoted to the UMPC or Tablet PC can help promote the project by submitting their own stories" and "Bloggers may submit their own posts and hopefully drive traffic and discussions".
He hopes that it will get "discussions going on everyone's blogs, sites, and forums" and is a real way of enabling the Tablet PC and UMPC communities to share information but it will only succeed if we keep submitting the news stories and voting often. I intend to submit a couple of my recent posts.
So, head on over to Tablet PC Counter and submit any Tablet PC and UMPC stories that interest you so that the site and community can continue to grow. 
Would a Mac Tablet kick start the market?
Many people have said that they are waiting for the day that Apple release a Tablet PC as it may help to "validate" the form factor - the same would occur if Dell started making Tablets and sold them to consumers at low prices. There is no doubt that an "iTablet" would would open peoples eyes to the possibly of Pen & Ink - especially with those who do a lot of graphics work where a Mac is usually the system of choice.
It is very interesting, therefore, to see the news that broke yesterday that Other World Computing (in conjunction with Axiotron) will be launching a Mac based Tablet computer solution called the ModBook.
The Axiotron press release has the following to say:
"The Axiotron ModBook features WACOM Penabled hardware for true pen input and is fully compatible with Apple's Inkwell, a Mac OS X Tiger feature that provides system level handwriting and gesture recognition to all Mac applications. Drawing and writing directly on the screen provides for a uniquely intuitive user experience and its slim, slate-style form factor makes the ModBook the ultimate companion for mobile users, artists, professionals and students."
Whilst this is not a Tablet offering direct from Apple it is a significant step in the right direction and, if it takes off, may have consumers questioning why Apple have never taken the plunge themselves. If sales are high it may even prompt Apple to rethink their position on the Tablet form factor.
It remains to be seen how Inkwell will compare to the PC experience but I cannot imagine that the device would be pitched towards artists if Inkwell wasn't up to the task.
As mentioned above, the presence of an Apple based tablet in the Market will - in some peoples eyes at least - help to validate the Tablet platform. I can imagine that sales would be high (especially in the US) thus creating some healthy competition which in turn could prompt more people to have another look at the Windows based offerings. As Craig says, this may just be the jolt that Microsoft and the Tablet PC OEMs need to initiate some proper promotion of the Windows based Tablet offerings.
As the ModBook uses Wacom hardware we could also be looking at the possibility of people running the Vista editions with Tablet PC functionality on Mac based hardware - things could get interesting.
If a Mac based Tablet solution does cause Apple to rethink their position then you can guarantee that an official Apple Tablet would be designed and marketed with the exact same attention to detail and consistency that I mentioned yesterday lodging the product well and truly in the minds of consumers. This has got to be a good thing for the whole of the tabletscape.
Loren Heiny points to an article in the Guardian in which David Sobotta argues that Apple would not launch a Tablet but if the ModBook shows that there is sufficient demand the whole thing is left wide open. Loren also suggests that Apple could get one over on Microsoft by acquiring Wacom: "Most Tablet manufacturers use the Wacom digitizer behind their displays. If Apple acquired Wacom, in one step most Tablets would have to then go through Apple. It would own key digitizer patents. And it would give Apple a tremendous edge in terms of developing the next generation digitizer/display combination". This is a scary thought and would completely change the face of tablet computing were it ever to occur.
We will have to wait and see what develops.
Craig agrees.
Craig Pringle (Tablet PC MVP) agrees with my thoughts in the Open letter to Microsoft but would extend the arguments to just about the rest of the world outside of the US, and possibly Canada. He even volunteers his services to do demos if anyone wants to set up a roadshow in his area.
In a way, it's good that someone else feels the same way that I do - especially if they are an MVP who has access to a lot more resources that I do. It is also disappointing, however, that this appears to be a global problem.
James is not quite sure and raises the 'killer' app question again. He suggests that the lack of a killer app for certain business may be why Tablets haven't taken off in UK business.
Firstly, his comment focuses on the enterprise and ignores that fact that the Tablet PC can be a fantastic consumer device - just look at their use in schools in the US.
Secondly, the lack of a killer app for any particular business area may also be because of a lack of knowledge of/experience with Tablets. Unfortunately, there is a Catch-22 situation at play: developers may not target the Tablet as the uptake is too small and the uptake won't increase because the required apps aren't available.
Speak to most Tablet PC enthusiasts and they will tell you that OneNote is as good a place to start as any if you are looking for a killer application (the 2007 version is even better). Whilst not intended as just a Tablet app it really comes in to it's own once you start working in Ink.
Still, we need to get away from the idea that a Tablet is just a business machine. They need to be available via retail channels and retailers must be advised how to sell them instead of treating them as just another laptop.
With regards to my comments about the Zune James says that it doesn't "represent a huge market for MS" but, in my opinion, it's not just about the direct revenue from a particular product line; it should be about brand/product recognition and placement, and an overall concept. If you look at Apple, for example, anything they produce is treated in essentially the same way - similar and consistent marketing creating an overall brand image. We also have the Apple shops that really get the products noticed in the retail sector. OK, Apple are a bit different in that they also produce their own computers but it is the idea that is important, the whole ethos behind sales.
Open letter to Microsoft for 2007.
Anyone who reads my blog will know that I am a big fan of Microsoft software and it is very much my "weapon of choice". If it wasn't I wouldn't spend a lot of time testing on various MS beta programs. I also like their hardware offerings in regards to mice and keyboards and would recommend them in a second.
Despite having to get rid of my Acer last year I am still a very big supporter of, and believer in, the Tablet PC form factor but, as I have said many times in the past, it is so frustrating to see the lack of promotion in the UK.
Why not get together with OEMs and make a concerted effort to really push the form factor. What about roadshows or getting together with retailers to show them how Tablets should be marketed? Why not get MVPs or enthusiasts along to perform demos?
As mentioned a while back, Eileen Brown (MS UK evangelist) wants to get together with bloggers to help influence the way MS UK do things. There is one simple thing which needs to be done - to get out in the community more and get a presence - if not directly then by partnerships with others and OEMs are the obvious choice. The large trade shows are all held outside of the UK and people generally don't get a chance to get hands on with gear so the UK market stagnates. Efforts need to be made to really push technology under peoples noses.
The latest example of MS being US-centric is the Zune. The Zune was released to great fanfare (eventually) on the 14th November in the US. According to a UK newspaper today
we should be expecting the Zune to get rolled out on this side of the pond in October but, as well all know, these things tend to slip.
In fact, in an interview with, Gordon Frazer (MS UK MD) said:
"At this stage we have no firm plans to launch anywhere else globally. Does this mean we'll launch in the UK? I can't tell you when [it will launch] for sure and I can't even necessarily tell you if."
He went on to say that they would look at the US and learn their lessons before making any decisions but wouldn't it surely be better to start with a smaller, more manageable market before a roll-out on the scale of the US?
OK, so I could get a Zune imported but what about getting it set up? Can you even use a Zune properly in the UK bearing in mind there is no localised Market Place?
I hope Eileen does manage to get something sorted (it's a shame no-one else has commented on their favourite UK bloggers yet) so that perhaps the face of Microsoft in this country is seen a bit more.
Come on Microsoft. Get out there and get involved in the UK.
You may have read this and think that I'm having a pointless rant, but I genuinely believe that things should change in the UK as far as technology adoption is concerned and am convinced that Microsoft could really lead the way.
If you've come to this post directly you might also like to check out this follow-up: Craig Agrees.
Time to get an extra blogger?
OK, so this is something I've been mulling over for a while now and would appreciate any feedback you may have to offer.
As you probably know, I am currently without a Tablet PC and, in all honesty, am likely to stay that way for quite a while unless someone wants to send me a freebie review unit ;)
As such I feel I am not able to offer decent Tablet PC coverage. I can recycle the news and give editorial comment but am no longer able to give you the kind of up to my elbows real world stuff that you had become accustomed to. I was therefore wondering if it might be a good time to double the staff and see if I could get someone else to post the juicy "hands-on" stuff.
What I would like to know from you dear reader is if you think it's a good idea? Or even if there's anyone out there who's UK based with a Tablet who loves to extol it's virtues.
This blog (throughout it's various guises) has been my voice to the world for over three years and it will be strange sharing it, but if James can do it I'm sure that I can.
If you would like any more info then don't hesitate to or leave a comment.
The floor, as they say, is yours
What does 2007 hold for Tablet PCs?
Now that Vista has shipped to OEMs and is due to be available to consumers in just over a month (30th Jan) I find myself wondering how this will affect Tablet PCs.
Now, we already know that the UMPC will really be the flavour of the month at CES with a number of manufacturers (supposedly) lined up to give us new offerings but things seem to have gone a bit quiet on the Tablet front. We have recently had the Lenovo X60 which proves to be Premium Ready based on Dennis Rice's tests but very little else.
Are Tablet OEMs waiting until after Vista is available before putting together new units? If so, why? We know what hardware is required to run it well. Manufacturers of other form factors are releasing machines with free upgrades to Vista (or only a small charge in some cases) so why aren't Tablet OEMs following the same route?
Marketing has always been a big issue for Tablets and I think this needs to change drastically in 2007 with the arrival of Vista. It prompts the question "which SKU will OEMs use?"
Tablet functionality will be available in the following SKUs:
 - Home Premium
 - Business
 - Enterprise, and
 - Ultimate
I can imagine that the Business Edition of Vista will come pre-installed on most Tablet PCs as OEMs seem intent on targeting corporate users and not taking advantage of the large consumer market out there.
When you consider that the Home Premium Edition of Vista will also include the new version of Media Center (which I personally think is great and often use it instead of WMP11) this seems an ideal time to try to capture the imagination of home users otherwise, why include the Tablet functionality in a Home SKU?
OK, some owners may opt for this version when upgrading the OS on their existing Tablets but this may be limited as their is no guarantee that OEMs are going to make drivers available for "legacy systems" (just look at Toshiba and the M200).
Vista seems to be geared towards widescreen monitors - the sidebar feels cluttered when enabled on a standard 4:3 screen - and hardware seems to be following suit. So why not continue down this route with Tablets (I know that some convertibles are already widescreen). Personally, I would love a medium sized, widescreen convertible with Vista and Media Center - I think this would offer me the best mix of productivity and entertainment all in one package. Yes, a UMPC might be more flexible in some circumstances due to it's size, a full Tablet would suit me better.
I know I have blogged about this before (and it still bugs me) but, until recently, the only Tablet PC available to buy retail in the UK was the Toshiba R10. This was available via PC World but has now finally been dropped from the website after being "end of line" for months (although I did see one in a store not too long ago). The only problem was that it was being sold as just another laptop - the only mention of "Tablet" was where it said Windows XP Tablet Edition with no explanation of what that was exactly.
Why the continuing reluctance to broaden the target audience?
Great stock is made in the US of the value of Tablet PCs in education and I agree that families can make great use of Tablets. I know that whenever I let either of my kids near my old Acer they loved interacting with it using the stylus - I think it tied in with their desire to learn how to write and draw. If this is instinctive in kids more should be made of it! Who knows, the grown-ups could get something out of it as well.
UMPCs are also falling foul of a similar failure. The original Origami viral campaign really got the imagination running wild but come launch nothing was done to follow up on this and keep the consumers interested. Consequently, it is mainly tech enthusiasts who know they exist, let alone buy one.
It can't be assumed that things will take care of themselves. The maxim "If you build it, they will come" just doesn't hold true in today's consumer driven society. When we are constantly bombarded with information by those wanting to part us with our hard earned cash a failure to marketing both properly and consistently will result in products falling by the wayside. Our attention span is short and we need constant reminders.
Inking in the Vista Sidebar - cool!
Loren Heiny is well known for using his coding skills to enhance the Tablet PC user experience and his latest project is no exception.
Cue the Inkable Vista Sidebar Gadget. It's currently in it's infancy but so far shows great promise. How cool is it to just be able to pick up your Tablet and scribble a couple of notes WITHOUT having to open any apps!
 Inkable gadget
Get the full details in Loren's post here: Inkable Sidebar Gadget in Vista using WPF.
UPDATE: Loren has made his initial version of the gadget available for download so why not grab it here: Vista InkPad Sidebar Gadget download.
Vista Tips for Tablet users.
The MS Tablet PC team has posted a number of tips for Tablet users who have installed Vista.
One very interesting point is in relation to the new "Orb" Start button.
 Orb Start button
Apparently, the new button can cause performance issues in some applications when running full screen on older graphics hardware. As the button protruds above the level of the taskbar when set to the default height it forces a "non-rectangular clipping operation" which can slow things down. Setting the taskbar to a height of 2 rows, or docking it at the side of the screen solves this.
For the full set of tips read the post here:  Windows Vista Secrets for Tablet PC?
More ThinkPad X60 goodness at GBM.
After Warner reviewed the high res version of the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC we were awaiting the thoughts of Dennis Rice on the "MultiTouch" edition.
Well, wait no longer as his first-look is up. He also has a look at the UltraBase docking station.
Head on over to GottaBeMobile to take a peek: Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC MultiTouch and Ultrabase.
GBM and the Lenovo Secret Mission.
In true James Bond style, Warner and Dennis over at GottaBeMobile have been talking about a secret mission for a while now. We need wait no more to find out what it is:
- they have interviewed Mike Hagerty (Worldwide Segment Manager for the ThinkPad X series) (see this post at GBM for the link) regarding the launch of the new, eagerly awaited ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC.
As if that wasn't enough, they've been given a couple of units to play with, I mean test and review ;)
Warner has already put together an InkShow showing off the SXGA+ high res option he was supplied which you can view here: GottabeMobile Exclusive Video Review of the Lenovo X60 ThinkPad Tablet PC.
Great work guys!
Still here...
Wow, has it really been three weeks! It's just so easy to get out of the blogging groove and at such an exciting time.
So, what's been happening? The list goes on:
  • Office 2007 RTM
  • Windows Vista RTM
  • loads of gear to drool over and not afford
  • looking for a new job
The past couple of weeks have seen a few of my bugs lined up for consideration for a servoce pack etc. so they were obviously not deemed worthy of being blockers - more annoyances ;)
I hope to get the chance to play with the final builds of both Office and Vista through work sooner rather than later but I don't know if it will actually happen - I'll ask a few questions.
Gear to drool over? I was specifically thinking about the Asus R1F Tablet and their UMPC (see Hugo's blog). That tablet looks nice, and with a Core 2 Duo inside will be awesome. Hey, Santa - I've been good. Honest! And the Zune looks pretty interesting.
I've also been vaguely thinking about how much it will cost to build a Core 2 Duo desktop for Vista and it's not at all bad - I could probably do it for between £400 - £500 (with a lower end processor nicely overclocked).
I'm still in love with my Vario II Pocket PC and am constantly tweaking it and installing/uninstalling software. OK, perhaps a bit too much as I've had to do a couple of hard resets to tidy things up ;)
Yes, the CV has been updated and I am looking around to see what other jobs are out there. I'm not entirely sure what I'm after at present but one thing I DO know is that I'm going to maintain a work/life balance. Yes we all want a big fat pay rise but it's not going to come at the expense of time with my family.
Right, that's a little catch up for now. I hope to keep things moving along a bit better.
Vista still not catering for small screens.
Back in July I submitted a but that the Windows Easy Transfer Wizard would not run in Portrait mode on my old Acer Tablet.
The Acer had a 10inch screen which, in Portrait, had a resolution of 768x1024. The wizard failed with the error "Windows Easy Transfer requires a screen resolution of 800x600 or higher". Obviously, the wizard would run in Landscape mode but why should you been forced to change orientation just to use a simple wizard?
Now, Craig Pringle, has hit a similar barrier trying to use the Speech Recognition tutorial on his LS800. This time the system wants a resolution of at least 1024x768!
 Speech Recognition error
This strikes me as a ridiculous situation.
Check out Craig's full post here: Checking out Vista speech and... What the?
Ink search in Vista.
I've said for a while that Microsoft have really missed the boat in terms of integrating Ink usage in to the core OS as far as Vista is concerned. One of the key areas where they could have done so much with so little would be to have Ink enabled the quick search boxes throughout the UI, e.g. the one on the Start Menu:
 Vista Quick Search
Now, Craig Pringle - Tablet PC MVP - has decided that enough is enough and started coding his own little app which does the job, he's called it SearchPad!
This places a search icon in the Notification area, tap it and you get an Inkable search area. Ink your search term, click the button and voila! Search Pad
Great stuff Craig! I'm going to have to get another Tablet just to give this a go ;)
GottaBeMobile forums go live.
While we're on the subject of new stuff I urge you to get on over to GottaBeMobile and sign up for their new forums for all your Tablet PC and Mobile Tech discussion needs.
You can read all the details in Dennis' post here: GottaBeMobile hits high gear with Forums and more!
Calling all UK Tablet PC owners.
Rob over at is tired of being isolated as a UK Tableteer and has come up with the idea of the Tablet Users of Britain Club, or TUB for short.
If you are a Tableteer in the UK then head on over to his blog and drop him a note with your details. Read all about TUB here:  
Go on, be a Tabby TUBby!
A Tablet in the real world.
You may or may not already know that Warner Crocker, part of the great team over at, is the Artistic Director for the Wayside Theatre in Middletown, Virginia which has a growing reputation for putting on excellent shows.
As part of his daily routine Warner tries to encompass his love of mobile technology and Tablets in particular. By using his Tablet PC to take notes and even edits scripts and stage notes on the fly he is really make good use of the technology to hand.
Warner has recently been sharing his experiences surrounding the staging of a new production of Othello in a series of posts at his Wicked Stage blog called The Othello Diaries and as a culmination to this has arranged that readers of GottabeMobile or his Wicked Stage blog can go to see the play for free! How cool is that!
You can read more info over at Life on the Wicked Stage or at so, if you're in the area or even a not too far drive away, head on over and show your support. Shame I'm over in the UK.
Tablet/UMPC marketing interview.
Anyone who has read the previous incarnation of this blog for a while will know that one of my main gripes with Tablet PCs has been the lack of a cohesive marketing strategy. Now, Rob over at has conducted an interview with Mika Krammer, the Director of Windows Client Mobility at Microsoft, and the interview focuses on how MS will look at the marketing of Tablets and UMPCs in the run up to Vista and beyond.
The things I take from the interview are that it is a long term investment to plan marketing so things may not change very quickly but the news that a number of well known OEMs will be entering the Tablet space with "reasonably priced" devices in the Vista time frame is great news.
Check out the full interview/Audio Inkshow here: Mika Krammer Podcast InkShow
OnTheRun with Tablet PCs #28.
James and Marc continue their look at all things Tablet devoting a large potion of the show to Vista now that the RC1 build has been released to testers.
Check it out here: OnTheRun with Tablet PCs #28.
Goodbye Tabby.
Today's the day. By the time I get home from work the Tablet will be at it's new home. Emotional times.
I spent the last couple of evenings re-imaging it with the Acer restore CDs, removing all the 'crapware' and getting it ready for use. I had installed the Pre-RC1 build of Vista but, as has happened with a few of the interim builds, there were issues with the hardware buttons and the Acer drivers.
It's going to be strange not having Tabby there but the impact should be minimal as it doesn't get the use it deserves.
'Inklings' need reassurance.
Let me reassure you that just because I will be sans Tablet it doesn't mean that I am losing the faith. I am still very much of the opinion that Tablet PCs offer the best flexibility in terms of size/power/performance/functionality. I am merely moving to a form factor that currently better fits my requirements and life style.
I have no doubt that post-vista I will be back with another Tablet - I think it will an excellent experience once OEMs start producing machines designed for Vista with all the driver issues resolved.
jk and Marc Orchant in this week's edition of OnTheRun with Tablet PCs say that Glass shouldn't be considered a reason to buy/not to buy a PC for use with Vista but I would remind you that if your hardware cannot handle glass and you want this to be your primary/only PC then you will also NOT be able to run Windows Movie Maker or Windows DVD Maker. As such you WILL need to be careful when purchasing a 'Vista ready' PC.
Testing Vista on the Acer has really brought home it's limitations now that it is nearly 2.5 years old and I think this contributed at lot to my previous tech-apathy. I will continue to test Vista on my main desktop.
I aim to continue posting about Tablets and UMPCs and will no doubt have a bit to say about various issues so you can still expect some Tablet related content to flow from this corner of the UK.
Sans Tablet.
You may need to sit down as this will come as a bit of a shock...
As of Thursday I will be without a Tablet PC, I am giving it away! Yes, you read that correctly, I am giving away my Acer C111Tci which I have had since May 2004. It's going to my Father-in-Law who will be using it primarily as a laptop for work purposes.
So, why would I do this? To be perfectly honest, I hardly ever use it these days and do very little inking. I don't use it for work and, even if I wanted to, would not be allowed to connect it up to the work network as it does not run on an approved build of Windows.
I carry it to work and back with me but it only rarely comes out whilst on the train as I am usually standing for most of the journey. I frequently use my phone on the train as I can quickly check my mail or browse the odd website on a device with a very small footprint. Now with the Vario II this experience will be even better.
There is every possibility, nay probability, that I will invest in a new Tablet sometime in 2007 after Vista has been released and OEMs really start building devices geared toward the new OS but for now, I have no real reason to own a Tablet when the SmartPhone will do just about everything I need when out and about.
Should Microsoft delay Vista again?
I've said all along that with Vista Microsoft should ship a stable product rather than just getting it out of the door to meet a deadline so it was good to see that they weren't afraid to put the general release back to Jan 2007. Now, however, it is becoming apparent that many do not think that Vista will be RTM-worthy by October in order to hit this target.
Robert McLaws over at Longhorn Blogs has written "The Entry I Didn't Want To Write" and has sparked a big discussion over whether Vista will be ready to RTM, what can be done about it and how long MS should consider delaying it to ensure that it is ready. Robert is adamant that things should change and that RC1 and RTM should be moved back by 4-6 weeks.
Scoble agrees that Microsoft should consider a delay and says of Vista "This sucker is just not ready. Too many things are too slow and/or don’t work".
Ed Bott also feels that Vista is not ready but, rather than the 4-6 week delay suggested by Robert, he suggests that Vista should not ship until the end of March!
It is recommended that an extra Beta 3 is introduced prior to RC1 and this could only be to the benefit of the product but it still doesn't detract from the fact that Vista is to be a shadow of what was originally promised (e.g. the loss of features such as WinFS) or what it has the potential to be.
Great stock has been made of the joining of the different "editions" in to one package but I feel that compromise is inevitable if you try to make Vista all things to all people. There is an argument to putting MCE functionality in all SKUs but I firmly believe that the Tablet Edition should be retained and keep it's own individual development path. Tablets are a specific animal and should therefore not be compromised. Imagine the difference direct in-line ink controls would have made to Vista. Josh Einstein with TEO, Christian Falch with Ink Everywhere and Imran Qureshi with InkIE Address Bar all show us how direct Ink integration SHOULD work.
While I really like the improvements to navigation with a pen in Vista, from a general consumer point of view (and not with my geek head on) Vista is becoming more and more frustrating. Take away Glass and there is very little that will make the average user take stock and think "Why wasn't it always like that?". Unless you can really demonstrate that things are bigger, better and faster then Vista may appear to be change for changes sake to many.
Should Vista get a Beta 3? Undoubtedly if it's not ready and will enable Microsoft to release a better product but should the question really be "Should Vista really have been sent back to the drawing board and started again?"
Were Microsoft unreasonable in their expectations as to what the new OS could achieve and could be? We have had the cream of PC developers working flat out on a product only to go one step forward, two steps back.
I have no doubt that Tablet platform development has been compromised by lumping it in with the Vista "Uber-edition". Tablets are all about the flexibility they afford and the input and I have to say that Johnny 5 would be most disappointed: "Major Input" is not a reality with Vista - or even Office 2007 - on a Tablet.
GottaBeMobile interview with Jim Forbes.
Warner Crocker, over at, has posted an excellent interview with Jim Forbes of ForbesOnTech fame. Jim is definitely not shy with his opinions and it is very refreshing to hear him wax lyrical with some very insightful ideas.
One such idea is that Tablets are going to need considerably more video RAM that we currently think.
As I said a little while ago, graphics capabilities are going to play a big part in the success of Tablets going forward once Vista hits the shelves and it's not just Glass. If you haven't got a graphics card/chipset that supports version 2 shaders (as well as having adequate graphics memory) then you won't even be able to use all of the functionality within Vista - Movie Maker and DVD Maker won't run unless you've got adequate hardware.
If Tablet OEMs are going to make a serious push to get Tablets taken seriously as primary computers - or maybe even a sole computer - then they need to ensure that they take their responsibilities seriously and provide hardware that can actually cut it while keeping the costs at a reasonable level.
Come 2007, and Tablets pre-installed with Vista, it would be a very foolish OEM that ships devices with sub-standard hardware. If they do they will just be left behind.
Using the Tablet OS on a small screen.
Prolific Tablet PC blogger Craig Pringle has been using a Motion LS800 and (out of necessity) has put together a great series of posts on getting the most out of the Tablet OS and applications on a small screen.
If you've already got a smaller device and are looking to optimise your experience, or are considering getting one don't know if you'll cope with the reduce resolution then these posts are a must read. Check them out here:
And now:
Vista Pen Flicks on the Tablet PC.
Not had a chance to play with Vista on a Tablet yet? Well, one of the most useful new navigation features for the stylus are Pen Flicks which I took a look at on the previous version of the blog.
Pen flicks
Now, Rob over at has put together an InkShow giving a full demo of the capabilities of Flicks.
While Vista is desperately lacking in Ink integration, Microsoft have done a pretty good job of improving the pen based navigation.
I urge you to go and view the InkShow, you can watch if here: Vista and Tablet PCs - A Pen Flick InkShow.
Vista continues to fail the Tablet.
Rob Bushway is continuing his examination of how Microsoft has really missed the boat as far as integrating Ink in to Vista is concerned and I wholeheartedly agree.
His latest point is something I was also going to raise: the lack of Ink support in SideBar gadgets, more specifically the Notes gadget.
Looking like a mini version of Sticky Notes this should really be a prime candidate for integrated Ink support, but again Microsoft have failed to take the initiative.
Following on from Rob's posts the prime locations for integrated Ink input have to be:
  • search
  • the Run box
  • Notes fields in the Calendar and Contacts
  • Windows Mail
  • captions for items in the Photo Gallery, and why not Ink annotations directly on the items themselves

Now that WinFS is no longer part of Vista we have also lost the extended file attributes such as notes and keywords - these would also have been an ideal place for Inking.

But it is not just the lack of Ink support that shows a lack of support for Tablets.

While there is a tendancy for new Tablet models to have 14 inch screens there are a lot of devices with 12 inch screens or less where the screen resolution is 1024x768, or rather 768 x 1024 in portrait mode which is how slates are going to be by default.

As part of my Beta testing I have been going though each icon on the Start Menu and in the Control Panel in turn and kicking the tyres of each application/feature. I arrived at the Windows Easy Transfer icon and tapped only to be greeted by the error "Windows Easy Transfer requires a screen resolution of 800x600 or greater". Why force a Tablet user to change their screen orientation just to use this tool? Why can the UI not adapt itself and reduce it's width by 32 pixels?

When you consider that Microsoft is supposed to be championing the Tablet form factor you cannot help but be left with the opinion that they are falling far short of the mark.

Initial thoughts about Vista build 5456 on the Tablet.
I deliberately took a few days out to spend some extra time with Windows Vista build 5456 before posting any reactions. I wanted to take the time to give it a reasonable chance rather than posting some knee-jerk reactions, as well as submit bugs before raising issues in a public forum.
As I mentioned previously, the Beta 2 build was buggy and it's a shame that this was the build released for public consumption. Build 5456 clears up a number of issues experienced within Beta 2 and has improved my opinion of the OS considerably.
Build 5456 is the first build that plays nicely with all of the hardware buttons on my Acer C110 Tablet - even the 'press and hold' functionality works which, essentially, gives an extra 6 actions that can be triggered without having to flip the screen and dive for the keyboard or follow a convoluted series of taps with the pen. Once the Acer Program launcher, Hardware Button drivers and wireless device control are all installed everything works as expected which is a big relief after the numerous frustrations of previous builds.
The Windows Mobile Device Center will now connect to my SmartPhone but only using the Quick Connect Option which is a real shame. The Center has been altered since Beta 2 so it automatically checks for softwar updates when opened. After the check, however, it reports that the software which would allow me to create a partnership is not available. Perhaps it's just because I have a WM2003 phone and not WM5 and the full driver set is not yet available.
I hav always thought that the new Network Center is overly complicated and also had a number of issues with it in Beta 2. Build 5456 has made me re-think this position. In this build I find it much easier to manage my connections, especially wireless. Whether it is just because the performance has improved considerably or that bugs have been ironed out I don't know, but the build makes it 'feel' much simpler to use that in previous builds. I don't think ther has been any change to the layout and functionality.
Rob Bushway has posted over at a list of the things he likes about Vista so check out his thoughts here: What I'm loving about Vista.
My posts in the past have highlighted a number of ways the UI has been improved which help navigation with a pen (selection via checkboxes, TIP auto-complete) etc. but I will always argue that Microsoft should have done much more to integrate Ink directly in to the operating system. Rob also takes a stand in his other Vista post here: Vista and Ink - a missed opportunity.
UPDATE: according to the Connect website, the Network Center in build 5456 "has some brand new UI and bug fixes" which may well explain the differences in my perception of how it operates.
Beyond the bullet.
As you may have already read in other places (e. g. Paul Thurrott's WinSuperSite) Vista Beta 2 was a bit of a bug laden train wreck. I had numerous problems with it and was incredibly disappointed.
Well, with the release of vista build 5456 to testers I have decided to go one stage further than "biting the Vista bullet". Reviews have so far been positive for this build and I have, therefore, repartitioned the drive in my Tablet and now installed this build as the ONLY operating system.
The news so far is very positive!
More to follow.
Biting the Vista bullet.
One of the annoyances I have bug about previous builds of Vista was the inability to sync files with my SmartPhone using the new Window Mobile Center.
Well, now Tekmaven over at has reported that an update for the Windows Mobile Center has been posted to Connect which gives full synching functionality including OneNote Mobile Beta!
I'm away over the weekend but will bite the bullet on Sunday night and install Vista Beta 2 on the tablet (Glass or no Glass).
More news to follow...
The state of play.
So, what have I been up to for the past 6 weeks?
It may actually surprise you to know that I haven't installed Beta 2 of Windows Vista yet! I know, shocking isn't it. I don't get much of a chance to test on the main desktop at home - it's too awkward to dual boot and keep swapping between OSes whenever Sal or I want to use the PC.
Why haven't I installed it on my Tablet? To be perfectly blunt, the Acer C111 just can't cut it anymore. I think this may have a lot to do with my current "tech-apathy". I have fallen out of love with my Tablet!
Before you start panicking, I am still totally in bed with the whole concept. The flexibility and freedom that mobile computing, ink etc. provide are unparalleled and make for an excellent user experience but it is just a shame that my current hardware just can't keep up. In fact, before a couple of days ago I hadn't picked up the Tablet for over a month.
I have tried to change that over the past day or two and have been bringing the Tablet to work so that I can encourage myself to get back in the ink habit a bit more.
The disappointing debut of the UMPC format has not helped the mobile computing space despite a lot of people recognising that they could fill a very valid gap in the market between PDAs/SmartPhones and Laptops/Tablets. I think that these devices - being under-powered and over priced - has also helped in dampening my enthusiasm.
The spark needs to be rekindled.