Tempted by a Tablet

I’m having second thoughts on the Mac issue. I’m tempted by a tablet.

Why a Tablet?

  • Maybe I’ve just been reading Robert Scoble for too long.
  • They’re generally small and portable – just the things I liked in the Powerbook.
  • The digitizer in the screen allows for lots of creative uses. This site is supposed to be about creativity. I really want something that will encourage that side of me. The Powerbook is a Mac, and creative people love their Macs, but when actually looking at the features that can be used creatively, the ability to draw directly onto the screen with a pressure-sensitive pen is a bit of a killer.
  • I’d be able to use the same Windows software I’m used to – and already have.

Why Not?

  • I still like the idea of a change of OS.
  • Damn, those Powerbooks are cute 😉

  • Solid build of Powerbooks – they just feel tough and well made.
  • Expensive. Even now prices have fallen quite a lot, a tablet is still an expensive machine. It’s not expensive for what you get as such, but you have to get a lot, and there’s not many options – most manufacturers seem to be down to just one model now.

Which One?

I’m looking at the Toshiba M200. It has 512Mb RAM, a 60Gb HD, and a very (disturbingly so) high resolution screen (1400×1050 in a 12-inch screen? Tiny, tiny text.)

So Why Might it Be Better Than a Mac?

(Better for me, right now, that is – everyone not the same, boring world if so, etc)

Well, it would have to be a fair bit better to justify the extra price. The 12-inch Powerbook retails here for £1050, whilst the M200 is £1400. £350 difference. At current exchange rates, that’s several million dollars or thereabouts. I should point out here that this isn’t something a company will be buying for me, and we’re not rolling in spare cash – this will be a lot of money to us. My parents have very kindly helped out with it, which is what’s making it possible to even consider this, but it’s going to take some careful thought.

With that sort of expense gone to, though, I’d have to be expecting to get some years of use out of whatever I buy. Computers never last for too long, but if it broke after a year and a half and was too expensive to repair (which can easily happen with laptops), we’d have a bit of a problem. The Toshiba comes with a three-year warranty, compared with the Powerbook’s one year. The Powerbook can be upgraded to three year, but that’s over £250 extra. Also contributing to the cost of the Powerbook is the fact that I’d probably have to buy some software (again). There’s quite a lot of good quality free software that I already know for Windows. I already have good text editors, FTP programs, and assorted utilities.

So, on the plus side…

  • Higher resolution screen.
  • Longer warranty.
  • Known good software options – including ActiveSync to sync my iPaq.
  • Drawing on the screen – not just for scribling notes, but for painting and drawing with ArtRage.
  • Get to play with OneNote, and other ‘ink-enabled’ stuff.
  • Tablet format should be good for reading in bed and browsing/emailing in the car – both of which I tend to do quite often these days.

But on the other hand…

  • No new OS to play with.
  • Won’t get to finally try Quicksilver.
  • Won’t get to try Safari.
  • Even as a tablet, just not as cute as a Powerbook 😉

Thanks To…

…for helping me think about this…

  • Michael Hyatt’s article on why he ditched his Tablet for a Mac Powerbook has been helpful in pointing out some comparisons of the two platforms. His point about everyone crowding around the tablet wanting to play is interesting – I found the same problem with a Sony Clie I had with the swivel screen – I’d get it out to make a quick note, and forget the note by time I got it back from the crowd of admirers. I love showing off my tech stuff, but it can get to the point that you don’t actually get to use it.
  • Robert Scoble for his endless banging on about how great tablets are 😉 It was bound to get to me eventually.
  • Amit Singh for his excellent Introduction to MacOS X for Hackers. A bit deeper than I’d need to know even if I had a Mac, but understanding a bit about what goes on underneath an OS can be a help in getting a feel for it. If you’re a sad wannabe geek like me, anyway.
  • X vs. XP – an excellent comparison between MacOS X and Windows XP – should be helpful if you’re thinking of switching in either direction.
  • James Kendrik for his excellent jkOnTheRun blog, where he not only tells us about tablets, but does a good job of explaining their use in the real world.

So – Which One?

I really don’t know yet. I still need to work out how to recover the M200 in the case of a real screw-up of the OS – it doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive in it. Not a problem until things go wrong, but I don’t want to get anywhere near that far without knowing that there’s a way out of it. If it can boot from the SD card slot, that’s probably the easiest way around it. If not, network booting is probably the only way. Not something I’ve tried setting up before, but presumably it can be done with a decently fast network and a copy of Windows XP Pro. Then I need to decide where I stand in the battle between the familliarity of Windows XP against the excitement (hey, I said I was a wannabe geek) of a whole new OS. I also need to work out how much those extra two years of warranty, screen resolution, and the digitizer are worth. I’m itching to make a spreadsheet of all this, but perhaps that would be just too sad.

Update: Just discovered that Dabs stock the Tosh M200 for £1340, bringing the price a bit closer.

Update2: The Flash demo of the M200 has answered one other question – it can boot from the SD card. So rebuilding should just be a matter of getting a copy of the OS CD (or recovery CD) onto a nice big card, and booting from there.

Update3: My dad has done a bit of comparison shopping for me, and found the M200 at eBuyer for £1270 – another £70 cheaper than even Dabs. I think the decision is pretty much made. All being well, I may even be able to order it this week, and actually have it by Friday. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Tempted by a Tablet

  1. Thanks, James – I found the bootable SD card mentioned in the product tour, and mentioned it in a later post. I think the choice is pretty much made now, and it’s going to be the tablet. You and Robert Scoble make a convincing sales pitch 😉

  2. Hi! Buy the M200. Just do it and forget these other trivial boys toys!

    I’ve ran an M205 for over a year since picking one up in the US for the dollar equivalent price of one here. As an American colleague said then “They are awesome!”.

    I regularly run 23 major applications (I’ve recently cleaned them all up, so I should know). These range from the full MS Office, Macromedia Studio suite to MS Project, Visio, and more recently have been trying to pickup my Adobe Photoshop suite. All run perfectly and I am a total convert (you might have guessed!)

    Can these other toys do project scheduling, network diagrams, hand-written ToDo’s, annotations to all types of office documents, play MP3s through attached headphones and improve your drawing/graphics skills – all at the same time on the crowded 7:52 to Kings-X….I don’t think so!

    The screen still blows many laptops away.

    I upgraded to 2Gb RAM in preparation for Photoshop, and now am looking forward to yet another year of massively increased productivity and drooling over my shoulder on the happy commute in.

    No matter what your background, I’m sure that anyone could massively increase their productivity and creativity with one(think of your moleskins on steroids – think an electronic version of Leopnardo da Vinci’s notebooks…..etc).

    As a great man may have said: “Ask not what the tablet PC can do for you…but what together you could do for the benefit of your company/boss/own business/work-life balanace/bank balance”

    I’m sure that most people who actually get to try a Tablet PC (yes, I know it’s difficult to actually do that in the UK as few are available on the high street) would sell their partner/7 pints of their own blood/body/partner for one….

  3. Hi Dr-C,

    See later posts – I already did, and I love it! Just the basic 512 Mb RAM at the moment, but it runs very nicely.

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