On Tablets – or the DA

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While I have been focussing on mobile, exspecially pocketable computing during the last years, watching what was happening in the wide range from smartphones to subnotebooks, i almost ignored tablets.
Lately tablets have become popular again, at least I feel like that. While TabletPCs only attracted a few and convertibles always were to bulky or expensive in comparison to classical laptops for the most of us, we are facing an armada of new tablets. Ok, most of them are rumors, and others wonĀ“ t make it to market – but some will; Apple is said to work on a tablet device, Microsoft might be, many MIDs are using a small tablet like form factor, PixelQi stated that they work on a tablet as well. And I have to mention the CrunchPAD.

Time for my personal tablet vision!

As always, what I will try to point out is inspired by my personal needs. And my personal needs are inspired by what I do. So what do I do? I listen to lots of lectures at university, taking notes on blank or dotted paper. Lots of notes. About 50 – 100 pages a week or so. As you may imagine piles of paper clutter my room. And to be frank: I hate that.

I have been trying many things during the last years, like doing my writings on a netbook or using my cellphones microphone to record the lectures. In fact, I got back to paper, as it works best for me – it is just more convenient to draw and underline important things, to make annotations…

But then there are these piles of paper, again. I learned how to order them, but it takes time, lots of time. And time is money.

Tablets. Most of them seem to be aimed at internet use, and yes, unless you want to write texts and just like to surf around, they may be quite handy at that task – but rethink: Tablets are relatively thin. There are such things as digitizers. WouldnĀ“ t a tablet and a digitizer make a nice pen and paper replacement? I suppose so.

Hardware. Well, tablets like I would like to see them, donĀ“ t have to be more performant than your workstation is. Of course not – something between the application performance of a high end smarthone and a CULV powered subnotebook should be just fine (sounds like ARM Cortex A8..) ; battery life (preferably all day (8 hours +))and size (thickness (not more than 2 centimeters) is more important than performance on these. Screen. Well, I always liked the OLPCs screen technology, and as PixelQi even managed to improve that, this would be the favourite choice. Touch, of course. Preferably multi touch. And a digitizer, to have a pen.
Screen size? Well, i am not sure – something between 7 (nice to carry) and 12 inch (more size for drawings). And the rest? Wireless connectivity is a must, USB (OTG) always nice, (Āµ)SD great for storage, a microphone, loudspeaker, integrated microphone/headphone jack, a video port for presentations.

Software. I donĀ“ t really care about the software (though i prefer free software), as long as there is a mode to use it as pen and paper as easy and distraction free as possible.
Then, of course, this “paper mode” should have features like handwriting recognition – well, this sentence is about to become too long, so IĀ“ ll try to list things up:
– archive, calendar-sensitive (e.g. attribute the note to a certain meeting)
– tagging by underlining
– ablility to show pdf (or other docs in the “background” (annotation mode)
Of course there are other nice to haves I would like to see, e.g. Text To Speech and Voice Recognition – to make the lack of a keyboard less of a problem, to make this device a real productive one. Collaboration features, of courseā€¦

ThatĀ“ s why I would call it DA (Digital Assistant) ;)

BTW: There is one product announced today that at least comes close (speaking of hardware), a 10.4” tablet by MOTO.