I've been searching for the right technology to fill my needs for both a toy, and a practical business tool that is a touchscreen and can also be used when I need to do real work.
Lets face it, this new wave of "slate" tablet type thingies like ipad and the onslaught of chinese clones, may be good for taking notes and browsing media, but ultimately are very weak when it comes to doing real work on anything. If you can't easily copy/paste content from application to application, or open complex spreadsheets on your tablet, then it ceases to be an effective tool for most computer professionals.
Lets talk about what a real business tablet looks like.I've tried my hand at an iPad, several Android tablets, and even a hackintosh Dell Mini, all trying to find a few common things: 1) portability, 2) some level of productivity, and 3) coolness factor for meetings or geek gatherings. Some might argue that there is a necessary 4) durability.
iPad has 1 and 3, some Android tablets have 1 and 3. The dell mini has 1 and 2. I've even tried some other hopefuls -- the Lenovo S10-3t, the convertible netbook tablet. Asus has one too. Both had the coolness factor and sort of had portability. Neither had productivity. Tiny or nonstandard keyboard layouts and microscopic mouse touchpads frustrate more than they help. Limited resolution screens are a productivity killer, as all things on the interweb rely on higher resolution now, unless you are looking at a mobile-specific (aka limited functionality) version of a site, and unless you are on a phone, who wants that?
Thus the story continues, with much of the same "some of this, some of that" game play, with nobody coming up to snuff.
The truth of the matter is that tablet computing is no new thing. Convertible notebooks have been around for a LONG time. Some of them are fantastic. Fujitsu makes a great one, so does Lenovo, and Dell even has one. Others have tablets with skin in the game, and here is the interesting thing: they are all full performance computers, not limited functionality, limited input, limited browser compatibility pseudo-entertainment devices.
I think the new breed of tablet computers need to grow up. They are glorified palm pilots. Yeah, I said it. All they are is toys that somebody is trying to make fit into a business need. The iPad included. Granted, iPad comes the closest to the mark so far, which is why they are doing well. They have portability, coolness, durability, but when it comes to productivity, its still a #fail in my opinion. Adding a bluetooth keyboard helps, but still falls short.
So what did I do? I fired all the tablet makers. I don't want limited functionality garbage. My solution was to go back to a more refined product. I found a used ThinkPad X61 tablet. Yes used. Why? Because it was cheap -- cheaper than an iPad. What does it have? 160GB hard drive. 12" touch screen with 1024x768 resolution (granted its a pen-enabled touchscreen, but honestly, i kind of like that just as much as finger touch, plus i can do digital signatures, and draw with the pen). Full keyboard. SD card. Multiple USB ports. External video. You know, all those things you want out of a tablet, this has. Plus it runs a core 2 duo processor that blows away the netbook class hardware. Battery life? About 3 hours. Not overly fantastic, but hey, look at the productivity!!! I can run all my desktop apps. Plus Flash!
Now if only this thing also could run Mac OSX. Oh wait! It CAN! For eval purposes, you could snag yourself a copy of iAtkos v7, which is a hackintosh version of Mac OSX 10.5, and it runs beautifully on the Lenovo X61 tablet. Guess what, even the touchscreen works in Mac OSX! It was a bit of a pain to setup, but works great.
So for now, I don't see any new tablets that have jumped out as better. Instead, I found that older mature tablet hardware addresses all the needs I have and more, and in fact has all the factors I'm looking for: Portability? check. nice and small. Productivity? Absolutely, I can take my Mac and PC with me, and all my apps. Coolness? You bet. Everybody wants a piece of my 12" dual boot win7 and mac convertible tablet. IBM/Lenovo even make durable hardware. This thing has it all, and it smokes all the others in performance.
So the lesson? New technology isn't necessarily designed to make you more productive. It might just be intended to look sexy, but be a drain on your time and wallet. Sometimes "new to you" is just as good, or even better, than buying new.