My Deep Dark Secret

Toshiba Portégé R400 Tablet PCA long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I owned an Apple Newton MessagePad 2100. It was an absolutely brilliant piece of technology, well ahead of its time. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple many years ago, he committed what is, in my opinion, a fatal error: he killed the Newton.

Stylus-driven computing is fabulously effective. I’ve often written in Geek Love about how lame the mouse is. I sometimes use a Wacom tablet with my desktop Mac and enjoy using the pen-like instrument to drive my work flow. Unfortunately, the experiential break between the desktop tablet and screen sometimes requires too great a degree of mental interpretation and it becomes frustrating. Really, I want to draw on the screen, like I used to do with my old Newton. Unfortunately, due to Jobs’ intense personal dislike of stylus-driven computing (likely related to John Sculley’s direct involvement with the Newton – get over it, Steve!), Apple seems very unlikely to release a tablet-driven computer in the near future. Yet I crave that precise technology.

So, here I am, in the market for a portable computer, and I’ve decided that the most important requirement for me is the experience of on-screen pen computing. Yes, over and above my beloved Mac OS. Clearly, this can mean only one thing: a trip over to the Dark Side. I’ve made the decision to purchase a Windows Vista-based tablet PC. There, I said it. It’s sort of ironic, isn’t it: my never-ending quest for the contemporary Newton has led me to Microsoft?

The tipping point for me on this decision has been some articles I’ve read lately about Vista’s vastly-improved tablet experience. Besides the eye-candy of “Aero,” the tablet capabilities of Vista are being touted by many in the geek press as being the most important, and largely unsung, improvements in the new Windows OS. Plus, I’ve watched literally hours of Vista tablet-use videos on YouTube and various blogs and always find myself drooling: I want that workflow.

Another factor was my time in school last October. At the time I had a MacBook Pro and I used it to type lecture and research notes for later review. When the instructor drew on the board, I would grab a pen and paper and copy their diagrams. Later, in my room, I would either scan in those diagrams or re-draw them with my Wacom tablet, then insert them into my typed notes. Clearly, this took some time and wasn’t very efficient. Likewise, when I’m performing research I often have visual ideas (I’m an absolutely visual thinker) that crop up and I find myself either scribbling them on paper for later scanning, or fumbling with the Wacom tablet to find the “right way” to integrate them with my documentation. It’s all very frustrating, clumsy, inefficient, and time-consuming.

So here I am, on the cusp of investing in the dangerous, difficult world of Windows computing. Wish me luck!

Post Script

In case the geek members of the audience are interested, here’s my list of tablet finalists for your review:

  1. Toshiba Portégé R400
  2. Lenovo Thinkpad X60 Tablet
  3. Fujitsu Lifebook T4215
  4. Toshiba M400

If anyone has any feedback or information about these models, or suggestions for others, I’d love to hear from you. And, yes Dad, I’m prepared for your rambling, anti-Windows commentary, too. 😉