Filling the Tablet Hole

This is a guest post by my old friend and collaborator, Robin Lubbock

I’m still waiting for this hole in the market to fill in. It’s the tablet hole. The space for a viewer/reader/player about the size of a novel. It’s easy to type on, it runs apps like an iPhone and everybody’s going to love it. But it’s not here yet.

 
Apple’s iPhone, let’s be frank, isn’t that wonderful a piece of technology. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture: nice to look at and hold, and it’s just the right weight. But now that I’ve had mine for a year it has such a lag in its response time that it’s actually somewhat entertaining. You type, then sit back and after what seems like seconds you watch the keyboard apparently hitting keys of its own accord. Like one of those old pianos that plays itself, the keys moving in that wonderful ghostly way.

 
One impact the iPhone has had on me (and I’m sure I’m not alone) is that I now find myself touching screens everywhere and expecting them to do something. Of course by and large they don’t, which is disappointing. David Pogue had an article in the Times this week about screens that play images and music, but aren’t touch sensitive. He points out that one of the screens he reviews looks as if it was originally designed to be touch sensitive. But it isn’t. Either the market won’t bear the cost, or the technology won’t bear the burden.

 
Manufacturers of tablet sized computers still seem to be stuck with the choice between power and portability. So you have a rash of e-readers that aim to trickle out their power over a long time, and so have slow two-tone screens that can’t be asked to do very much.

 
Add to that the absence of a standardized platform for e-books and you’ve created an unmanageable mess of choices for users.

 
Somewhere on the heels of the Kindle and Sony’s e-reader, you’ll soon have Plastic Logic’s business e-reader (see demo): a reader that’s aimed at people who like to print out documents before they read them. This may sound a little bizarre as a business proposition, but the reader does have a touch sensitive (if rather slow) screen. This alone puts it ahead of other readers. But how will people with Kindle accounts use it?

 
These are murky waters, but they are turbulent with activity and they will clear one day. I hope it’s one day soon.

The Pain of Fingers Dancing on a Touchpad

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Before I leave the poor folks at Nokia alone, I must take issue with one more thing about their promotional videos for their new Booklet.

Touchpads are mostly poorly used; I’ve only seen a handful of people who can use them well (I’m not one) and more quickly than a mouse. If you’re going to focus on them in a promo video make sure you find one of these people, because frankly there’s nothing worse than watching someone try to navigate via a trackpad. It’s like watching a funeral.

Oh, and another thing. Get a good hand model. Not someone with weird colored fingernails and a hands with veins and tendons so prominent even the painted fingernails don’t distract attention from them.

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How Not to Disintermediate

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With traditional media on the rocks, there are lots of opportunities for companies and organisations to  disintermediate: to project themselves directly to the public. Indeed, in some ways, this is the future.

But here’s how not to do it: to put a guy from the PR department in front of one of the senior folks and let him babble. The result is always awkward half sentences linked rehearsed (and usually quite obviously, and badly) lines from some media training session that ooze jargonish phrases that a real journalist would never let pass.

Things like these (with their translations alongside) from the Nokia Booklet 3G interview with John Hwang, its designer.

“nokia’s all about connecting people” = we make mobile phones

“further strengthening our device portfolio” = we’ve got a lot of different models. You’re confused? Try working here.

“mobile heritage” (repeated by the interviewer, as if it’s a phrase we all use in our daily lives: “honey, could you look in the drawer at our device portfolio and see if there’s something there from our mobile heritage we could lend the kids for sleepover?”) = we have to acknowledge we mainly make mobile phones, but we’re trying to make it sound like that’s our past. Just like our “tree-felling heritage”

“connected services” = the Internet

“all day performance” = the battery won’t give out on ya

“mobile design language” = we design mobile phones. Well we used to. Now we want to be thought of as computer manufacturers

“launched from our mobility statement” = I have no idea what this means.

(And the PR guy keeps saying “we” and then correcting himself to say “nokia”.)

If you’re going to do this kind of thing, do it right. PR guys should not be afraid of asking questions real journalists would ask, including tough ones. (Interestingly, the only tough question here is one the interviewee asks himself.)