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  • Numenorean - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I have found that swype texting on my Droid is very helpful at solving the input problem, at least somewhat. Although for longer emails it can become tiresome. Ideally one of those projected keyboards that's actually fast and accurate would be nice. But then there is no tactile feedback. Integrating a full slide-out laptop keyboard would be great, but then it takes quite a bit of space to do that. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    That was the first thing I thought.

    Swype is amazing because you can type with one hand just as fast as with two. It's wonderful for phones.

    I'm not sure how well that could translate to tablets, but it works well for phones.
  • designerfx - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    The problem with swype is that the size doesnt' translate well to larger devices.

    Swype works great for cellphones because cellphones are small. Contrary to how a tablet works, having a cellphone sized swype on a tablet actually would be better than gigantic keys.

    However, this is a small focus issue of a much larger issue, which is:

    what other input problems are there with tablets?

    Answer: there are many. Inputs are not the biggest problem, it's more lack of peripheral capability on the ipad 2.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The basic problem (as Anand pointed out) is that its easy to do swype on a phone, since you can easily hold it in one hand, and type/swype with the other. I don't think its so easy to hold the iPad in one hand while typing or swyping with the other - its too bulky. Reply
  • TheCheesePlease - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    LISTEN UP. Here is the BEST answer to this problem:

    1. DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING PORTED OVER TO ANDROID. Voice recognition HAS gotten to a point where the keyboard is not totally necessary. But relying on data and google's voice software is worthless.(the same goes for maps, etc.) This software can benefit from various gestures and touches. For example, you tap a word to bring up other potential results, three fingers deletes the last phrase.

    2. The E71, in all experts opinions, has the highest ceiling for your potential typing speed to rise. The e71s keyboard should be split down the middle, made out of clear plastic, and placed on the right and left sides of a lightweight tablet ON TOP OF THE SCREEN. This would have to be done so that it would be ergonomic, totally see-through, and lightweight.

    3. Form factor is one of the biggest things to consider. I think the HTC shift had the right idea.
  • kasplat - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I'll second the voice recognition idea as long as the UI has built-in support for it with navigation, review, and correction. Certainly it has to be faster than hitting the backspace key all the time like I do if I try and do more than hen peck on an iPad.

    I'm also pushing for a size decrease. I would rather have a Kindle 3 size device with a higher-res anti-glare display that I can comfortably hold with one hand or two. Maybe then, the dual thumb interface and typing ideas will make more sense too.

    Personally, I'm not sold on the current size iPad tablet making me want to use it over something like a MacBook Air, especially a MacBook Air 11.
  • Murloc - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Voice recognition is probably the best idea if they keep tablets so big.
    But still it doesn't solve practical problems.

    You're watching TV with your family. You're using the ipad to spam anandtech during adverts or boring scenes. You use voice recognition => Your family has to hear you.
  • Azethoth - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I agree about voice as well. It seems like the only way forward while keeping physical keyboards the hell away from the tablets. If I wanted a physical keyboard I would have bought a notebook. I have doubts about this though. Starbucks is not quiet, accuracy will suffer.

    Other than that I think some more UI evolution would help as well. Instead of some lame 1/2 screen keyboard, it would be better to overlay something glowing but transparent so you can type on the full tablet, which is actually fairly keyboard sized at 10".

    Or maybe for forms especially the actual page/app ui needs to be abandoned during typing: Keyboard takes up entire screen with only an input field and its label visible. No stupid page switching for numbers and common symbols.

    Input fields need to get a lot smarter as well. Most email lines get you the "@" on the basic keyboard page. .com would be a nice addition as well as "+" and other permissible email symbols.

    Especially in iOS the web browser needs to be fixed so it is usable. Right now it is only tolerable if some app sends you there for something minor like buying or a help page. Actually typing in a web address? No Thanks, I can contain myself till I get home to my desktop PC.

    Finally, am I doing something wrong or is cursor handling just completely broken? Double click on a word works fine but I am damned if I can move the cursor around to a particular location with any kind of accuracy, effectiveness, and sometimes just not at all. For me this is the biggest obstacle to typing on the iPad. It is simply not worth trying unless you can make no mistakes. Mistakes mean you spend 5 seconds trying to place the cursor for an effective backspace and maybe succeed, maybe you have to give up and delete multiple words. Or you have to be retarded, double click a word then move the selection handles down to where you want. Ugh.
  • therealnickdanger - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    What about IR pupil detection? Screen-side IR blaster and camera (with filter) and you're on your way. No talking, no touching, just pure input at the speed of sight. Obviously, it would take time and effort to learn... but Swype took a while for me to get used to (but I still don't like it).

    Take prototypes like this and improve them:
  • dman - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    It's a kludge at best, that works for small edits but anything involving navigating around a page is a horrible effort. As you mentioned, unless you are doing something short and sweet and/or you type perfectly, you'll waste a lot of time trying to get the right letter/word/other edit done.

    Tablets will need to improve upon the touch sensitivity, perhaps including pens again (for certain tasks). Being able to use the tablet as a 'drawing tablet' would make it more attractive than a notebook. Otherwise I stil look at them as consumption devices.
  • ianca42 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Bring the pen back? The pen has never been in any of the new type of tablets so it can't be brought back. That being said I am typing on a hp tm2 and I must say the pen on this is quite a bit more useful than touch as far as usefulness goes. I can take notes, do math, draw, etc a lot better. I'd imagine the reason why pens aren't in these new type of tablets is because of the price of and it is an extra battery drain.

    I think in the far future the best input would be controlling tablets directly through our minds.
  • jmelgaard - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Thats not entirely true as "Hybrid Computers" as we can call them, or what was know as tablets before still has pens... E.g. the new Lenovo X220.

    The "True Tablets" has not included this as of yet though... For my work patterns I would at any time prefere the Hybrid kind.
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Watch this get implemented, and someone in a coffee shop get killed by everyone who was so annoyed he/she had to dictate e-mail and bother everyone else.

    Imagine ten people dictating their notes to their iPads simultaneously at a business meeting.

    Doesn't solve the issue for people who wish for their e-mail to be private either, or who wish to use their iPad off a public library's Wi-Fi.

    If speech-recognition was a cure-all, we'd all have it on our laptops by now. It's great for the right uses, but doesn't work well across the board.
  • fogpuppy - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Dragon already has two apps on the iPhone that support voice input. Once is Dragon Search which will do a search based on voice input. It's sort of useful but ....

    The other is Dragon Dictation that will come up with text that can be corrected and then pasted into into email or sms. It sort of works backward from what I'd like where I could invoke the voice support form an email or sms ui but ... I can use cut and paste pretty easy.

    It works pretty well but it does require a network connection because it goes to a server to do the work. Usually this is not a problem but it would be better *if* it was local but not sure that even the most current phones have enough horsepower to handle the task totally local.
  • GTVic - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've seen a commercial recently with two guys going nuts over a laptop powered by a smart phone docked behind the screen. The keyboard / screen is just a terminal for the phone.

    Apple has a solution for docking the iPad but it doesn't look suitable for lap use. The ZAGGmate iPad Case seems to solve that problem but I think it would be better if the iPad could just fold down like a traditional notepad lid.
  • Connoisseur - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I believe you're referring to the Motorola Atrix 4G. I thought this was actually a great idea and maybe even a subtle game-changer. Imagine that being implemented for businesses. Employees would have a smartphone with all their documents and just plug into the dummy terminals to access all their apps. You wouldn't even have to worry about connectivity to the cloud and could do work on the go seamlessly. Reply
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Lots of companies are already moving over to dummy terminals/thin clients these days, and lots of employees have no business use for a smartphone. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    tablet has ergonomics problem? i have been using for 5 years and how come i don't have the problem? or right. i have a REAL tablet that has a keyboard and digitizer. i do my CAD work on my tablet and also use it to take meeting notes.

    the kind of "tablet" you speaking of is nothing but media consumption tool akin to PMP. it is not meant to be productive. it is not powerful enough to run any serious program, and doesn't provide enough interface/feature to replace anything.

    i do have a toy tablet, and it work perfectly well as a media player on the plane. for anything else, i will bust out my X201 tablet.
  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    How's the battery life on that thing? Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    advertised 8 hours, but realistically 6 hours.
    bear in mind it does have core i7 and 6 gb of ram with SSD, along with ultra bright IPS screen.

    you can get 8 hours if you go for ulv i5 and regular screen.

    the new X220 Tablet is go have 15 hours battery life (Engadget tested X220 and come with 14.5 hour on continuous video play, just FYI).

    so ya, the battery life is nothing short of amazing, consider anything i do on my tablet will take forever on a ipad or xoom. and consider ipad/xoom is selling for 900 dollars after all said and done, i would not think twice to spend twice of that money on something that i can use productively.
  • erple2 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Wait. So you're implying that you've had your tablet that you work on for 5 years, and that it's i7 based? I'm confused now. Reply
  • y.a.k - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    The ThinkPad X series has a long tradition. He probably had some earlier model like X60 or X61 (Core Duo / Core 2 Duo based) and upgraded to X201. The one coming out now is X220 (Sandy Bridge). Reply
  • winterspan - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    While attempting to get in a childish jab at the iPad, you completely missed the point. If your tablet has a physical keyboard then it is irrelevant to the issue at hand which is about finding a better input method that DOESN'T involve a built-in hardware keyboard (making the "tablet" a touch-screen laptop) Reply
  • seanleeforever - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    lolz. why do i look down on ipad? i have an ipad for god sake. it is 299 nowadays, which is a drop in the bucket for me.

    again, i also have an android tablet because i wanted to see different platform, and i am more of a hands on person (my cell phone is Nokia N900).

    i am simply answering anand question "I'm curious what you all think about this. Am I alone in finding tablet ergonomics a barrier? If not, what do you believe is the best solution for tablets going forward." a keyboard is a must for productive work. productive work like writing emails, creating/editing files. i have hard time to do anything effectively without keyboard.

    i doubt an better input method would surface anytime soon. people have been using keyboard/mouse for 30 years, if there anything revolution, people would have invented already.
  • Penti - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    People used light pens before mouses. Type writers before keyboards. Tools is what defines humans.

    The combination of keyboard, mouse and pen is here to stay and has had professional use for decades now. Wacom tablets do obviously have benefit over displays, in terms of ergonomics and so on. Drawing on a convertible tablet and handwriting recognition do obviously have a place even if we have moved on into touch based devices we control with our fingers directly and gestures. Touchpads and wacom tablets obviously have different use. Neither will go away. Keyboard is obviously the device which requires the least amount of effort when sitting in front of a screen, but handwriting has it's place, I doubt any one is sitting and swyping their notes in lectures.

    We used to finger-paint before brushes, we airbrushed before digital editing and now we have digital brushes we control via mouse or pen.
  • hnzw rui - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    +1 on handwriting recognition. Particularly so on slate form factors. I'm no fan of Vista but I'm pretty surprised at how well handwriting recognition works on my Fujitsu tablet running Vista Business. I find handwriting to be much better than using virtual keyboards for writing replies, emails, etc. Heck, I even find it comfortable enough to use for writing somewhat longer documents such as essays, etc. I guess that might have to do with the fact that when I was in elementary, computers weren't quite so commonplace and I had to write most of my papers long hand. :p Reply
  • alonzo_riley - Wednesday, April 06, 2011 - link

    Handwriting recognition?

    You've got to be kidding me. You must be an incredibly slow typist. I find that I'm so used to the quickness with keyboards that when I write now I start writing ahead of myself because my brain assumes I should have gotten that data out already!
  • SandmanWN - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Actually it just expands on the obvious. If they can put a slide out keyboard on a cell phone then why the crap can't they do it for a giant 10" tablet???

    A miniature keyboard that pulls out of a slot like the old stylus used to do and communicates with the tablet like a Bluetooth device. Seriously, where my friggin patent and billion dollars already.
  • blackcrayon - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, but that's exactly the type of "tablet" I would not be carrying with me very often, as it's much thicker, bulkier, and 3 times the weight of an iPad 2. There's certainly a tradeoff there between power and willingness to even have the thing casually with me. Reply
  • Connoisseur - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    How about a Samsung Swype style pattern recognition system that's tailored to recognize finger presses rather than swiping movements? My thought is that it would recognize patterns in finger clicks based on relative location and timing of the fingers and form the best possible word based on that pattern. If implemented properly, it would alleviate the worst speedbump to productivity... not knowing what key you're pressing.

    Like every complicated idea, this sounds simple in theory but probably a nightmare to implement.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I often manually type URLs based on what I want to do, so even just surfing the web can be a chore. Oh, and without a tabbed browser? Seriously, forget it! But hey, that's why I review notebooks and laptops rather than tablets. To me, the tablet is just a gimmick, really, almost on the level of 3D displays. Yeah, that bad. But hey, send me a tablet to play with for a month and I'll write up my experience; I'm sure it will be good for a chuckle if nothing else.... [My carpal tunnels are already flaring up just thinking about typing on a tablet for a month.] Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Oh, and as a speech recognition user, I'd love to see that somehow become more user friendly. Putting on a microphone headpiece to dictate is often inconvenient, and if you move between systems much (like I do) I often end up just typing on the keyboard. The problem with speech recognition is that it really sucks if you're in anything short of a quiet environment... plus if someone wants to talk to you you have to keep turning it off/on. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Tablets ARE a gimmick. They're a solution looking for a problem, and the only reason the iPad is so stupid popular is because it has a half-eaten fruit on the back.

    Look at the other tablets. Nobody really cares about them. The only reason anybody cares about the Xoom is Android 3.0. Once smartphones get Honeycomb, nobody will care.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I would disagree. To me they would be a gimmick, to fill that horrible void between pulling a smartphone out of my pocket and powering on my laptop.

    However, they are perfect for the semi-computer literate who have only the simplest requirements for computing. I purchased a Xoom for my mother in law since she has no computer and doesn't really understand them. She uses it for email, web browsing, music, books, pictures, a couple apps, and video chat with the grandkids. It is PERFECT for that target market because it can be used anywhere, has a tiny learning curve, powers on nearly instantly, and there is almost no complexity to worrry about. It just works. Tablets are perfect for that demographic, most others.....not so much.
  • acsa - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Exactly for these purposes and people the competitive killer is in house: AIR 11". With better practicability, much longer product life, conclusively on the long term cheaper. And in most cases the main PC can be skipped. Again a lot of money and fussle. In any home or travel situation, even standing on your head, a powerful "netbook" is the best solution. The weight is maybe important for a 3y old child... And a tablet is in practice heavier, than an Air, since you have to hold it in any comfortable sitting or laying position.

    Special touch application is already solved in all industry and business applications.
  • Belard - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Considering that Apple has sold 17 million iPad 1 & 2 in a year... (far faster than the xbox or PS3) - your gimmick argument is thrown out the window.

    Next you'll be saying the internet is a fad.

    Look, some people need cars, other trucks - depending on their location and or business.

    For one of the companies I work for, an ipad was very instrumental for showing a product to clients to get their business. Because when showing a product on a cellphone with a 4" screen sucks. With our ThinkPads, they are too bulky, they are heavy at 4~6 lbs. Theres the boot time, shut down, sleep issues.

    Press a button, iPad is ready to go in a second and ready to work. I can selected a function and then EASILY rotate or hand the ipad to someone else in the very same way YOU can't do so with a notebook, much less a desktop computer!

    After all these years, the ipad is the first time my mother have used a browser HERSELF. (Yeah, pain the butt)

    The ipad *IS* a tablet done right. Google SHOULD get there sooner or later... but considering HOW my Android Phone works... we choose to go with iPad rather than any Android device. What we wanted today - Android doesn't deliver.

    I hope in the near future - some sort of Face-time APP will work on BOTH Android and iOS devices.
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    well I'm pretty sure 'hammerpants' sold like 12 million pairs by 1992 and none of them are around now. Just saying. Sales does not determine whether something is a fad or not. In fact, sudden adoption by high sales is a precursor to something becoming a fad.

    Yeah I'm aware of the homeless person down the street that is still wearing hammerpants...
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Let me help with the statement, just to make things clear:

    To Me, tablets are a gimmick.

    Does that help? I'm not saying there won't be lots of uses for tablets, and you can do plenty of cool things on them (and on smartphones). However, I don't really have any needs that are directly fulfilled by a tablet.

    Hey, I hate World of Warcraft too. Okay, maybe not hate, but I've played it for maybe 10-15 hours and was bored senseless. I cannot for the life of me imagine how 15 million people enjoy this game. I'm not saying 15 million people are wrong, but that whatever itch that game scratches just isn't there for me.
  • anactoraaron - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I completely agree. With the type of work I do, I am always at sports tournaments. The only people I see using tablets (namely iPads) are kids. LOL. I guess the parents got bored with it and gave it to the kids to play with. I mean seriously, I doubt these kids playing with the iPad already own a PS3, 360, Wii and DS (pick your version). That $500 spent on the kids 'toy' to use then they are away from home could go MUCH further... and I won't start in with the kid who dropped it a few feet away from me cracking the screen diagonally all the way across... Call it what you want, gimmick, fad, wasted money, whatever. They're not practical for any meaningful use. Need better typing ergonomics and great battery life? *Segue* the SNB ULV reviews!

    I would love to see a ULV SNB notebook 13-14" dual core with SMT or straight quad with 3 or 6 EU graphics cores that can turn off the graphics completely when I fire up the dedicated graphics... and get 10+ hrs "normal" battery life. That brings up an interesting situation... will Intel 'cut down' the graphics core for any ULV part to accommodate notebooks that will use dedicated graphics to increase battery life?
  • scook9 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I have always viewed tablets as simply an output device, a portal to viewing information online or in files. The input method has always been why I feel this way. Even a touch typest will not be at home typing away on a tablet like they would a real keyboard.

    We do not see this problem when using phones as we typically are only using our thumbs and not all 10 fingers at once.

    Once possible solution is perhaps having keys on the back of the tablet on the sides so when holding it, your thumbs are facing up and used to touching the screen while the remaining 8 fingers have access to the keys on the back. You could use the thumbs to toggle between 2 sets of keys for the back buttons and therefore double your options. The way I see it you would have on thumb gives 8 keys, one thumb gives 8 more, the other thumb another 8 and both thumbs yet another set of 8. That gives 32 keys which should be adequate for most typing situations.

    This would look cool and probably be impressive to someone who had mastered it as an input form but I think this would be extremely difficult to get comfortable with. It would look pretty cool though at least ;)
  • Hemi345 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I too believe tablets were never meant for lots of data input. These devices are geared towards reading and browsing with very little text input. They're a luxury item in my opinion and should be treated as such. Apple releases a high dollar device and the people that buy it are trying to justify its expense for using it.

    If you have a lot of crap to type, a laptop or desktop is your only fast solution at this time.
  • This Guy - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I have another solution that may feel more natural to many users

    Place two multi touch panels on opposite sides along bottom of the tablet to control a semi transperent split keyboard displayed over the two touch panels.

    Skim touching would allow the the tablet to locate the fingers and display this information over the on screen key board. A press would require the pad of the fingure to be flattened.

    Open app could be scaled so that visual data is not lost.

    Or, the split, semi transperent keyboard could be designed to be controlled by the users thumbs just like a touch phone. This removes the additional hardware requirement and an app could be developed for any platform just like swype.
  • Azethoth - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    This is actually a good idea. Bonus points for getting the GUI to go full circle back to the aka "Mother of All Demos". Engelbart actually developed an input device (@ 5 mins in the video) to use for his GUI system. iirc it eventually was a 1 handed thing with button chording used to input characters quickly.

    On the other hand it would be even more popular than the Dvorak keyboard.
  • UNHchabo - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've never used an ipad, so keep that in mind:

    For the case where you're lying back on the couch, it seems like you just need a small redesign of the smart cover; when you fold the cover behind the ipad, the surface that's touching your lap would be a coarse fabric, to keep the thing where you want it.
  • henrikfm - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Speech recognition! Reply
  • xeopherith - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    just keep bashing apple until they stop making products without keyboards :) Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Ergonomics are definitely a barrier. However, the lighter the devices become, the more manageable and less aggravating it is.

    I think someone on Life Stacker, had a link to an invention that used a loopy fish-hook like stand, with I think a 2-parallel legs base/counterweight, that they would place behind the couch, or on one side, and you could lay down and type pretty easy. It looked attractive for couch uses. The problem was if you wanted to move it to the bed, you'd have to carry this awkward stand with you (seemingly lightweight though).

    I can't find the link, and I'm not sure what it'd do for typing efficiently, but it would be cool. Because we've grown up on ASCII keyboards, though, I'm not sure too many other devices will be as efficient, even voice recognition makes more mistakes and *can* be more time consuming.

    In the future, I'd like to see some eye-recognition software make use of the front-facing camera. Part of the benefit over typing/texting vs talking is that you have the bonus of secrecy. You have the liberty to say what you want in public, without someone listening to your conversation. Some sort of eye-recognition software may be an answer. I could see looking at words/letters and blinking/double-blinking to select :)
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Correction, it was someone off (not life stacker - I was thinking stack overflow).

    The stand is called "Hanfree" -

    Let me know what you guys think.
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    From the pictures on their homepage, my arms and shoulders would get REALLY tired after just a few minutes use, except in the case of the girl with the guitar as that is more of a natural typing position already.

    I'd also be worried about it falling off of the couch when someone sat down or got up.
  • medys - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Flexible, slim bluetooth keyboard of the same size as a tablet. And make a nice metal leg on the back of tablet like picture frames have.. Reply
  • jeremypeake - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The smart cover is awesome, I think you take the smart cover one step further and design a foldable Bluetooth keyboard into the Smart Cover. So for light use, just stick with the on-screen keyboard. For heavier typing, use the foldable cover/keyboard.

    It would have to stay pretty much the same size and weight as the current smart cover. I wouldn't want it much bulkier.

    I think it could be done. The keys would have to be super thin, but even just a little tactile feedback would greatly improve the typing experience.
  • Ken g6 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    The idea of the smart cover is a simple, but very functional, non-electronic component. Why not apply that to typing?

    Give the cover little chiclets that, when you push them, move enough conductive material close enough to the iPad screen that it acts like a stylus. Put them in positions mapping to the on-screen keyboard. Stick the thing on there with the magnets. Finally, for a nice extra touch, the other side of the cover can fold under the iPad and have two beveled edges meet to form a kickstand. (Or something.)
  • punjabiplaya - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Speech is pretty good, but what about direct neural input? Reply
  • HMTK - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Cyberpunkk :-) Yeah, DNI sounds nice. Problem is Apple will want to use Firewire while everyone else will try USB... Reply
  • Azethoth - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Lol 90's guy. This is 2011, we use Light Peak! Reply
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I think that would be the best solution. Have the keyboard double as a nice cover that doubles as a keyboard. And have the tablet with a built in prop tool. I think that would be the best solution. Reply
  • saiku - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    umm...this would be a netbook pretty much then (but for the fact that it is running a touchscreen)? Reply
  • Dorkington - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Yes, I know, you said you don't like that option... but simply put, I think a BT keyboard is the best option for heavy text input.

    Now, it doesn't have to be clunky, I think the ZAGGmate keyboard for the iPad, and the ASUS Transformer prove that you can have a simple and sleek solution that you don't need to have all the time.

    I have a ZAGGmate keyboard, and love it. I lounge on the couch, doing my normal browsing, reading, etc generally in portrait mode. If I have a long email, I grab the ZAGGmate keyboard (I keep it in the same bag/location), and set about typing like I would if I were on a laptop.

    I think the flexibility of such a format is incredibly handy, personally.
  • MrRogers777 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    By putting a trackpad on the back, you eliminate the problem with a giant finger covering what you want to manipulate, while retaining the hand-eye coordination that allows a mouse to be successful. The dustcover keyboard shouldn't be the primary interface, but would allow more complex input without a requiring another gadget. Reply
  • oligarch - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've always felt that a keyboard on the back is the way to go.
    Sure it would take quite a bit of learning time but once you've
    got it, it should be super efficient.
    This could be good for smartphones too, that's why I think the
    Dell Streak form factor has a future: by my (very basic) test it is
    just big enough to make this kind of interface work.
  • oligarch - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've always felt that a keyboard on the back is the way to go.
    Sure it would take quite a bit of learning time but once you've
    got it, it should be super efficient.
    This could be good for smartphones too, that's why I think the
    Dell Streak form factor has a future: by my (very basic) test it is
    just big enough to make this kind of interface work.
  • Donnie Darko - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The biggest limitation to using the tablet design is that the working/viewable area is shared by the input area.

    This has a far greater impact than one initially thinks about. People expect to loose real estate when the virtual keyboard pops up, but looking past your hands over laid on the virtual keyboard consumes a lot more viewable area, and becomes distracting.

    Phones get a pass on this because of how you hold/input them (ie thumb type) and their usage models. Browsing, music, videos, most apps rely on short inputs periodically followed by long stretches of passive consumption. Therefore the time you spend interrupting your task by input is acceptable (like how they figured out what frequency to run your home circuit on so the flickering of your lights wouldn't drive you mad).

    Real work flow (like document creation/editing or long e-mails) require constant input with visual feed back (like how i'm reading what i'm typing right now). Thus on a tablet your hands are always in the way providing a constant distraction and limiting your productivity (since you have some 30% of the screen to actually work on) making people reject the form factor. If you're curious about this and don't have a tablet, just pretend to type a response on your current screen, even at 28" I would be ruining about 50% of my productive area if I had to use an on screen touch keyboard.

    All the current solutions offered for tablet work involve a dock of some sort that supports the screen and adds a keyboard (ie a traditional desktop/laptop layout). We've had decades of research and experimentation to optimize work flow from the typewriter forwards, and the screen above an input device is still the optimal solution (ie it hides your input from your feed back).

    The answer is that you'll never solve the input problem. Voice for dictation and commands is a good start to extend the "acceptable" usage model, but doesn't really help. It's bad enough listening to one side of a conversation (what pisses people off about public cell phone usage), wait until you have a work environment where you're trying to focus with 15+ people all mumbling/talking to/screaming at their device about what they are doing... The durability of your tablet will become paramount since it's primary use will be stuffing it in someone's mouth and then delivering a round house kick to decapitate them and return to glorious silence.

    At the end of the day, the real answer lies in convertible tablets. It's only an engineering issue (which means we'll solve it). They are too thick and heavy right now, but as super capacitors improve, screen tech gets thinner (like flexible LCD with embedded LED at the pixel level to get rid of the guts) we'll hit a point where you have the same form factor as current tablets, but you can slide up the screen to reveal a keyboard for when you need it.
  • geniekid - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link


    Like Donnie Darko says, it's not so much the input area overlapping with the work area as it is your hands overlapping with the work area. Rather, your hands must be used on the screen. This means:
    1) If you're holding the tablet with your a hand, that hand is already out as a method of input, and you'll lose the productivity of being able to use both hands.
    2) Whatever your hand is clicking, the path from the tip of your finger to your arm is blocked display-wise. This hinders you when you have to interact with any area in the top left part of the screen while needing to see what's blocked by your arm. Not a very common scenario, but one that probably recurs when doing media editing/creation. Also bad for all those FPS games you play on your tablet :P

    I think the key problem is that the position of the tablet that allows for comfortable viewing is tied to the position of the tablet that allows for comfortable input. Most suggestions I've read, such as input area on the back, or pull out keyboard, try to make it so that the two ideal positions are the same. I think the real answer is to decouple the two positions, like with a keyboard. I think the tablet is fundamentally not ideal for productive input.
  • chochosan - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Yes, i completely agree with you, the future for tablets is... being able to be notebooks too. I really dont think that it is impossible to create a thin enough tablet/notebook hybrid right now, why should there be any problem converting a macbook Air for example into a tablet with the screen rotating and folding onto the keyboard? I mean technically its quite possible, the reason noone has made a thin enough hybrid so far i think is that all the current models are using windows - essentially a desktop OS, on a hardware mended to work as a tablet - a laptop.

    I think the direction should be the opposite - make a laptop variant redesigning a tablet; not a tablet variant redesigning a laptop.

    How hard would that be, really? Just put a keyboard on that magnet doubling up as a smart cover and a normal kickstand on the back of the tablet... voila!
  • serkol - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Voice recognition - I hate people who walk towards me talking into their ear pieces like zombies :-) Voice recognition may be good for some cases, but I would use it rather seldom...

    I think they should make onscreen keyboards better.

    For thumbtypists, the keyboard should be splittable. There should be an easy multi-finger gesture to split/reconnect the keyboard, for example the pinch like for zooming but when it's done on the keyboard.

    For other people, they should learn typing with one hand, holding the tablet with the other hand. There should be an easy multi-finger gesture to make the keyboard smaller (for one-hand typing) or larger. For example 3 finger swipe down on the keyboard would reduce the keyboard, the same swipe up would restore it's size.
  • quillaja - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    There actually are R and L handed Dvorák keyboard layouts for use with only 1 hand. Reply
  • xenon481 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The problems is much more a matter of ergonomics and positioning, and less so about tactile response.

    I can touch type on the iPad fairly decently (not as fast as a physical keyboard) at about 50wpm. The problem is that when I'm doing so, I'm trying to blog from stadium seating where my thighs are likely in a downward sloping position. This forces me to do all kinds of contortions trying to lift the iPad on my knees and keep it from sliding away.

    I would love to try using the iPad2's Smart Cover on my knees, but I only have an iPad1.
  • murraymartini - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've been using the original iPad for since it came out and I just replaced it with the iPad 2. My primary use of the iPad is browsing the web and personal email and my iPad lives in the living room on the coffee table 99% of the time.

    I have no issues with the tablet input method now. I agree that it took time to get adjusted to it in the beginning, but once you've mastered the new input method, nothing beats being able to use it laying on the couch while watch TV or relaxing listening to music. I think because we are so used to physical keyboards and devices (heck, I've been typing on a keyboard for over 25 years), some people have a hard time adjusting to a new form of input mechanism.

    I think everyone should spend some time to master the new input method and see how you adjust. If you just can't adapt to it, then you should stick to the good o laptop.
  • wittaker25 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've always felt that people have tried to force tablets into their workflows. I'm my view, the most efficient digital tools are a smartphone if you are on the move, and a laptop if you are stationary. A laptop provides faster input and more screen real-estate than a tablet; a smartphone provides more mobility.

    Now does that mean, I think tablets are going to die out? Not at all. But I do think the hype will die down over time and we will see them used more and more frequently as a niche device.
  • solipsism - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I always liked the idea of the curved keyboard that is sized specifically for your thumbs’ position and travel.

    This would mean a smarter tablet with sensors that would know how and where you’re holding the device so it can accommodate your specific needs.

    I also think that input sensors on the backside would also be useful. For example, if I am holding my iPad with two hands and want to switch an app or get back to the Home Screen I need to hit the Home Button at least once or use fingers on the screen which means holding the device with one hand. I have enabled the Multitouch Gestures hidden in iOS 4.3’s dev mode, and they are great, but I’d like to have an option to maintain a hold on the device with both hands and use the tips of my fingers underneath to quickly and easily switch apps and other interactions that feel natural when holding the device.
  • araczynski - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    its a consumption device, not a contribution device. more or less what the industry wants out of consumers in general. especially apple.

    surf, email, browse stuff, play games. personally i use it to play games, do light surfing, work google apps stuff.

    i find it funny that everyone automatically assumes that every devicew they have should somehow expand their capabilities to contribute.

    as if everyone in the world automatically gives a crap about everyone else's opinions/etc.

    just because you can type/post something, doesn't mean you should.

    case in point this reply :)

    if i was reading this on the ipad, i'd read the article, ignore, move on, and not lose any sleep over it. since i'm on the computer, i'll waste the time to reply :)
  • bplewis24 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Well then, what does that say about the future of the rather niche tablet market? Where is the growth? If it remains simply a consumption device ad infinitum, there will be no growth and it will eventually fade away.

    There has to be a next level in the eyes of the hardware manufacturers.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    But what about emails? Am I really supposed to read emails on one device and switch to another to respond?

    The usage model I'm talking about here isn't too contribution oriented. Just posting comments on a website or perhaps a review on yelp? And responding to emails doesn't seem to be that absurd.

    I feel like the consumption experience on a tablet is awesome. Reading emails on an iPad is great, I just feel like there's room for innovation in the input department. As far as what form that innovation takes, I'm not entirely sure.

    Take care,
  • claytontullos - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Anand - there are several keyboard cases available for the ipad that double as a stand.

    See for ipad 1 case. For ipad 2 case (unreleased)

    A perfectly reasonable response is why not just use my laptop? I can't give you a good answer.
    Any ipad + keyboard setup will be about as big as a standard netbook.

    I think the ipad serves a large section of the public of which we are not members. People who only consume content and who only write the occasional short email.

    Anand for the sake of argument would you use the ipad more if you didn't have a laptop? A large (though shrinking segment) percentage of public do not own a laptop. I think you would use the ipad if you didn't have a laptop.

    Heck before 2008 I didn't own a laptop because of mobile performance.
  • araczynski - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    i did mention emails. i meant this shouldn't be used for creating heavy stuff like powerpoints/photoshop/long word documents/cad/engineering/etc. sketches/email/blabbing on facebook/twitter occasionally/etc.

    if you want to extend that, then yeah, put it in a keyboard dock and type away.
  • zoogoober - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Imagine a tablet without a native screen. Just a portable keyboard with all the guts underneath. On one end of the device place a short throw pico projector that can either display onto a foldaway case that was used to protect the device, or simply onto a wall directly in front of it?

    I know the above is a bit off topic, but I imagine that there are two markets here...
    People who simply consume more than they produce with the device.
    People who produce/create more than they consume.

    I tend to believe that tablets are more for the former than the latter.
  • UrQuan3 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    That is an interesting idea. When I started reading, I thought you were going to suggest that the keyboard have an HDMI jack. I guess it still could. Projectors don't work too well in bright areas. Reply
  • karnovaran - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I recommend you try out Thumb Keyboard for Android. It has varying layouts for both portrait and landscape mode, which you can preset to your liking. I use my Nook Color quite comfortably in both orientations with the 7" tablet presets. Reply
  • mschnee - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    "Computer, begin recording message. My dearest Scarlet..." Reply
  • HangFire - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Once you change your mindset, the iPad[12] is awesome. Your problem is you're stuck on the idea of typing. It probably has root in some old-fashioned concepts on journalism stuck in your head. Get with it. The Ipad has a camera, that's the only content creation device it has and all it needs. For interaction, simply limit yourself to the following, which are all that is needed for any iPad user:

    Check this out <link to your video or some other content>
    U S***
    Oh S***

    That's it. All internet interaction can be reduced to that, for which the built-in text input is sufficient. Instead of focusing on word based content creation, you need to either be very good looking (and wear a low-cut blouse), or do something funny and stupid while drunk.
  • GruntboyX - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I am thinking a stylus, and handwriting recognition. I know its not popular, but damn people wrote books for 100's of years with nothing but a quil. I would say instead of a keyboard popping up, a blank area to write would show, and you could use a stylus. On a tablet, the area could be big enough, not to produce the awkwardness that you were writing words in place.

    Maybe I am old...
  • purrcatian - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I second this.

    Tables have been used for quite a while in the business world as a data entry device. They always had handwriting recognition. There are still some being produced like the HP Slate 500.

    I have always been interested in that type of tablet. I have come very close to purchasing one on several occasions. What I don't understand is these new consumption tablets. They seem completely useless.

    A stylus is useful for a lot more than handwriting recognition. A stylus also allows for a more compact device and interface. I have an N900, and the stylus allows me to do all sorts of cool things. It makes the screen seem larger. Steve Jobs said that a tablet smaller than the iPad was pointless because finger are too big. He was partly right. Fingers ARE too big, but a small tablet can be very useful with a stylus. A tablet must be able to fit into a large pocket to be practical, and the only way it can remain useable at that size is a stylus.
  • Penti - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    The point of the surftablets is that they are consumer devices, something the HP Slate failed to live up to entirely.

    Slate PCs, surf-tablets and ereaders are all different devices and surf-tablets are just MIDs done in a mainstream fashion, because we can now, they are powerful enough. Before there was so many limitations on entertainment, battery life, software, and touch screen tech. But for example the first e-readers in the 90's aren't so different to todays devices, they were just like a LCD-screen, touch enabled, embedded OS and some in devices books store. But they lacked wireless connection for internet, good multimediasupport and the cost was to high. Around double of todays devices and like 6 times more then todays e-readers like Kindle. Obviously the Nokia Internet Tablets like N810, N770 was a good solution in between when the tech wasn't really ready to be integrated into cell phones and wasn't really scaleable for larger screens. If you can't do high-res video, have 256 color screens and don't have a wireless connection they obviously aren't much of use, but we have that now in the cheapest possible SoCs and they are plenty of screens to choice from software for entertainment is there. Prices are in the range of consumers. That's really all why they are selling now. The technology is there for consumer devices. The world is mobile enough now. Content is there now. They obviously are consumer devices not productivity tools.
  • jah1subs - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Anand: The title of this message is meant to be a little off kilter. I am an individual for whom a full sized keyboard is the optimal data entry device. I am old enough that I doubt speech to text recognition -- with proper punctuation, as in this sentence -- will be useful in my lifetime. Maybe it will be when you are older. I have been hearing about speech recognition since almost the beginning of my career, and it is not here yet for continuous speech.

    There are some individuals who can read small characters on screens, who can tolerate screens with glare and who have exceptional fine motor skills. On those measurements, I am 0 for 3. Heck, I have trouble with my thumbs dragging on the touchpad on a laptop and try to carry a travel mouse at all times.

    In my mind, a tablet makes a nice large TV remote for a Comcast app for those with the money (not me).

    When I speak with people and tell them that I am too slow without a full sized keyboard, many of them admit that they use touch screens or small QWERTY keyboards but it slows them down too much.

    I continue to believe that a laptop with a full sized keyboard, which probably means at least 12" widescreen display, but not as large as 15.6" because of weight and size considerations, is about optimal as a desktop substitute away from one's primary work location.
  • ados_cz - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Very good spoken word to written word recognition app cooperating with all to be written content and if word is not recognized, then tap to select option. What do you think? Reply
  • PsychoPif - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    First, voice input should be better integrated in tablet. It came a long way since it's inception and it's the perfect input when you got both hand handling a 10" device. Just say what you want to write, then come back on the words the system missed with some kind of word correction tool like on smartphones.

    I think the stylus is also underrated. It's a lot more precise than fingers and in 2011, everyone should be able to write. I think all the touch friendlyness is kind of gimicky. We are here today because our chimp ancestor used rocks and sticks instead of their hands, why on earth do we want to go back? Tools exist for a reason and a small stylus can be cleanly integrated in a tablet.

    In conclusion, if your solution to bad tablet input is any kind of hardware keyboard, think for a second what a laptop is if not a screen with a keyboard? What's the difference between a tablet with a keyboard in the cover and a notebook with a touch enable screen...
  • gseguin - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I'd engeneer a specialised bluetooth keyboard that would 'clip-on' magnetically to the ipad for storage and travel.

    Although you would use your tablet for reading most of the time with the keyboard at home or in the hotel room, when you know you're going to need the extra input device you clip it on and bring it along.

    So on the plane if you're reading an e-book, the kb is in your hand bag, but when you put everything away, you don't want a standard keyboard floating around in there, hence the need for a newly built device.

    For on the go, I believe swipe would not be as useful on a device meant to use both thumbs.
  • MrJawbones - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I just bought an iPad (original for $100 cheaper) and I found the Zaggmate case for $75. The iPad fits right into the Zaggmate which only adds ~1/4 inch to the thickness. You get a case, keyboard, and stylish look and the iPad isn't "stuck" in the case like it is with all of these leather case/keyboard combos. You can take it out and if you don't need the keyboard just pick up the iPad and go. It's the best of both worlds in my book.

    Now, just need an InvisibleShield to protect the back and I'm all set!
  • MrJawbones - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Oh, and it's also a great stand. The reason it's imperfect is because of the plastic stand that holds the iPad up. You have to take it completely out, put up the plastic stand, flip around the iPad (so the volume controls face upwards) and put it on the stand. It would be much better to just pull up the iPad and have some sort of spring loaded stand to hold it up.

    But it's not a "deal breaker" for me.
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I would attach a compact keyboard and put much faster hardware in it. The keyboard would be attached in such a way that it could be flipped close to the screen protecting both keyboard AND screen at the same time.

    I would call this revolutionary device - A LAPTOP!

    Thank you, thank you. It seems like the natural next step.
  • synaesthetic - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    This post delivers. Reply
  • honasbone - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    It seems to me that when you start talking about adding peripherals to a tablet you begin to rapidly take away from one of this form factors greatest strengths - it's extreme portability. They may not be as extremely portable as a smart phone, but tablets can run a close second. If you're standing up and need to reference a web page, email or take a quick note then the light weight form factor and touchscreen interface make a lot of sense. Doing much more than that and you start hitting barriers of this form factor very quickly. Hence the point of this article.

    When it comes to a device that allows for both productivity and extreme portability via a touch screen then I think the solution is pretty clear - It's a MacBook Air type form factor, coupled with iOS and a touchscreen. But it can't just stop there. One more change is necessary.

    So that the device can continue to be used as a tablet I would suggest a keyboard that fully swivels back behind the screen - instead of clamshelling shut like a traditional netbook or laptop the device would actually "open" 360 degrees to the locking position - this would be it's closed position which would both allow for the screen to be viewable 100% of the time and for the keyboard to be neatly tucked away when not needed/wanted. But when productivity is necessary you still have a keyboard at your disposal.

    A couple issues:
    1. The keyboard needs to be as thin as possible so that the light and thin feel of the tablet is still maintained.
    2. The keyboard would need some sort of cover or perhaps roll bars to keep the device from resting on the keys themselves when the keyboard is tucked away and the tab is on a desk
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Just spent two weeks with an Asus EP121 and I can state that it's a fantastic device and the on-screen keyboard is fantastic. Also, ZERO issues with Windows 7 due to the screen quality. I'm amazed that people haven't even considered WIndows 7 but that's probably due to pages like Engadget spreading absolute dross.

    It also has a Stylus :)

    Either way, forget it. I've moved over to an Envy 13 and although I love tablets, I see no reason for one at all. None. This is coming from someone thats owned an Acer 1820ptz, Archos 9, Latitude XT & XT2, HP 2740p, TM2, Viewsonic Viewpad 10, Galaxy Tab and others.

    Tablets are a new fad that 'IS' here to stay.
  • ludikraut - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Yep, this is the answer right here. After toying with and discarding my wife's iPad, I ended up getting an EP121. Have had it for two weeks, and it's absolutely fantastic. The stylus and handwriting recognition are great. If I'm writing a short note, I'll use the on screen keyboard (in either size), but if I need to write something longer, I'll switch over to the stylus. It's also great for sketching. So far the only thing that is better on the iPad is battery life, and at 2.5-3 hours on the EP121 it's really not that bad. Bought mine through a Microsoft store, so it included their signature build ... no crapware to deal with. The EP121 has completely replaced my notebook and my wife's iPad. It's funny, she now tries to hog my EP121 instead of using her iPad. :-) Reply
  • marc1000 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    even the cheapest of nokia phones have voice recognition for a long time... this is usually used fot things like calling or changing a configuration (like turning bluetooth ON or OFF on my ancient E50 that died a few months ago...)

    so you coud tap on the input box and the tablet opens the voice recognition app. problem solved for the majority of situations - dictating while on the street is not very smart to do anyway.
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Use one of those fold-able bluetooth keyboards if you need to type a lot. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link Reply
  • teaguejb - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    There have been a lot of good comments so far. The idea that a tablet is perhaps best suited for consumption of content rather than generation of new content makes sense. It's always up to the end-user to use the right tool for the task at hand. That being said, making a degree of content creation more user-friendly is important. Most of the input interface ideas mentioned so far are pretty good ones. Why not include them all? You want speech recognition? It's there waiting to be enabled. You want to use swipe gestures? Go for it. You want a BT keyboard and docking station? No problem...there's one in the accessories department. Ok...this may create an issue with cost of the device. Maybe some tablet makers will take the approach that the more user input options that can be crammed onto the device, the better. Some may try to separate themselves from the field by including unique interfaces on their devices. And still others will take away most interface options in order to save cost.

    The only type of interface I would include that hasn't already been mentioned so far is the one Jobs makes fun of--the stylus. I totally disagree with his comment that basically said any tablet designed to be used with a stylus has "done something wrong" or "missed the point." I don't remember the exact quote, but it was something like that. I've been using a convertible tablet for 3.5 years. It didn't change my life the way I thought it would. The reason is primarily because, as someone else pointed out, it's just too darn big and heavy to be a 'digital notepad' which is really what I want. Plus, there's always a laptop right there, which is almost always more convenient than the tablet. For note-taking, I haven't used a capacitive stylus, but the active digitizer on my convertible combined with MS OneNote are great. Granted, it's not as fast as typing, but for ripping off a quick email with just a line or two is perfectly reasonable. Handwriting recognition has been very good. I can't imagine doing much more on the input side than jotting a few notes or writing a brief email, but that goes back to fitting the right tool for the job.

    Rather than re-up the convertible tablet, I've decided to go more modular. I'll carry a laptop when I need it (rarely) and I'm waiting for the right tablet/slate with an active digitizer which I will carry most of the time. The 12" version of the Asus tablet looks promising, but I'm really looking forward to seeing the Fujitsu Q550. My convertible is a fujitsu, and it has been great despite being too heavy to use like a tablet.
  • crispbp04 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    add a slide out keyboard. problem solved Reply
  • osideplayer - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I too struggled with this problem and have found the best solution to be Apple's wireless Bluetooth keyboard. The set up is not clunky at all. I keep the tablet, cables and the keyboard in a messenger bag and only pop it out when I need to use it. With the new smart cover, the tablet is displayed perfectly in landscape and the virtual keyboard automatically minimizes when the keyboard is on. You can check out my you tube video;
    I also hear, after extensive use people have been getting use to the "touch keyboard". For example, in my research methods class, a kid takes notes on his I-Pad by simply touch typing. I asked him, "wouldn't it be more beneficial to have a wireless keyboard?" He responded, "I got use to it, its not that bad besides the wireless keyboard is too expensive." Idk.. but taking notes for three hours on a touch keyboard is extremely painful for me.
    I opted for the wireless keyboard, its light, practical and easy to use. It also maintains accuracy better than any virtual keyboard. I'd highly recommend it for anyone doing extensive writing on their tablet. It also works for your android and windows, so its not tied to just one system.
  • Johnmcl7 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I find the same problem with tablets, fine for browsing but pretty much useless when it comes to entering text. I've always hated touchscreen keyboards and opted for hardware ones instead but thought I'd give the touchscreen keyboard a go this time given there's no tablets with inbuilt keyboards. After a month with the touchscreen keyboard and trying out various keyboards including Swype and the Gingerbread one I hate touchscreen keyboards even more so I've been looking at hardware keyboard options but nothing I've found seems to fit in particularly well with the lightweight tablet concept.

  • Dug - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I don't view any tablet for ease of input, just ease of use.
    After maintaining computers for the last 20 years, I view the iPad as an elegant solution to things I enjoy about computers.

    Easily view my favorite websites
    I update my scheduled recordings for TV and easily view what's on.
    Use as a remote for my htpc.
    Update my Netflix que
    Use as a remote for my music and radio server. (ipeng for squeezeboxes around the house)
    Read local news and weather.
    Email and Facebook
    Show recipes while in kitchen cooking.

    I love using it as a remote for music at party's. People can just search songs and add them to the currently playing playlist. It's a great way to get people talking and involved. With a laptop it would be awkward.

    I eventually want to get into home automation to control lights and blinds.

    But this is all done so easily on the iPad. I don't have to think about it, because it just starts up. I don't think about battery life, hard drive crash, updates, viruses, compatibility, etc. It just works, and it does it with less set up time and maintenance than a laptop. The iPad is not something I would take with me. It's just an interactive coffee table book that anyone can use.

    I can tell you, it has been really nice to free up my work laptop from those duties.
  • RamarC - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Even with haptic feedback, it's impossible to know what you're pressing without looking at your finger(s). That shifts your focus away from what you're doing to what you're "attempting" to type. Maybe a fluid based screen that can be dynamically firmed/relaxed would give the feel response to mimic diferent shapes/textures.

    BTW, everytime I look at an android or iphone based interface, I see Windows 95... a bunch of icons in a scrolling window. The UI is de-volving but maybe I'm just jaded.
  • synaesthetic - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Add an active digitizer and a stylus and make it useful for artists.

    Then tablets would not only be easier to use, but have a problem to solve!
  • ludikraut - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    You need to checkout the EP121, then. Stylus and a WACOM digitizer built into the screen. ;-) Reply
  • mados123 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I wish the Acer Iconia had that setup with a 180 degree hinge. Reply
  • Arsynic - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    What we need is a dock-able phone that docks into a screen as a tablet that docks onto a keyboard as a netbook. The only difference would be that each dock signals a change of context and the appropriate OS options.

    For example the next version of Android could scale based on the context. I think I'll coin the next big buzzword "Contextual Computing". Smartphones, tablets and netbooks will be supplanted by Contexual Computing devices.
  • play2learn - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    But then there's a couple of patents to deal with... Reply
  • nickolas - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    My father is an old school civil engineer, designing by hand, having no knowledge whatsoever of computers.
    When I bought my first iphone all that it took was 5 minutes and a newspaper website for him to start browsing. He could actually enjoy the experience on his own, reading the headlines and browsing the articles, magnifying to read them and then going back to the main page to pick something else to read. That is great he said, though they can make the screen resolution higher.
    I am going to buy the Ipad for my parents, so they can actually use the internet. For the rest of us, it is good for when we need to chill out.
  • taserbro - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've been using a tablet computer, an hp tm2 to be precise, for a few months now and I've found myself growing fond of the wacom tablet pen. Sure, the windows pen support is far from perfect and the best typist will still have a slight edge on the best hand-writers in speed. That said, being able to handwrite notes, sketch out accurate diagrams, scribble post-its and run character recognition (which works surprisingly well) for emails and urls is so incredibly more attractive as a solution than anything I've tried on my ipad as of yet that I can't imagine why apple still hasn't licensed or developed their own magnetic resonance pen technology for their flagship tablets.

    Lest you count the prohibitively expensive, custom modified mod-books, whose price could easily cover 5 hp tm2 models or 2 lenovo x220s.
  • Rictorhell - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    First of all, I think tablets are very cool and very interesting, but still, very limited. Until they can get storage up to what I consider a reasonable amount, which is, for me, AT LEAST enough storage for all of my mp3s, with room to spare, then I probably will not be getting one.

    What will probably end up happening is that if people do decide to use tablets full-time as an alternative to other devices, tablet makers will start developing all-purpose docking stations with dedicated keyboards, ports, and all that stuff.

    The way things are going, very soon you'll be able to pick up a super thin tablet/notebook convertible device anyway that's super thin and extremely lightweight, so this will all be irrelevant. All notebooks will have optional touch-screen interfaces, or, if you choose to just use the keyboard for input you will have that option as well.
  • rudy - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Seriously its like no one has been listening I have been saying this forever the current slate form factor is stupid. It is as big as a laptop or netbook so it will not fit in your pocket as stated you are never going to want to carry this every where. Yet it can do nothing more than your phone can do. And somehow it took people over a year to start talking about this instead of just praising the iPad for everything.

    The solution is simple just buy the good old tablet if you care otherwise use a full powered computer which can do everything while having a real keyboard. These things really do not fit any sort of useful point in the market they should be pushed off to niche use such as input methods for taking orders at resturants where the choices are limited, and they should be alot cheaper to do that. All the people i know who have tablets fall into 2 catagories they are either mac heads and have no access to a real tablet, or they were given them for free.

    If you want to be productive you need power, speed and size, so do it right and buy a desktop, convertible tablet, or laptop depending on your needs. If you want portability by a phone. With the prices of most of the tablets you can hardly justify buying them as well as having a phone which you need and a full powered device.
  • justaviking - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    As long as we're dreaming and inventing...


    How about a flexible membrane that wraps around your forearm and serves as an input device? Much like a touch screen, this too would have a software configurable display and layout, changing depending on what your current task is.

    Imagine holding your tablet in your left hand and wearing the cuff on your left forearm. Your right hand can "type" on your left forearm without blocking your view of the tablet. (Reverse if you are left-handed.)

    At first it might feel unnatural to have your hand in a different place from where your input actually appears, but that is what happens with a mouse, and we got used to that, right? Your hand is on a horizontal table, and moving it back and forth causes a cursor to move vertically on your monitor. After a while they no longer feel disjointed. It's amazing how the human brain adapts to that sort of situation.

    People in SciFi movies often have controls on their forearms.


    Others mentioned keypads on the back of the tablet. Or buttons on the side. Suppose you learned a new "typing language" that was geared toward single-handed entry. Pressing one, two, or three keys in combination would allow for a lot of "keys" even with a single hand. One hand holds, one hand types, or if you hold it with two hands, maybe only three fingers on each hand do the typing.

    I once read an article about a man bicycling across the country, and he blogged the entire time. He was on a recombinant (? - reclined) bicycle and had buttons on his handle bar grips. He used them to type on his laptop while biking.

    But there would be a real learning curve, and I know my wife detested the "character recognition" on my Palm many years ago. So there might be a lot of resistance to it.


    Another poster mentioned "direct neural input." I was thinking that too. It is really making progress. We're still a long way from it, but quadriplegics are starting to use this. Some use implanted sensors for greater sensitivity, but not all. Who knows what might be possible in 15 or 20 years? By then, we might skip the tablet because the display will be embedded into contact lenses (currently in the lab today).

    Really, is the Borg that farfetched when we look out into the future?
  • quillaja - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link Reply
  • Xichekolas - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I think the solution is the Thinkpad Swivel Hinge.

    The reason the current Thinkpad Swivel Hinge notebooks suck is because they are too thick/heavy to be held like a tablet and they have an OS (ahem Windows) that has a crappy touch UI.

    So, you make something with the weight/thickness of a Macbook Air, put a swivel hinge and a touchscreen on it, then use something like Honeycomb or iOS.

    You could be surfing along in tablet mode, need to write a comment, swivel out the keyboard, write your comment, then swivel back when you want.
  • rudy - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Ask yourself this why do these slates even exist, it is not because they are great it is because apple figured it was the only way to sell people more devices and they used a massive advertising campaign to drill that into peoples heads and this was only because apple did not have a true tablet in their lineup. No one else saw the value because they all knew just as this article points out the device didnt make much sense practically. Certainly not at the $500 price point.

    Think about it realistically apple laptop 1000 - 2000, iphone $200 on a contract and ipad $500+ if apple had a real tablet no one would have ever even considered the iPad because you can buy a really nice tablet for $500 over the price you spent on a laptop.

    So basically yes apple created a new market trend because they refused to deliver a better product.

    I am not saying slates have no place but 100% of everyone I know who has one is not using it where it should be used. A slate would be good if you were were trying really hard to save money on a data plan and only used a dumb phone and you did not happen to have any other device like a mp3 player that was wifi capable, and you did not have a laptop or convertible tablet. Then a slate makes sense but how many people who have one actually fall into that catagory of having not one single mobile device that is not smart?
  • lihtness - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I would love to use the ipad all out, only when there is real productivity apps like word, xl and pp. and when i am able to save the documents locally.

    keyboard would be the next.. i wish the smart cover also had a keypad in it.
  • cotak - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I see Anand is still trying to find out how this tablet can be justified even though the first round the entire staff admits they found little use for a tablet.

    Why can't people just face fact that for real world use the tablet is pretty niche? Sure, there are some situation like air travel where he long battery life can come in handy but from the looks of various review you only get the advertised 10 hours if you avoid certain activity like gaming. It's still good for a decent part of a long haul or an entire mid distance flight. However, given that you are provided with movie choices on longer flights it's utility is a question mark.
  • quillaja - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I tried a Xoom the other day for 15 minutes or so, and I found typing on the keyboard wasn't as bad as I expected. In landscape mode I could go at it almost like a normal keyboard, and in portrait mode, it was fairly comfortable to use with just my thumbs (I think the iPad is wider, so it might not be as good for that). The worst thing is the odd keyboard layout, but I suppose you'd get use to that if you used it frequently.

    That said, I think speech recognition and text-to-speech is the real way to go. The only problem is that it currently sucks for taking long rambling monologues and turning them into sentences and paragraphs. Windows's built-in speech recognition isn't too bad, and I've heard Dragon is good though I've never used it. Android's voice search is surprisingly good at short little clips.

    But they all currently fall short of my vision: A tiny (think something like a wrist watch), or at least the size of current smart phones, computer with a smart AI which you can simply talk to as if you had a personal assistant following you around. eh, maybe someday.

    The other option is going "back" to handwriting. The thing is, it seems like the world simply hates handwriting now, so I dont expect it to get any traction. The vision for digital inking is not to have the computer convert your handwriting into standard text (at least not ostensibly), but for it to stay as handwriting when viewed by others. An email, blog comment, etc, would simply be a reflowable representation of my actual handwriting. The text conversion would happen in the background so that machines can read it (like metadata or something). This is way past what we've seen so far with MS's attempts at making Tablet PCs happen. But this'll never happen, I know.
  • geekforhire - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I saw this case in a Boulder restaurant a couple weeks ago, and the person appeared to be effectivly typing into their iPad using the keyboard built in to the case. Hope you find it interesting too.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    There's probably a reason I don't get paid to solve problems like this, but here's how I see it:

    Problem: You need to input text.


    You either need a thought-based system, a voice-based system, or a hand-based system. Thought is science fiction and voice is too inaccurate, slow, hardware intensive, and would far too often be completely impractical or simply uncomfortable for a mobile device.

    That leaves hand input, which means buttons of some sort. On-screen buttons are out, as they obscure content, are horrible from a tactile perspective, require the device to be designed for typing while holding it (an ergonomic nightmare for a tablet), and despite Swype and similar mechanisms are universally worthless for anything much beyond a quick "LOL".

    That leaves dedicated buttons. Projected keyboards are interesting, but they suffer from being an unpleasant tactile experience and requiring "special" surface areas, which disqualifies them for a couch tablet usage model.

    That leaves dedicated physical hardware buttons. Keyboards integrated into the device are out, as you either end up with a Kindle nightmare of dramatically increasing the size of device without providing a good typing experience (and forcing a fixed-orientation typing perspective), or you end up with a pop-out or sliding mechanism that if done properly would add significant cost and complexity to the device, while still being incredibly difficult (and probably impossible) to integrate into a tablet-sized device in an ergonomically acceptable fashion.

    That leaves dedicated physical hardware buttons distinct from the tablet. In other words, a keyboard. In my limited experience, the type of keyboard most suited for a tablet would be similar to a TI-92 Plus ( A very wide/tall device (relative to most smart phones), well weighted, with a central thumb+finger keyboard and a small screen that mirrors the text input as you type.


    The basic problem with tablets is that computing is a triangle; you need a display device, a pointing device, and a text input device. With clever software and a touch screen you can artfully put the display and pointing apexes very close together, but you'll always need a text input device. As such tablets without a keyboard aren't computing devices; they're fancy display devices, basically nothing more than a small TV with a marginally unique content delivery mechanism.
  • Fanfoot - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    1) Make the tablet smaller, like 7" so you can use your thumbs just like a smartphone. Agree that this still sucks.

    2) Put the keys on the back as others have said. I assume you'd end up using some kind of chording scheme like the old Douglas Engelbart thing honestly, since it would let you position your fingers once, say into little depressions for each finger, and you'd just press or not press with each finger. Thumbs would probably have to be on the front though if they're required. Originally Englelbart's scheme only used one hand (5 fingers/inputs) though so maybe you could do without them.

    3) Do a variant of #2 using chording ON SCREEN instead of a keyboard. Not sure whether this is really doable given the way your hands have to rest on screen. Or maybe you just use one hand. Somebody would have to play with the location for the input area to see what works. Anyway would also reduce the size of the input area. Apparently Englebart and TipTap mobile have combined for an iPhone/iPad app with a demo of this (not going to buy it, its $4.99 and since Apple doesn't allow you to replace the keyboard it seems sort of useless, but hey Anand, you could try it).

    4) A case with a keyboard in it. Obvious problems are that if you're going to use this all the time, you might as well just get a laptop if you ignore the whole no anti-virus, easier to use for many people angles. I haven't yet seen one that looks like a great idea, but I assume as companies chip away at this over and over again (which they will given the size of the market) something will emerge that really works. Is it a hard shell like that Lenovo U1 design used? Is it a leather case, and if so how does it hold the screen in place so its comfortable on your lap? Can they figure out how to make the keyboard really thin without making it unusable? Can they make the keys big enough given the small size of the tablet itself relative to even netbook displays? Can they make it so it isn't a giant pain to recharge this separately from the tablet? Can you install and remove the tablet easily for those times when you don't want to use it?

    5) A slide out keyboard. Again has to be thin, and not add a lot of weight or thickness to the device. And not sure how well this would work honestly--think about a small keyboard sliding out from the bottom of the iPad. Is it in-line with the rest of the device? Is that going to be comfortable to use in your lap? Does it angle out somehow? How do you manage that and have it not fall over given how big and heavy the display is? Are the batteries really in the keyboard half or something?

    6) Put the keyboard someplace else, like in gloves or on your arm (again using chording probably).

    Or ...?
  • slickr - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Anand Lal Shimpi there is a device for typing emails, writing tons of text and doing everything you do on the tablet 100x times faster and better, its called the PC and laptop.

    Laptop especially since its not that much heavier than a tablet, today they are pretty thin as well. They can't fit in your pocket, but neither can the tablet.

    I'd say you are alone in trying to invent hot water, when it already exists.
  • trip1ex - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Imagine MBA 11 with a fold out and slide under keyboard.

    Seems the logical solution.

    Or design a heavy aluminum cover case for the ipad that's a keyboard on the inside. And folds out into a laptop form factor.

    Or design a physical keyboard that flips up and covers the the exact dimensions of the ipad touch keyboard. Flips down onto back of ipad when not in use.

    Those would be 3rd party solutions most likely.

    I agree though that it needs another form of text input.

    Maybe the answer is in the form of software shorthand of some kind.

    Voice is a solution, but only for certain environments and not for everyone either.
  • lenghui - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    How about a glove that will allow you to type on any nearly surface? There are a few reasons you only need one glove. First of all, if you are right-handed, you would be holding on to your tablet with your left hand and wear the glove on the right. Secondly, you can use your left hand for anything else non-tablet related, such as reach for a glass, tv remote control, etc. Thirdly, it cuts down on cost. Lastly, you won't look like Michael Jackson.

    The glove itself could have a pad on the palm bottom (near your wrist) so that you can any surrounding surface into a keyboard. So it will take some training, but I swear I never thought I could learn to type in my life time. Now I type faster than I can talk. Another example: many of us are so well trained with the mouse that we literally control our 24" screen without moving the mouse for more than 4 inches -- such precision!

    And if you lay your palm on the bottom edge of the tablet, it activates the screen with a digital keyboard, perhaps with more functionality than you would get without the glove. To deactivate it, you just need to hold your glove in a user-definable pattern such as thumb+pinky, tiger claw, crane strike position, etc., for a few seconds, and you would be able to reach for your nice bottle of cool beer.

    You can also add a USB port (or miniature missile launcher) to the glove. it could be a fashion statement (Think Michael again). And no more fat fingering!

    How about that?
  • Mr Alpha - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I've never had an electronic device sold so many of the problems for me in one swoop as the iPad as. I use it 6 to 8 hours a day. It holds all my study materials I need for my university studies. It is also a wonderful PDF reader. And the number of PDFs I'm forced to read for my studies is immense. Of course, I also use it as my e-book gives me the flexibility to price shop amongst multiple e-book stores. It also makes a decent computer algebra system. Good enough that it has completely replaced my Texas Instruments calculator. I also find myself drawing Venn diagrams and technical illustrations using a vector drawing program and a stylus.

    If I'm forced to write something longer on it I use a stylus and writepad, a handwrite recognition program. It is far from perfect but it gets the job done.

    What I wish for is a higher resolution screen for the PDFs, a better their multitasking interface, and good speech recognition.
  • wvh - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The iPad is a consumption device. Maybe you're just not a consumption sort of person. I don't think it's more complex than that... Some people can just sit back and watch youtube videos and cat pictures all day long. Some can't. If I can't open a terminal window and ssh into a remote server, check in a bit of code or write some text beyond what's pleasurable with a non-keyboard device, I feel very restricted. I need to be able to do whatever I want with a computer, and quickly.

    I don't care for tablets because of that consumption restriction – it's like buying a (slow) laptop with a broken keyboard to me. I suppose those e-readers are devices concerned with one clearly defined purpose, and there it doesn't feel so much as a restriction; after all, you rarely read a novel to on-the-fly start rewriting it – you don't expect to produce input in that situation. But the iPad tries to be more than just a single purpose device – a general computing device – and falls short because you expect to be able to use it like a computer – consuming but also producing content.

    We have a couple of iPads at work – I guess as a preliminary introduction to write code taking that form factor into consideration – and it's quite clear people fall into one of two possible categories – put into strong terms, the lovers ("it has potential") and the haters ("useless!"). There's not much middle ground here...
  • relentlessfocus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Without a doubt trying to type on a piece of glass with no contextual kinesthetic cues about where the borders of the keys are or where the fingers are located in relation to the “home” keys is the source of the problem. Many of us already know how to type at some reasonable speed but without the kinesthetic cues of a real keyboard we’re lost when working on tablets (I have seen touch typists who can reach impressive speeds on an iPad but I’m not one).

    The solutions presented in the comments so far include
    Swype, not something you’d want to do if you writing a novel
    voice recognition which requires a quiet background and has other limitations
    a separate keyboard which is bulky and runs counter to the logic of a tablet.

    I did some quick research as much to scope out the problem as to present solutions.

    1) Typical professional typing speeds come in at around 50-70 words per minute with high accuracy. Of course typing isn’t a natural human function, those of us like myself who learned to type in school find it almost second nature now that we know it but THAT we know how to do it is because we were taught. We could learn other data entry skills in school which would make touch typing seem antiquated.

    2) The typical court stenographer can write at 200-300 words per minute with high accuracy. ( When we say that typing on a tablet sucks, its possible that a court stenographer would say that normal touch typing also sucks. Even if a tablet keyboard could be built to mimic a steno machine, we mere touch typing mortals would be left having to learn new skills and the same problem of kinaesthetic feedback on glass pertains.

    3) Speech recognition in theory lets you “type” as fast as you can speak but as this video of speech recognition on an iPad shows, even in quiet environs there are other limitations (not accuracy particularly). Most of us can talk faster than we can think and so getting words out is only part of the problem. Mulling over one’s thoughts and editing are also important and speech recognition may suffer a bit in these regards. Anyway, here’s speech recognition on an iPad:

    4) Another possibility is shorthand. Speeds of 150 words per minute are not uncommon for writing in shorthand and here’s a video of someone writing in shorthand on a tablet computer at 140 wpm:

    One big problem going forward to be that most of us are reluctant to learn a new way of doing things (for example shorthand) with the requisite demands of becoming a beginner again. Shorthand may well be a better data entry technique on a tablet but I’m skeptical that it will catch on. We may just need to reorient our thinking about what we do with tablets and which type of data entry is appropriate for the work we do. Horses for courses, for some a laptop is a better solution while for others the tablet is the better solution. Perhaps there is no “one size fits all” solution to the problem?
  • dmoto - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I didn't read all the comments, but and idea came to me where you could take the magnetic cover that protects the screen could also turn into a blue tooth keyboard. Now this is just an idea, so if the keyboard ends up being to flimsy to type on, then just have a thin solid metal board slip into the magnetic cover to keep it firm. What do you think? Reply
  • simplemime - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Two 8 way D-pads located on the right and left bezels, right under your thumbs when holding the device in landscape mode (sort of like a game controller).

    You can press the pads individually but pressing them simultaneously produces a different input.

    Some examples:

    Left Right Input
    pad pad
    ↑ 1
    ↑ ↑ 2
    → ↖ 3
    ↓ 4

    There are 80 combinations. If a few are reserved for modifiers (alt, shift, symbol, numlock) you can get every command you need. Of course, there would be a learning curve since you would have to memorize all the combos, but I think this would be pretty fast once mastered.
  • simplemime - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    _↑_______0______ 1
    _↑_______↑______ 2
    _→______↖______ 3
    _0_______↓______ 4
  • relentlessfocus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    oops, screwed up the URLs on my post below. apologies!

    Here's the dictation software on an iPad:

    Here's the shorthand on a tablet video:
  • relentlessfocus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    ok one more time: speech recognition on an iPad Reply
  • mushu - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Re. the remark about bluetooth keyboards or switching to a regular keyboard-equipped device being ineffective... I'd argue that it's far more effective to do so when it comes to writing lengthy texts! That way, you separate leisurely "content-consumption" in the couch from more focused "production" in your workspace. I imagine there are cognitive benefits, benefits wrt sleep hygiene, wrt physical health (let's face it, we spend enough time prone in our couches as it is...).

    With that out of the way...

    1. Several posters deride "content consumption", for which tablets are ideal.

    However, as one poster points out, content-consumption can be more than watching youtube clips of dogs pooping on babies. Since getting my Nook color I've used it for my studies as much as for anything else--not just for reading reading PDFs and online sources but also eg. for clipping info from various sources to compile better notes, for creating quick mindmaps, etc.

    2. I find it relatively easy to type out short-to-medium length texts on the Nook, using thumb keyboard in portrait mode. The Nook hasn't a chance in hell of emulating typing on a notebook, so I may as well go all the way and let it play to its strengths: I find it far more comfortable to thumb out messages on the Nook than to type on a notebook while lying prone in bed.

    3. Voice recognition software is cool, but I'm not titillated by the thought of everyone around me hearing what I'm up to.

    4. Rather, I think I might prefer an elegant input solution that can also learn from everything I've ever written. SwiftKey does a surprisingly good job on my phone, even with the limited number of predictions and the simultaneous use of two languages. I imagine it might be even better on a tablet and with access to all my mails and posts.

    5. Swype/SlideIt on tablets, perhaps with the keys to one side, maybe in an alternative layout (eg. a long column with three keys in each row), with keys eg. on the right and predictions on the left hand side.

    6. Foldable bluetooth keyboard!
  • relentlessfocus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    And of course there's all kinds of business oriented content that some commentators seem oblivious to. Just to name a few: Big time sport coaches are using them, television presenters are using them (Jake Humphreys presenting Formula 1 on BBC for example), doctors are using them when doing rounds with quick access to patient records, xrays, etc, estate agents use them in working with clients, they're used in schools in many different ways and levels, sales people have their product catalogues on them, executives use them to access corporate databases (eg, they're used to display retail catalogues in shops like All Saints, they're used in restaurant booking, they're used by lawyers and paralegals for keeping case notes and looking up documents and contract info stored in databases, they're used in presentations (attached to a tellie by airplay or hardwire) or to a projector and scores of other applications.

    Anyone who thinks that they're toys and useless beyond watching youtube and other frivoloties doesn't really realise the extent that they're being used in the business and scientific world.
  • dwalton - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I once felt that a tablet with a smartphone OS was a useless device. Until my wife bought me an ipad and I discovered the utility of such devices. Simply put... its a toy. A pretty great toy but a toy nevertheless.

    Its by no means a competent laptop replacement and the ipad doesn't try to be on any real level. If you want to watch a movie on the couch but don't have access to your TV, play a game to waste some time, facebook or read news then the ipad or an Android based tablet is a good device. But in terms of moderate to heavy production thats typically done by most people on a laptop, a tablet is relatively worthless as a device.

    I once remoted into my labtop from my bed to do so a small task which entailed emailing a colleague a list off a website, some pics and a description of work needed and I turn what should of taken 5 minutes into 20 minutes of wasteful effort.

    The touch screen keyboard is for simple task such as typing in an url or a really short email messages but I wouldn't write anything of length. Yeah, you could go buy a bunch of accessories like a bluetooth keyboard and mouse to strengthen its capability. But, why? If you're pimping out an ipad with wireless accessories because production is a priority then I think you need to put your priorities in order. You are simply trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. A laptop is way more capable as an entertainment device than an ipad is a production device. Because of that, the laptop should always win out when its a either/or question.

    Trying to replace a labtop with an ipad is like trying to replace a pair of dress shoes with a pair of shell toe adidas.
  • dwalton - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    In short, if you find yourself on a ipad or similar device doing something that can be done more efficiently on a laptop. Go get your laptop, if being efficient matters. Reply
  • sean.crees - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Anand i have read all of your Tablet reviews, and i keep getting the same impression from you every time. Your usage model is unique. Most people i know don't need to type up a word document on a daily basis. Maybe if your in college, but otherwise people don't hardly ever type except for short text messeges on their cell phone.

    So for most, the lack of a physical keyboard, while uncomfortable at first, isn't really all that important. And the more you do it, the more you get used to it, and the less it bothers you.

    A notebook is very clunky to move around with while its open. You can't really walk around with it. It's portable, but you need to sit to use it, preferably with a desk or table to be really comfortable.

    A tablet you can walk around with, hand off to other people easily, share with people around you easily. The wide viewing angles on the iPad really help with this. It just feels more personall. You argue that its just a bulky cell phone, but most people can't stand doing much of anything other than texting and calling on their cell phone. The screen is just too small to do anything online. It's nice to have when there is nothing else, but it is far from your prefered go to internet device.

    It's a lot like the relationship between laptops and desktops. If you could, a desktop would always be prefered, but it's not always available because its not portable. The same between cell phone and tablet. You'd prefer the big screen of the tablet, but when in a pinch, a cell phone works.

    Your biggest complaint i see you post about tablets is their too bulky too carry around. The same can be said of a notebook. It replaces the notebook, and while it may not be good enough for your unique usage model, it is for most people. My friends carry their tablet in the same way you carry your notebook.

    When all you need is to surf the web, check email, and chat online, and watch video's a tablet is the perfect device.
  • rfle500 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Actually I have to disagree with your comment that Anand's usage model is unique. I work as a scientist in academia and may typical daily use involves some research (looking at papers), answering 20-30 emails/day, writing papers and computer programming. So essentially 10% content consumption and 90% content creation.

    The last item is the real killer at the moment - if I can't program on the thing then it can't replace my notebook. To be honest the wireless bluetooth keyboard (and trackpad) are portable enough to work as input devices, and as other people have said I don't think there is going to be a better replacement any time soon - can you imagine trying to write a computer program with voice recognition - or even typing in loads of semi-colons with the touch keyboard - yuck!??

    Personally I think the main requirements for tablets to replace notebooks is the ability to switch from a touch OS to a desktop OS seamlessly, while the content (your files, documents etc) stays the same. That way you get the best of both worlds - touch screen for web browsing and sharing documents, and task switching, copy and paste etc for content creation. The other big requirement here is more storage space, by an order of magnitude.

    If and when that becomes possible, then tablets could probably replace laptops.
  • sean.crees - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    And you believe you and Anands usage model is the norm?

    Out of the 2 dozen people i know that use a computer of some sorts on a daily basis, i don't know a single one of them that types more than a few fragmented texts at a time. Maybe a paper for school once a month.

    Tablets replace laptops for average consumers. You and Anand are not average, your unique.
  • Capt Caveman - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    As other's have mentioned, though not perfect and still advancing, speech recognition will allow the tablet to expand it's capabilities and increase owner's productivity. Just image touching the comment box here and speaking instead of typing this message.

    If I make a mistake, I could just highlight the word with the swipe of my finger and say a word to replace it. We see voice commands becoming a more common method of input for vehicles, smart phones, etc.

    Add a stylus and handwriting recognition and you will have a great product with mass appeal.

    The tablet is not fad, Apple has helped innovate the market with it's ability to make the product more user friendly and useful by the average person(ie. mp3 player and smart phone).
  • sean.crees - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    This will likely be where tablets end up eventually.

    Idunno about a stylus though, some may, but i'm pretty sure Apple will just have you use your finger.
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    OK, so here's my idea. I think it is really revolutionary. To make tablets useful, you need to attach a keyboard. But just attaching a fixed keyboard or a slide-out one won't work for larger tablets. After all, it would become too awkward to hold it and type at the same time. You have to attach it to the tablet using hinges, so you can rest the keyboard section on your lap or a table, while propping the display up (preferably in landscape orientation). Then, so you don't have to lean over all the time to click on things, add a little touchpad to control a pointer or cursor of some variety.

    Finally, now you you've got all this extra tablet real estate where the keyboard and touchpad are, you could pack in some real horsepower and more storage. Finally, install a full blown operating system. If you absolutely must use "teh appz" in some kind of "App Sandbox" instead of real software, you could always integrate an app store into the browser.

    I really think this idea would make tablets actually useful! What do you guys think? Should I take this idea to a big company, like IBM?
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Oh another side benefit of using a hinged keyboard/touchpad add-on (with built-in processor-ram-storage upgrade module), is that you could just fold it shut whenever you aren't using it. So it will just just as portable as before! BRILLIANT! Reply
  • Morelian - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I have an Ipad 1 and use it mostly every day. It is light and I slip it in my book bag when I head off to work. At work I mainly use it for the free moments I get to check emails-the mail client is fine and while I use it to view emails, I use my home pc to do any responding. You can also surf facebook on it and I like the bigger size than on the Iphone. Finally, if work is really slow, I can surf the net or read one of the books I have. I should mention at work all the pc's are shared, so I don't feel comfortable checking emails on them and I don't like surfing on them in case somebody needs to use one for work :) I can and still do use the Iphone for this but the Ipad is a more convenient platform.

    At home the Ipad is strictly a consumption device. I like to read, so my books are on them and if I eat a meal by myself I prop up the Ipad and read the Times or AT so something. In the car the Ipad is a great book platform plus with the 3g you can check emails and websites etc. The Ipod function is there and you put on the headphones and can read and listen to music while the kids watch cartoons etc.

    Anand, you need to think consumption and not input with the device. As much as I like my Ipad and use it, I don't ever type more than a sentence with it. In a couple of years the Ipad 4 or 5 will probably be fine to use with a bluetooth keyboard for "work" but for now think of a portable newspaper, magazine, book library and music collection. For typing this reply I am doing it on my desktop with a nice tactile keyboard and 24 inch monitor-No way I would want to type on the Ipad. There are some things desktops and laptops are just better at.
  • ricyuyc - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    If space is available, I would bring the HHKB Lite2 /w me. It work when coupling /w CCK at dock connector. You guys may found photos here:

    I use them to take notes during meetings/forum, report drafting in cafe and park or, whenever I need massive input at the field. The tactile feel is almost as good as the HHKB Pro2, but draining current of Pro2 is just higher than the dock connect could support. And lite2 equipped w/ ← ↑ ↓ → cursor key that Pro2 didn't.
  • darwiniandude - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Every time I've used the Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad, I get a bit done and then want to move somewhere else in the building and it's simply too awkward. I've found that with practice I can type extremely efficiently with the on screen landscape mode keyboard. I know this doesn't propose a fix for the ergonomics problem, but with practice I've found it to be a non issue. I simply love typing on the iPad now, provided the dictionary is properly trained to correct words as I desire. An editable word list for the iPad's dictionary would really help here.

    I just use the apple cover on the 1st gen, or smart cover on the new one. (what this post is typed on)

    Portrait mode keyboard is useless.

    It need to sit in my lap and I sit upright and type on it. You can't lounge back in a chair and type, but then I'd imagine that would be awkward with a conventional notebook/netbook anyway.

    Each to their own.

    I only really wander over to the iMac now for the occasional flash website or to sync/backup the iPad.
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    1.Voice input could work if 1. you are at home and relatively alone. 2. you don't mind everybody else at the airport bar to here every last word you type.

    2. I don't like typing on a qwerty touchscreen either.

    3. My choice would be to use a stylus when i had to write. i would like there to be some more sophisticated handwriting programs that have more intuitive ways of using your writing in to fill in web forms and other interactions.

    4. Also, you could redesign the traditional touchscreen input to be more friendly to the human hand. The biggest difficulty I have with touchscreens is that I would like to hold it in the bottom corners, but in order to type, I have to shift my hands to the center, or put the thing down.
    If you remapped the qwerty to the two bottom corners of the screen, and maybe put them inside of rotating discs that disappeared into the corners so that all you ever saw was a quarter circle in each corner.
    and there could be like 3 or 4 levels of letters that rotated on their own disc level, one for letters, one for numbers, one for symbols.
    Of course, you'd have to relearn how to type completely, and you wouldn't know how well it worked until you tried it, but i think it sounds better than the current option to me.
  • ProDigit - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Finally, people finally start to see that tablets are unhandy, and notebooks are with their extra keyboard!

    Finally some people in the world start to have a brain!

    A tablet to a netbook is like a car without an engine.
  • joe_dude - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The Eee Pad Transformer should have much better keyboard integration than the iPad with keyboard dock and 16 hours battery life (!!!). I hope Anandtech will review it and see if it's good for road warriors.
  • Ken g6 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    First of all, I should mention that I've never even handled a tablet. But I hear kids these days type on their smartphones with their thumbs. Why not have two halves of a touch-screen keyboard near the thumbs, so you can hold a tablet (between your hands) and still type with thumbs alone? Reply
  • sean.crees - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    This is a really great idea IMO.

    I know a few reviewers have said they need to move the capture photo button to the side instead of the bottom middle.

    Having a split keyboard, and half either half on the right/left side of the screen would likely solve a lot of the issues typing on a screen so large. Maybe have it be split in landscape mode, and bottom/center like it is now in portrait mode. That way you don't piss of people who like it the way it is now.
  • mushu - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    This is a great idea that's already been implemented, notably by android's ThumbKeyboard as well as the upcoming swiftkey version for tablets :) cheers Reply
  • chrisbyrne - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    There is no solution. The simple truth is touchscreen absolutely sucks, always has and always will. But because all the manufactures seem to copy Apple these days and don’t even try to innovate anymore, and Apple who just seem to decide what they think we need and not what we really want we end up with a bunch of crap we don’t need and in reality rarely use. Take apps for example, how many do you truly use on a regular basis? If it can't fulfil its basic function then it’s a failure but most people overlook this in relation to the Ipad or IPhones lousy touchscreen because of the hype. You will never be able to type as fast on touch screen as you can on a proper keyboard but this hasn’t stopped people attempting to type with their chubby fingers and hitting the wrong keys. Just get a decent laptop with a real keyboard, hell you can even get a laptop with a touchscreen if you really have a hard on for touching stuff! Reply
  • sean.crees - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Anand has said it and i agree. The "killer app" is and always will be the browser. Reply
  • samirsshah - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    speech input.

    I am not a touch typist so I will not have problems with virtual keyboard but for touch typist I think speech is the only answer.
  • mados123 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I don't think until you have an active digitizer solution with a capacitive touch screen will you finally get the functionality you are looking for. This is seen in the HP Slate, Asus Eee Slate with Windows 7 and the HTC Flyer that is coming out. With the Windows 7 OS and its fast handwriting recognition, I think you will be able to transcribe your thoughts down quickly and have it ready for sending off to your email recipient. Mind you, this is not the same capacitive stylus solution as seen with the iPad and current Android tablets.

    I don't know if the processor in the HTC flyer will convert handwriting to text as quickly as a person will write but it seems like a good balance of specs, functionality with the Android system and price.
  • MacTheSpoon - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    It's kind of a lipstick-on-a-pig problem to solve, in my opinion. A tablet that isn't convertible to a laptop just isn't capable of a very good text input experience, period. That's why the main point of the iPad is to let you have fun using multitouch in such a large and light form factor--the UI itself becomes a form of entertainment.

    The only solution that works is to provide a real keyboard. Maybe an extremely thin one built into the iPad cover. However, it's still not going to be as ergonomic as a real laptop, or a convertible tablet, because you will essentially be typing into a flat Speak and Spell without the ability to tilt the screen for comfort.

    Or you could use a Wacom stylus...except that it's slower than a keyboard for text, and anyway Steve hates styluses and will never support them.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I was thinking along that line as well. Without a keyboard the iPad ia more of a toy. I can see an ulttra thin keybpard (chicklet style) that flips (convertable style) around and behind the tablet. That way you can keep the keyboard out of the way when you are just reading/playing around and just rely on the touch os of your particular tablet. When you need to be more productive you just whip the keyboard into place. It would also function as a screen cover when fully closed. I can see Apple building more than one version of the iPad. They have done it with the iPod. Why not their tablet? Reply
  • danjw - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I want a desktop at home, because nothing beats it at gaming. I want a laptop while I travel, so I can have a real computer to use that has on it what I want on it. I want a smart phone when I am out and about. I just don't see any niche where a tablet fills a void I need filled. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    When you want to browse the internet while sitting on a toilet... the iPad is better than a desktop of notebook.

    When using GPS / map functions - trust me... the 10" screen on an iPad blows away my 4" Android in every way.

    It okay that some people don't want or need a tablet. I finally bought my first notebook about 3 years ago - I used my Thinkpad for court because it allowed me to review evidence on the fly. Otherwise, not much use. Today, it goes out with me on business and is handy to have. Its an older model with a 2hr (at best) battery - but for performance, I use AC power 90% of the time.

    With an iPad, I get a great little screen and a device that I can use for 6~9 hours. Tablets are NOT input devices... use a notebook or desktop.

    I don't put games on my iPad - otherwise my kid would be wanting to use it.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Ok, +1 for iPad while on toilet. Yay, iPad wins the toilet test. Maybe, just maybe, you can do without a computer for a few minutes while you take a crap. Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    There will come a day when they make a computer that will work when you take a shower or go for a swim - because facebook updates is a way of life. Reply
  • Springfield45 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Less expensive. More powerful. More productive. More versitile.
    Buy a modern netbook.
  • ET - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    A solution to speech recognition is lip reading software. You'll still look like an idiot taking to yourself, but at least you won't have to disturb others with your speech.

    Of course the best solution would be thought control for input, but it'd take more time to get there.
  • Arnulf - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    It's simple really, let the fad die out and use normal (portable) computer for your portable work needs. Most people have far better things to do than to devote a portion of their life to yet another technotoy that does nothing but waste one's time in ways that have all been possible before, but none in this lame a manner :) Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    That is YOUR problem.

    Okay, its not really a problem. Like many people here - you are a TECH GUY, but more so - you are a tech guy in the publishing of tech info. You create a LOT of material for some tech site, which I'm sure will become popular someday. :{P

    Tablet devices are NOT designed to be used that way. It'd be like expecting a Wii to act like an DSi. Nintendo created a powerful console and a portable one. They are aimed and built to be used in different environments.

    So yes, you are holding your iPad wrong. And I doubt you'll be doing it correctly for quite a while... perhaps when you are burned out on computer tech. Hey, I was so sick of computers some years ago, I didn't even want a computer in my home.

    I'd say, keep it handy in your home for your guest to use. A family or friend comes over - they have a device with web access they can use all over your home without touching your computers.

    When I went on a business trip, we used an iPad to sell a company/services because of EXACTLY how it worked. A notebook would have been too bulky, even with the ThinkPad T410. While in that town - 1000 miles away, I went to visit relatives and show photos / videos of my household family and life (kid, GF, friends, etc). I had these devices:

    Galaxy S Phone: 4" screen - limited battery life and need to use it to make calls and take photos.
    ThinkPad : 15" screen - fast yes, but maybe 1hour of good battery use or be tethered to a power cord and most likely bring the notebook bad with mouse and mouse pad... thats 10 lbs of crap. Its bigger screen is a plus...

    iPad: 10" screen - this is the device I took with me (and my phone). 2 lbs and in a simple protector case. I shared hundreds of photos with adults and kids. Flicking through the gallery was easier than if I used my notebook. I didn't bring a charger or anything else. It made visiting easier and more fun.

    I've taken to the iPad faster than my notebook. For serious work, it'd going to be my Thinkpad thats going to be used... and the iPad is small enough to easily fit in my notebook bad.

    Even in my hotel room, I'd use both... but the iPad is what I used when I was relaxing and perhaps wanted to check something out real quick.

    The ipad I bought 2 weeks ago is my first apple product and by using it, I know it won't be my last. I doubt I'd ever get an iPhone, far to restrictive for my needs of a cel-phone. And I'm hoping that Lenovo makes a T-Series notebook with an AMD Fusion CPU really soon to replace my old ThinkPad.

    Anand : take your iPad out of your office - leave it in your living room. Its only in your office for a recharge or updates. Report back... ;)
  • mushu - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Why does this tablets-are-only-toys idea have such inertia?

    In my previous post I gave some examples of why a tablet has been a productivity booster for ME. Immediately following that post another person provided a long list of examples of tablet applications that are more productive than youtubing on the loo. Clearly there are uses for the ipad that go beyond conventional internet-based procrastination, but immediately after that post people began carping on about how tablets are toys that have no better use than to watch silly stuff on the internet.

    What's going on here?

    Is this the same phenomenon we saw before smartphones exploded? Is this the same group that insisted that netbooks were useless low-powered niche products that did nothing well and that would never take off? I was inclined to believe those people until I got a netbook and it quickly became my only regular computer; until I got a smartphone and discovered the benefits of having a tiny super-connected camera-equipped computer in my pocket at all times; and until I got my hands on a tablet and seamlessly incorporated it into my work and my studies as well as my leisure time.

    I don't understand this misguided compulsion some of you have to invalidate other people and their experiences. I get it, it's not suitable for you, it's not a good use of your money, but tablets are clearly useful to other people and constitute a legitimate use of THEIR money. Other people exist and they are different from you, get with the homo sapiens already.
  • Solandri - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    That's my interpretation of the market too. At first netbooks used a simplified version of Linux which gave you access to just a few vital apps (browser, email, IM, picture/video viewer, MP3 player). But then the techies kinda raided them and converted them into full-fledged mini-laptops which run Windows apps. Consequently, netbooks ended up abandoning their original niche and being subsumed by the low-end laptop market.

    Blackberries and iPhones kinda filled the niche they left empty for a while, but they were too small. Then the iPad dropped square in the middle of that niche and quickly sold 10 million. Face it - despite what we techies think about these devices being too "limited", there is substantial consumer demand for this niche - a low-end primarily-consumption device with just enough flexibility to do other simple stuff.

    As for input interfaces, why does it have to be just one? Give it a virtual keyboard. Give it Swype. Give it a bluetooth keyboard and mouse. GIve it that weird circular text entry thingy someone came up with last year. Give it voice recognition. Give it handwriting recognition. Give it Graffiti from the old Palm Pilot days. Give it something that uses the front-facing camera to determine where your eye is looking at on the screen. Give it lip reading with the front-facing camera. Give it something based on the Kinect technology that'll let you type on the table in front of it as if there were a keyboard there.

    Give it all of these and let each user decide which data entry method s/he prefers.
  • BugblatterIII - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    About the only thing that's easy to type on a QWERTY keyboard is the word QWERTY.

    I used a FITALY keyboard on my old Touch HD and that was a definite improvement.

    However I think this problem has already been solved in a different way.

    You know that person in the court transcribing everything that's said? He/she's got around 8 keys and presses them in various combinations.

    Imagine 8 slightly-movable switches on the edge of the tablet at the back. You hold the tablet with both hands and just flex your fingers a little to enter text.

    Only problem is the learning curve, but like I say I don't think QWERTY works so there's likely to be a learning curve. If you want to be a power user you've gotta put in the effort, like I did with FITALY.

    I don't think speech works; talking to my tablet would just annoy everyone around me.
  • ABR - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    It seems that most of the people confused about why the tablets are selling so well, including Anand (whom I have the greatest respect for), are missing a really crucial point. It's not mobile browsing, office, or email, but the apps!

    The touchscreen interface IS a different paradigm from WiMP (Windows, Mouse, and Pointer). Apple understood this and launched the iPhone based around a new UI framework built from the ground up to produce apps designed around that UI. Folks keep talking about email, web browsers, and things like that -- but these are applications built around WiMP. OK, you see some minor advantages here and there, it's nice for consumption when a laptop would be too heavy, etc. etc., but these are NOT what it's all about. These are NOT why the iPhone took off, and they are NOT why tablets suddenly started selling with the iPad. They are taking off because people are designing apps built around the touchscreen, to operate in ways that aren't possible or enjoyable in WiMP.

    So I would humbly suggest to any reviewers to try to survey some of the specialized apps out there, relating to your own hobbies, interests, and habits, rather than basing assessments on how the browser is, or what it's like to type text.

    And by the way, note that NONE of this has anything to do with Apple. They started it, just like they did with WiMP, but Android looks more and more like it will prove to be the Windows of the mobile age -- not quite as slick, but commoditized and highly available, taking the lion's share in the end.
  • R3MF - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    "Tablets: How Would You Solve the Input Problem?"

    There is no problem to solve, we simply have to accept that there is a difference between productivity computing and casual computing, and that for the former a 12" 1366x768 screen tied to a keyboard and a non-Atom CPU is the minimum possible configuration.

    This chap put it quite well when talking about the failure of the 'classic' netbook, same thing applies:
  • wittgenfrog - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I have used a Windows tablet for several years. These are a different kettle of poisson to iPads and the current 'consumer' tablets, but nonetheless they share the difficulty of inputting data.

    The handwriting recognition in W7 is pretty good, and if, like me, you are an older person, used to hand writing, this is a viable form of input. However many people today are not very comfortable with hand writing, so this won't really work for them.

    The key technology is, I'm sure, Speech Recognition. All those Star trek dreams of chatting with our computers are gradually coming true. As our gadgets become more self and mutually aware and integrate and interact more seamlessly I fully expect Speech to be developed further, and play a key role.
    For instance whilst using your table you ask "who's so and so?" the Tablet does the Speech Recog, and hands the query off to your PC or to the Interweb... Expand this to Home TV, Audio etc and its definitely the future...
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Here's my slightly crazy thought when approaching the catch-22 of a tablet:

    Put the keyboard on the back of the tablet. We all have to learn to do something new and by attempting to keep the same QWERTY-style but broken up similar to the Microsoft Natural keyboard the actual learning curve should be small. The left hand would have the same keyboard layout as what your left hand would have on a normal keyboard just rotated 90 degrees to the left, while the right hand would have the same rotated to the right. Think like an accordion.

    The only barrier to this I see is really flexibility. My personal belief is that a keyboard needs to be real and not virtual for actual productivity so tactile keys like a blackberry would be required. This means you would have to decide for the customer to either put the keys on the longer sides (portrait mode), or on the shorter sides (landscape mode), as it is unlikely to have both and I don't know which would be preferable.

    This could be one of those revolutionary design changes that takes time to get off the ground but becomes the norm for tablets in the future (think of the mouse replacing the trackball).

    Royalties please.... :)
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    And had I actually read the comments (comon there's 15 pages! :)) I would have seen a lot of other people had the same thought. Oh well. Reply
  • rs2 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    The solution to this problem today is the same as it was when tablets were initially tried a decade ago. Stop using tables, and get a laptop instead. Really, just because some popular tech guy decides to declare tablets "the next big thing" doesn't mean you have to listen.

    If the tablet form-factor allowed a device to be as capable as a laptop or netbook, then it would have been done years ago. It's silly to revisit the same idea and expect a different result just because the marketing hype claims it to be so.
  • JonBendtsen - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    What if part of the tablet input problem could be our western styled alphabet/language? Maybe the asian style sign language would work better? Reply
  • Mau1_wurf_1977 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I can understand where Anand is coming from. You are in "browsing mode" but then you get an email or see a forum topic and you really want to answer the email or answer the forum topic.

    Information flows 24/7 these days, and so do peoples information needs.

    Now I thought a while about how you might be able to solve this. I don't think the ipad will ever be used for creating complex documents, so I'm calling the activity editing / answering rather than creating documents.

    Because if you want to create a decent presentation or a lengthy article, you would use your notebook. However there are these momemnts where you just had a though, and would like to make some quick changes to an existing document, a blog, answer an email and so on.

    So to me it seems we have 2 activities. Viewing and browsing and editing / answering.

    So this is my suggestion:

    At the front the tablet stays untouched. Big screen for viewing and browsing.

    However the backside will be different. It will have a real keyboard. Positioned in such a way, that you can still grip, hold the ipad. Apart from a real keyboard, there will be a very small screen. Just big enough to read text.

    So when you are browsing and you get an email, you open the email, hit reply and then flip over the ipad. Now you have the keyboard and you can answer the email and see what you are typing on the small screen at the back.

    So yea, that's my "vision" so to speak!

  • Mau1_wurf_1977 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    EDIT: Regarding the screen at the back. It will feature a auto zoom / crop feature, which follows the text you are typing. So it starts off zoomed into where the cursor is and as the cursor moves, it adjust the view / zooms out.

    That way you will get a view that gets larger as you type more and more text...
  • HHCosmin - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    as i look at the transformer ideea it seems better and better. you have a tablet and a net book in one. i would bump the resolution a bit and have 3g mandatory. having a detachable/optional keyboard and touchpad seems the most common way to get faster at doing some work. voice recognition would be nice but that uses quite some processign power, is not that great as people speak more languages than english, if you are in a crowded place it would not help much and so on. voice recognition may be a solution however.

    asus transformer is almost perfect.
  • kevith - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    The way I see it, we started of with desktop PC's. It took a while, before they had sufficient power to do a variety of tasks, that both tech nerds, professionals, Aunt Granny and Everyday Joe uses. Photo- and movie editing, music production, web magazine editing, or simply mailing, chatting, gaming and downloading a movie. At the same time.

    Then came laptops. And we all saw a future without being tied up to a noisy machine at our desk, but being free to carry all of our digital life in a laptop with almost the same power as a desktop.

    But we're not there yet. Not at all, not even close. At least if price matters, which it does to almost everyone of us. Laptops still have a long way to come, before they are near replacing the desktop for good. Even 15 pound super-desktop replacement laptops, aren't considered truly able to make the desktop machine disappear.

    And now we have smart-phones and their super-sized cousin, the tablet as well. As for tablets, Anand made a very good point of describing the iPad as a "new category of hardware, unable to replace any of the ones we already have" And they are even weaker, than the tiniest of laptops, The Netbooks.

    So it's simply still not good enough. Yet.

    Because WHEN someone, maybe here, comes up with a solution for input, and the hardware gets the power of tomorrows super laptops, I'm sure the tablet form factor is the one, we'll end up with for a pretty long time.

    But it's going to be a while...
  • handaxe - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    1. There is no input problem with tablets any more than there is an input problem with a smartphone. While you *can* use a BT keyboard, or a folding or rollable BT keyboard with a smartphone, very few people do because it's inconvenient to have a bulky thing to carry around, even if it gives you a better input method. Basically, the convenience of carrying the smartphone around with no other encumbrances outweighs the (slight) inconvenience of typing on the small (usually touchscreen) keyboard.

    The same principle holds true of tablets. The point behind a tablet is to have a lightweight, small form factor device that is more convenient to carry around than a laptop. But if it only works for you by carrying around other devices, then the problem is that you shouldn't be using a tablet at all. If you need to do a lot of text input, you should just be using a laptop.

    So, Anand (and others similarly situated), I don't think you will be able to make a tablet work for you because you're trying to make it do something it wasn't designed for. It's like using a smartphone and BT keyboard to write a 30 page document - while this is quite possible, it's something that no one would do by choice.

    2. People who think that the issues described in point 1 mean that tablets are useless really don't understand how most people use their own (i.e., non-work) computers. Hundreds of millions of people own their own computers in the US. When they come home from work, the vast majority use their computers to: (1) surf the internet; (2) check facebook; (3) surf the internet; (4) read e-mails; (5) surf the internet; (6) shop online; (7) surf the internet; (8) look at pictures of cats; and (9) surf the internet.

    These are the people that tablets are aimed at. Now these individuals can do these activities in the living room, in the kitchen, while waiting in line, while getting coffee, while traveling, etc. You could use a netbook or a laptop to do these things, too - but a tablet is much smaller and much lighter than a comparably priced netbook or laptop.

    3. The tablet is not a replacement for a computer (except perhaps for that part of the population that *never* uses a computer for work. It is a replacement for a second computer, at least for the vast majority of people.
  • velis - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    What he said.
    Tablet is not a notebook replacement device.
    It is a *book* replacement device, adding only interactivity - to the book, not to the notebook ;)
    That means reading books, reading internet + a few side activities having a CPU permits. A reply here and there, a small facebook post and a really short tweet is pretty much all a tablet will do and all a tablet is intended for.

    You should use it like that.
    Not for heavy duty work.

    Now if only somebody made a nice sub $250 touch tablet running an open OS and having a color e-ink display. This would just rock :D Shame nook only has a classic LCD :(
  • sean.crees - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I think the reason some people say the tablet replaces the notebook is because for some it does.

    Some people don't really need that keyboard. They do very little, if any input. They just click on things with the mouse and look at stuff. For those people, the tablet does replace the notebook. But for people like you who needs to create content on a regular basis it doesn't.

    The large majority do not create content, only consume content. Hence "consumers".
  • Griswold - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I've been using my iphone for almost three years for most of my mobile needs, which includes writing e-mails and comments. I've gotten used to it, despite it being so clumsy with these tiny screens and even smaller virtual keyboards.

    Ever since I got my ipad, I hate using my smartphone for all typing related tasks. It works so great for me with the ipad. I can type really fast on the virtual keyboard, as fast as the touch screen can keep up, actually.

    I do not have to prop it up to type, I can type on a table (like any notebook) with it lying flat down or on my lap - doesnt make a difference to me. The only typing that really sucks on the ipad is when you cant lay it down anywhere but have to hold it. Something that sucks as much with any notebook...

    However, besides a hardware keyboard, I can only see fully integrated voice control & recognition as an improvement.
  • DrBernardo - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I find that the problem with tablets, beyond just data input is understanding a good usage model. I am a medical student and naturally go on rounds presenting my patients to a supervising Doctor / professor. We currently write on a sheet of paper or on an index card the patient information as a cheat-sheet to present the case. We write on this "cheat-sheet" the what the supervising doctor wants performed on top of our recommendations, as well as adjustments to our treatment.

    1) A friend of mine tried using an iPad. If you have poor cell phone reception, as we do in the hospital, and have not shut off the phone connection, the battery life is about an hour!
    2) iPad shut off - his first error. The iPad locked up several times, OS is not stable enough!
    3) The input needs to be with your finger or a pen, portable keyboard is not practical. Using forms a check off boxes or pull down menus could work for a lot of what we do. Need an easier way of generating these forms.
    4) Tried to read reference books during the rounds to reference current standard of care. Resolution of screen really is not there to use as a PDF reader. We had to go back and opened "real books".

    As I see it, the iPad, as well as all other tablets, are only good for playing games. They are sophisticated PS3 replacements. I want a tablet designed for actual office use, we're not there yet with any tablet I've seen to date!

    Question, for business use (or medical use) what does a tablet offer over an iphone, DROID phone or Blackberry? Smart phones are extremely helpful! I guess they really raise the bar significantly on what I expect in a tablet (I want something more).
  • mushu - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Many med-students and doctors have taken to the iPad like fishes to water. Many of them enjoy reading text on the iPad, esp. due to the ability to zoom. If the resolution is a problem, well, newer 10" tablets generally have higher resolutions. Software like iAnnotate is very useful for annotating PDF handouts and books. Because of this they can carry all their books with them to class, to the library, on trips, etc. Some people are esp. fond of studying anatomy on their iPads. Most people don't take it with them when making rounds, for several obvious reasons. 3G reception isn't bad everywhere. Wifi reception isn't bad everywhere. Several references can be used even without internet connectivity.

    Examine your example and you'll find that your opinion--that tablets are ONLY good for GAMES--isn't well-founded. I recognise that tablets can't replace everything, and that they aren't useful to everyone in all situations, but they can be damned useful to med-students who're sick to death of physical books and handouts for example.

  • jasonfeucht - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I think a new input system would make alot of sense. You could either split and wrap a qwerty keyboard around the left and right side of the tablet so that the rows of keys are on the back and the spacebar is on the front. Split it right between the tgb and the yhn. It would still take some getting used to because you would have to push in slightly with your hands so that you could hold the tablet and have your fingers free to move. It would also help to have tactile feedback.

    The other input system I could easily see would be a relative touch entry system. Basically, touch with one thumb anywhere on the screen. Now slide your thumb either up, right, down or left. Depending on the direction you go you would get a ~quarter of all of the letters/letter groups that it is possible for words to start with.

    After selecting which letters/letter group you start with, you can then determine what comes next by continuing to move your thumb in the same direction, or switching to one of the 3 other directions available would allow you to select what letter or letter groups come next. Double tapping would correct last letter.

    Groups of letters are any letter group which significantly reduces overall sorting

    For example, pull your thumb down and you get (off the top of my head) Qu, H, Z, P, W, E, T,S. Pulling down to the left will narrow to Qu, H, Which are then appear still in the same direction you are pulling unless the side of the tablet gets in the way in which case they appear directly perpendicular from the tablet edge. Picking Qu gives the option of een, i, o, etc) Picking i, then gives you p, ck.

    One quick slide of your finger gives you quip or quick. Eventually users would learn the UI an could in theory type as fast or faster than on a qwerty keyboard. Most commonly used words would be straight easy swipes. The same type of idea could be done with a common qwerty keyboard but slightly less well to the point were you almost might as well just have a dynamic Swype keyboard appear when you touch the screen.

    If you really wanted to make it interesting you could use the relative dynamic keyboard so that two thumbs could be ised at a time (one on each side) so that 2 words could be created at once.

    Now I just need someone to pay me so that they can develop my idea ;)
  • Jingato - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I know it would look somewhat tacky, though I am sure one of the companies could make the qwerty keyboad a touch pad, vs physical buttons, then you can just grasp the two sides, no matter the orientation and thumb type like you would on a smart phone qwerty keypad. Reply
  • Qmzn - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    i was sitting at a play once, and during intermission, a 16-year-old teen was typing on his iPhone as fast, or faster, than I touch type. So I think typing on a tablet or phone is a skill traditional typists are hesitant to develop, when touch-typing already works so well for them.

    So I try and force myself to get better at using a keyboard without tactile response. I do think the key spacing is too tight on iPad portrait layout, though--too wide for thumbs, too tight for two hands. If I want any chance of speed, I have to rotate to landscape.

    I think the next upgrade should be haptic technology, but I worry about it being engineered responsibly. I don't want a device that can be turned into a ultrasound Chinese finger trap with the right virus. Adding keyboards or extra buttons to tablets just feels like it's chipping away at the pure simplicity of the device.

    Right now, I think the best help would be reworking auto-correct to be less obtrusive, with learning functionality and grammar recognition.
  • titerito - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    how about a small bluetooth keyboard about the size of a cellphone could be nice that the keyboard could be integrated into a small port of the Ipad and then take it out when needed!! just like a HP power point controller that fits into the notebook and then taken out when needed. It would be just like texting on a Ipad ;) Reply
  • Adelphos - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    You say you are focusing on keeping your usage of the iPad and Xoom "consumption" oriented, mainly "browsing the web and reading emails." The issue is that you are missing the most important aspect of the tablet experience - using apps. E-mail and web browsing continue to be optimized for keyboard and mouse/touchpad usage. They are very good on tablets, but they aren't optimized for tablets.

    However, tablet apps are customized for the touchscreen input method. This can be useful for both consumption and "work." For example, the Wall Street Journal, Netflix, Pandora apps are excellent for consumpion on the iPad. However, I have several finance apps on my iPad. When I want to bring up a stock to analyze, the apps tend to bring up a text entry field with a suggestion box under it. After typing in a few characters, the intended stock tends to appear below. Then, I am taken to a new screen where tablet optimized gestures let me gather useful information. Obviously, developers can come up with unlimited scenarios to tailor work to the tablet experience.

    Most of the writers and readers on this site are going to be doing work that involves text and data entry, manupulation of images, etc. This simply cannot be done efficiently on a tablet. If you want your computing world to be streamlined (i.e. using the fewest amount of devices) a tablet is simply not going to be for you. I don't see a reason to fight this realization.

    When Jobs and others are talking about a "post-PC era," they recognize that most computer users today are simply casual users. Throughout the 1990s, all industry players marketed the idea that every person in a household needed a powerful computer. Everyone, including Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, AOL, whoever was invested in this idea. In addition, they marketed the idea that the average family needed a new, powerful computer every year. This is simply not the case. For example, a household (2 parents, 3 kids) may get by with just one basic desktop computer and 4 our 5 ipads. The desktop will be relagated for use on completing the family budget or for Johnny to write his term paper. But all other "computing" will be easily done on $500 iPads. Dad will read the WSJ and maybe do the family taxes on turbotax. Mom will find a new recipe on epicurious on her iPad. Johnny will play Infinity Blade and watch MLB at Bat on his iPad. Sally will tweet and facebook on her iPad. etc. Keep a spare bluetooth keyboard around just in case both Sally and Johnny need to write paperrs.
  • albiglan - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Truth is that these devices are used in too many different ways so support a single input mechanism.

    1) A graffiti style handwriting system would be nice to incorporate (1996 US Robotics FTW!)
    2) Support for BT keyboards/cases would be very nice for typing long long papers/articles/etc.
    3) Thumb centric on screen keyboard for typing while reading on the train/bus holding with two hands
    4) Regular old "bottom 30%" keyboard as well
    5) Speech recog - tho I question this is really all that helpful except in a very limited set of users., but hey, it's just an App! :-)

    I'd like to see 1) and 3) become more "standard by default" as part of the device OS. I'll pick 2) and 5) from a 3rd party thanks, and 4) is already there...

    I disagree that one of the issues is -not- tactile response. Being able to "sense where you are" on a keyboard helps a great deal. cool R&D concept would be a "raised grid" on the touch screen that is available in keyboard mode, but anytime else. Some kind of piezoelectric grid that gives the slightest of raised edges for key boundaries. For more win, make the whole key "depress" slightly then rebound when used.

    I'm probably the only one who still likes the graffiti system, eh?
  • mrshmir - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Has this issue been solved on Star Trek? Or are the applications they use extremely simple to use that they only need to hit 1 or 2 buttons. Perhaps drop down menus and radio buttons should be used more often than typing on a keypad. Reply
  • wollyka - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    A pen or/and improve handwriting recognition with one finger. So you can wrote whole phrases just like you do on a real notepad. Reply
  • Wave Fusion - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I'm not convinced Tablets with ever evolve. They will get faster, some might key keyboards, some won't, like 3D its just the newest new thing

    Even if they become the center device and everything else just connects or syncs to it, directly or via the cloud, it won't matter, because if tablets can do it so could anything else.

    I see tablets as mostly just a CORDLESS DISPLAY
    Think about it.. its too bulky to use as a phone, and not equipped heavily enough to replace PCs and makes for a poor input device.

    Other than being convenient to view media, (pretty much textbook definition of a display) they don't really do anything 'better'.
  • Mishera - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I like the idea of pen or voice recognition, but I think the technology simply hasn't been developed enough for them to be really useful. But I think I found you answer:

    Put the dock on the horizontal end just add a keyboard. Really simple. In our cs lab we have a bunch umpcs that look exactly like that running windows. Seriously are we going backwards? It seems that we solved this issue several ways a long time ago. But guess what? Apple won't do it!! That would quickly cut into sales of their laptops. The keyboard dock they sell is a joke, and if it were any other company they wouldn't get away with it.

    Having said that I really don't have too many problems with the ergonomics. Honestly I see tablets in right now being information hubs, always connected to severs for accomplishing tasks. That would eliminate you power issue if Apple provided a better ecosystem. Other than that they're pretty much consumption devices. I read a lot and the iPad pretty much covers all my news, and earnings reports (the kindle's screen is too small for those). But it rarely leaves the house so having something smaller like a galaxy tab with a add-on keyboard would be nice, but so many companies are caught up with catching Apple that it probably won't happen...
  • ShortyZ - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Integrate smartphone/tablet technology into a notebook? What notebooks basically lack now are built in telephones. Some spare keyboard area could be used for a touch screen, apps and all. I know people that use their phones to wifi their notebooks, what a waste. Reply
  • Beijingabc - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Well if voice recognition is no good, why not investigate lip reading?

    1. Activate Camera
    2. You mouth what you want to say
    3. Computer interprets it and types it out.


    Maybe. People can do it.
  • TPC-Daneel - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I don't see that there is an input problem.. A tablet is an augmentation device, not a primary one - if you need to type long emails or documents then you should be using a keyboard. something like a tablet is only designed for shooting off a few lines in an email or maybe posting a comment like this one, and for that the on screen keyboard works flawlessly.

    It's not a work device, it's a light interface to view documents, read news, browse the internet, play some casual games if you like and quickly check email - I don't think devices like the iPad were designed with high end word processing in mind, a fact alluded to by the fact that pages doesn't come bundled.

    Anything more is expecting too much I fear, and there's already another segment of the portable market for users who need to input large amounts of data.. They're called notebooks.

    I tend to slump horizontally on the couch with my knees up, the tablet resting against my legs. It that works perfectly for me..
  • samirsshah - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    If you are so much into typing on a tablet get a foldable bluetooth keyboard. And if your so much into intricasies of using mail programs etc, get rid of the tablet, nobody is forcing you to use it. But finally it will be your loss because the new tablet paradigm is going to replace old paradigm your 'trap' input question or not.

    I remember similar thoughts of mine when PCs came out. Oh, oh it does not have a good editor like Emacs. But within a year or two it had Brief and with Windows the whole paradigm changed.

    Nobody is forcing you to use tablets, carry around a notebook, your muscles will be stronger because of it!!!
  • jcandle - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Tablets and even smartphones are primarily consumption devices. In terms of productivity they will always be limited. But that doesn't mean they don't receive a plethora of input. Chat, games, and even web browsing is bound to generate a large amount of touch and taps to screen and pocket sized keyboards alike. However, as much as any people will text these are short question, statements, and responses not essays or articles. As an owner of many tablet devices including both generation iPads and a Xoom the larger form factor of a tablet does entice a user to desire more productivity. After all a device that consumes so much space and equally as much space when looking for a spot to set it down should be more productive. Phones can be easily pocketed or tossed aside, but a tablet has a bit of heft and slight unwieldiness to it. The "cycle time" between switching from a tablet to another device for productivity is increased thus requiring the tablet to have additional functionality. Currently its function is restricted to an extension of smartphone activities. Solutions to the issue of increased ergonomic function can have many facets. I suggest the following...

    + Voice dictation for short input. Voice is great for short queries like searches or selection. Voice is poor for lengthy input where the amount of time spent correcting input can make the process frustrating.

    + 3D tactile input. This is not tactile feedback. The ability to sense fingers in space is a requirement for analog touch perception. At the moment touch is evaluated in binary. You either have touched the surface (or approached close enough) or you have not. Sensing in 3D means finger can rest of the tablet surface without registering a touch. Used in conjunction with accelerometers (multiple for more accurate detection of multiple simultaneous events) a tablet can sense the hammer-like action of a finger striking the screen to register a key press. This also means you palms can rest of the screen without worry of misregistration. Tactile feedback can enhance the sensation but is unnecessary for proper text input. If you can touch type without staring at your fingers you can use this input mechanism. Just try it out on a desk. Your fingers move and register in the proper locations when simulating the act of typing. A slight amount of grit in the desk surface provides a semi-comfortable response to your actions. The same texture can be applied to screens to create a similar response with the added benefit of reducing glare with a matte look.

    And then there's highly sophisticated options. Many of these options require complex sensor fusion techniques to determine proper input.

    + The on-board cameras track your eye movements and use them to infer correct or incorrect input. The system then learns and autocorrects mistakes without user intervention. This is used in conjunction with tactile input to determine event interval and thresholds. As you compose text many people think the words out in their head this also causes slight lip movement. Cameras also measure lip movement to increase accuracy when used with voice augmentation.

    + Voice augmentation. The microphone constantly monitors your conversation. If you speak out loud while you type or in place of physical input; the voice input is combined to resolve more accurate text. Voice profiles is also constantly in effect. The system will constantly monitor you, regardless of performed activity on the tablet, visually and auditory for speech patterns. These can be words and phrases you often use; also incorporating slang and other non-dictionary speech for better accuracy. There could be privacy concerns with this method.

    + Additional infrared cameras, ultrasonic sensors or laser plane is used to track finger movement to predict finger landing zones. This helps produce the correct text even if the finger does not actually strike the proper position on the screen. The angular and linear displacement between finger movement is converted into a gesture by which the tablet can infer the correct entry of text. This is in conjunction with predictive text.

    + Photosensitive LCDs that double as an optical sensor. These could be used in-lieu of additional sensors to detect finger movement and touch events.

    + Piezoelectric, ferroelectric polymers, or ferrofluids can be used to create varying degrees of tactile feedback. When used with a polymer topcoat these techniques can result in electronically variable screen surface; this is likely at the expense of visual clarity.

    + Polymer substrate LED/LCD can be used for touch sensory, tactile feedback and when implemented with multiple layers can result in a thin and flexible screen that can also sense touch and produce feedback. Its more exotic tech that's just making its way out of the lab.
  • gescom - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    "So how would you fix the problem? Is there even a problem from your perspective?"

    The problem is that you can't fix it. It's nearly useless for serious tasks. Simple as that - no matter how perfect we'd like it to be.
  • handaxe - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    What is a serious task?

    I just passed three lobbyists in the hallway using tablets, and I see a lot more using them in committee hearings. They would seem to be perfect for people who need to: (1) refer to a lot of printed documents; (2) write and receive short e-mails; and (3) check websites for calendars, schedules, and changes to bills. Particularly for people who are away from their office for 8-18 hours per day and who have to carry the device with them, and who end up spending much of their time sitting in a hearing, sitting in a meeting, or sitting on a bench outside the chambers (i.e., people who have to use the device on their lap).

    To actually produce complex documents, they would, of course, use their desktop/laptop in their office. But doing that is only part of the job.

    I think that there are probably many jobs with a similar division between: (1) producing the work (which may well require a full powered computer); and (2) presenting the work, which basically just requires access to the material.
  • edge929 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I think voice has the most potential to help the odd nature of tablets. Take a look at Microsoft and Ford's Sync software. It's voice recognition abilities are the best I've ever seen. The main problems it has are non-convential pronunciations of normal words. For example, my wife's name is pronounced like Megan but she spells it Maagen. When I say "call Maagen" it looks through my contacts (spelled Maagen) and can't find it. I then have to say "call Mahgen" since it translates the double-A like ah.

    Another solution could be ALL suggested inputs, pen, voice, attachable keyboard a la ASUS Transformer, swype, etc. It may be confusing for new users to handle all the various inputs but I'd rather have them all for options. Having to tow around a separate docking keyboard makes the entire form factor of a tablet pointless though. If there's one input action that touch is king of, it's scrolling. The scrolling pad section on notebooks I've used never worked consistently.
  • jesterbenvolio - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Get the gorgeous Apple keyboard/dock unit! If DRAGON(tm) dictation will give you a good first-pass, then correct using the keyboard/dock! If the Apple Store is too pricey, try eBay for a used one; a great design under-marketed and so little-known. I love mine! Fits and functions with the iPod Touch and 3/3GS phones, too. Reply
  • Th3rdparty - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I think the point of a tablet is not to replace a typical laptop but to compliment it. That said, I have barely touched my laptop other than for downloading media since I got my iPad. My use is obviously different in that I don't write very often but for the short emails and web browsing plus consuming content it serves its purpose wonderfully.

    To answer your question I think I have a good solution. Make a case for the iPad like the Dell duo tablet/laptop combo. You could use the embedded magnets as a dock so to speak and would only need some small feet on the opposite side to hold it secure. It could rotate all the way around so that when you wanted to use it in laptop mode you would have a Bluetooth keyboard at your disposal or when in tablet mode flip it on the hinge and fold it closed so the back is resting on the keyboard.

    In this way it could act as a case when folded closed as well. You could include an invisishield to protect the back from scratches when folded Ike a laptop. The bezel surrounding the iPad could have a small slit for the dock connector. If the Bluetooth keyboard had a lithium ion battery it could be very flat and could also be used as a back up power source for the iPad. Adding an extra 1/2 inch bezel around the iPad would also allow the keyboard to be somewhat larger as well.

    The more I think about it the more perfect it sounds. I'm off to kickstarter to get this baby funded. Hopefully no one on here will steal my idea but if they beat me to it than I will buy it.

    Oh yea and I wrote this whole post on my iPad :)
  • Midwayman - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Laser projected keyboards might be an answer. I remember a few years back that they were out for PDA's etc. You could easily integrate one into a tablet form factor. That would solve the input issue for desk use with no increase in bulk. Mobile use is another problem. One handed operation is a must since the majority of the time you will be using one hand to support the device. Looking to phones is obvious here, but what makes a tablet different than a phone? Mostly the screen size. You could implement slightly larger versions of various on screen phone keyboards, but that's a lost opportunity. I know I've seen a number of one handed hardware keyboards over the years. Implementing something like that in software would probably be the most efficient, but they aren't simple. In reality you're going to have to have multiple options on a tablet, as no one method will be best for all users, in all usages. I think the real magic will be in detecting how the user is trying to use the tablet and bringing up the right input method. Reply
  • TDM - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I think the best we will ever do is to match the speed of a touchscreen smartphone. Voice doesn't work because there are to many situations where you don't want to or can't use it.

    They should make the bezel smaller and "split" a keyboard from a phone (maybe double the middle vertical columns of keys). You type with both your thumbs...
  • Jkm3141 - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    build a bluetooth keyboard, into a foldable cover. Reply
  • Grandpa - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I certainly understand your valid complaint about the iPad. I believe the iPad was never intended to replace a notebook or a computer. Apple is probably working on an answer to this issue. It's possible the MacBook will someday replace the iPad. Just swing the screen around and enable the touchscreen and you have an iPad. Otherwise, you have a laptop. Now all we need is for Apple to do it. Reply
  • Dave2009 - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    This has Probably been mentioned already but a handwriting interface could be used. On PDAs and early smart phones using a stylus was less than ideal cause the screen was small and it felt like you were scratching away at a post it note, but if they made a nice stylus with a soft tip so it felt like writing on a small white board I think it could work quite well.
    If the stylus was attached to a cord that pulled out and then retracted when you put the stylus back in it's slot that would be cool, I'm not saying not to keep the same level of finger friendliness but if it was integrated nicely it could work
  • kasakka - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    The only good solution is going to be haptic feedback. This is already in development at Nokia and several other companies. It allows you to type on a virtual keyboard but also feel the keys. I think some implementations used electric charges or some sort of flexible display with pads underneath that move according to what is shown on screen.

    The problem right now isn't the size of the screen but simply the lack of feel.
  • quickbunnie - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    The solution is a lot simpler than you might think - it's basically just laptops, or a slider conversion of one. Netbooks, the Macbook Air, and tablets are converging in size. Netbooks are underpowered for full laptops, have terrible LCDs, and slow hard drives, but have a standard keyboard and touchpad.
    Tablets operate on the touchscreen interface, but I think the big difference is simply the OS they use. Both Honeycomb and iOS are designed to be basically very quick and efficient doing low levels tasks. Low level tasks just happen to be a majority of what we do on laptops anyways.
    Notebooks more than enough power, they just need a high quality display and somebody to convert the "faster" tablet OS to run on notebook hardware.

    My ideal tablet would be somewhat like the HTC Arrive, but in tablet form. A low profile keyboard paired with a sliding screen that tilted. Hardware would all be basically tablet, plus keyboard. Given how thin the iPad2 and upcoming Galaxy Tab's are, I imagine they can still keep this under a half inch, which would me my target. On a 10" tablet, that's basically a full sized keyboard. I'm just waiting for decent quality tablet like this and I would jump all over it.
  • acsa - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    The competitive killer of iPad is in house: AIR 11". For anti-tech consumers, too. With better practicability, significantly faster, more compatible, much longer product life, conclusively on the long term cheaper. And in most cases the main PC can be skipped. Again a lot of money and fussle. In any home or travel situation and application, even standing on your head, a powerful quality "netbook" is the best solution. The weight is maybe important for a 3y old child... And a tablet is in practice "heavier", than an Air, since you have to hold it in your hand in any comfortable sitting or laying position.

    Special touch application is already solved in all industry and business branches. iPad is a bonus for them but not revolutional.
  • Colin1497 - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    You already figured out the right answer: use your notebook. I carry a Portege R500 (yeah, I know, upgrade time...) and can't figure out why I would ever carry an iPad. The iPad is fine lounging around reading stuff, or watching videos, but beyond that it's just the wrong device for most things. For traveling, the sub-2.5 lb notebook is great. Reply
  • acsa - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    I will consider for reading and watching a 10" tablet if it is 0.5lb. E.g. solved with a printed display. A heavier printed book is only usable only because I turn over a pages regularly. Reply
  • - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Come on, Anand... You spend 6 paragraphs confessing that iPad (or any other modern tablet, for that matter) is, at the end of the day, useless. And then you ask us what could be done to take care of the input problem (thus rending it useful)?

    Easy: get rid of it. You have that other 'iPad' at home, you use it so often: a full-blown notebook.

    I think the formula is simple: Think of a notebook (or even netbook) and take out the keyboard. There! You've got yourself an iPad.

    'Well, my iPad feels useless, I now need a keyboard and a mouse on it. Bang! My notebook is back.'

    The point is: tablets are useless.

    They really are. They're too big to be truly portable, and too handicaped to be a notebook.
  • blackcrayon - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    "Think of a notebook (or even netbook) and take out the keyboard. There! You've got yourself an iPad."

    I guess most notebooks have capacitive multitouch screens, eh?

    Calling tablets "useless" in general is a thoroughly "useless" conclusion. You really think they have *no* use at all? There are lots of things that can be done on a tablet that are either impossible or a pain to use any netbook for. Try something like the touch Garageband on a notebook. Hmm, wouldn't exactly work with mouse. Try reading documents in portrait mode on a notebook. Nope, that's not going to work either. Try getting 10 hours of battery life on something less than 1.5 pounds- that's going to be a hard one as well.
  • acsa - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    In business and industry there are a lot of applications, and the new quality of iPad is a breeze. But you have to wait 2-3 years until there will be a port of the systems. But in the private consumption there are only very few essential applications. You didn't mention any of them. Reply
  • alpha754293 - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Voice recognition works well for English. What happens if you're using ANY other language besides English? My mom uses Chinese regularly, and I'm sure that there are others. One of the reasons why I didn't get an iPad originally was because of the lack of Hebrew support.

    You don't really want to load your tablet up with voice recognition dictionaries unnecessarily.

    I think that having a keyboard (regardless of form, but suppose that I stick with what the iPad/iPhone's got right now - touchscreen) that has adjustable sensitivity would be extremely beneficial.

    On my iPhone/iPod touch, I can probably type about 40 wpm. On a regular computer/on my laptop, I'm at 103 wpm. That means that for devices like iPhone/iPad, it has a tendency to be NOT sensitive enough to capture all of the keystrokes. Then I have to go back and correct it (which on Apple i-devices, is annoying and cumbersome).

    I think that it was the Sony Xperia that had arrow keys (as well as Blackberries) so it made it a little bit better, but Xperia's touchscreen was FARRR too slow for my typing speed, and Blackberries; again, work great if you're English or Latin-only-languages. Deviate from that, and you're pretty much SOL.
  • 4dm - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, and WiDi drivers + support. If you want to use a "laptop", you can.

    Give it a removable bluetooth keyboard. It would have to be cheap to make (under $30 retail to buy) so that it is easily replaceable when you lose it or it breaks, but it snaps in to the tablet to charge.

    The keyboard is the absolute necessity, regardless of how "cool" touchscreens are. No other physical input device allows you the choice of up to 11 keys in a fraction of a second.
  • ravib123 - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Isn't this kind of the same as when you use a netbook, I mean small keyboards and trackpads are always a problem for me with input speeds.

    I like the Zaggmate, however then it seems like a laptop almost, since you carry an extra casing around with you.

    For myself, I use the iPad 2 as a writing platform with a stylus (which is hard to find, since most are the size of a baby carrot).

    With some of the apps floating around you can do handwriting recognition for notes and other text. Plus with the raw drawing aspects it can be great for creative brainstorming in meetings and such.

    Ultimately, I think this question IS the reason that tablets will not be able to quickly overtake the Ultra Portable Laptop for the Small Business Owner or Employee.

    Large Enterprise can and do make custom applications to maximize the benefits of portability and battery life that these devices, but for the casual user tablets are almost toys ... Great to manage a TiVo, grab a news feed, read a quick email, browse anandtech, etc.
  • notanakin - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    OK, I admit I haven't read all the pages in the discussion (I got through about 10) so apologies if these points have already been made.

    For non-hardware solutions, there are several possibilities:
    - SMS text input style number pad with letters, just like you get on a mobile phone. Many people (not me, unfortunately) are incredibly fast with it. Put a virtual numeric pad on the bottom right and you're good to go with your thumb. (In fact, that's partyly why my wife didn't want an iPhone. She's used to SMS texting on the number pad on her phone and didn't like the dinky iPhone keyboard).
    - bring back Palm's Graffiti - slower than an onscreen keyboard perhaps, but for me: less prone to errors and surprisingly easy to learn.
    - my personal steampunk favourite: Morse code!! The tapping would be roughly equivalent to using SMS text input and you wouldn't have to tap in any particular place as for SMS-style texting.
  • pdoell - Friday, April 01, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I'm not sure if you've seen/experienced the iPhone touch input for the Japanese language, however it is an ingenious input method that could _only_ be done on a tablet. Instead of having one key for each sound in Japanese, for example, one key for "ka", "ki", "ku", "ke", and "ko", you have one key that if you press once gives you "ka". However if you place your finger on the "ka" key and swipe one of 4 directions (up/down, left/right) then you get all the 5 sounds. So you end up with a small keyboard with only a few keys ("ka", "ta", "ma", etc) but you can get very efficient input. Considering each Japanese kanji has an average of 2 sounds, you can input any of thousands of combinations in but 2 finger strokes. Even given that a set of sounds can have several different possible kanji, the iPhone presents a visual display that you can just point to the correct one.

    Actually, this looks to be faster than the most common Japanese input method, where you use 2 letters to enter a sound on an English keyboard. For example "ka" would be 'k' and 'a'. Simple yes, but there's another Japanese input where 25 of the keys are remapped to 25 sounds, one each. Nobody likes that one, but if you master it, it is truly a quick way to enter Japanese text.

    Given the choice, I'm sure most people would prefer the touch interface input method. It seems that way to me anyway; I am not a native speaker and my Japanese is quite awful, but maybe someone with more experience can comment? It seems to me that the Asian languages, being very visual are a little easier to adapt to a visual interface.

    I'm not suggesting that you switch to Japanese language Anand, however this ingenious input method makes me think that perhaps there is another way out there for English. Something that's halfway between Swype and a touch Qwerty keyboard? How about using braille on the touch screen? Maybe dual mini Swype pads, one for each hand? Hmmm. Sounds like all the good new input methods require us to learn something new.

    PS - I also did not have a chance to read all 22 pages of comments. This has generated a lot of input, but I know you'll read them all.
  • hedleyroos - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    Someone already mentioned this, but I'll elaborate. It astounds me how deaf people can lip read so accurately. Deaf people have a smaller vocabulary than hearing people, and for software this is a good thing.

    I imagine a system where system commands can aim for above 90% accuracy via lip reading. For dictating the accuracy will be lower, but supplmentary UI (think smallish dropdown with autocomplete options, with spoken word 'yes' meaning the first match is good) can address this.

    And a big bonus is you don't annoy people while dictating.

    Hey, maybe simple hand gestures can also be recognized by the camera. Once again this is something deaf people do daily.

    Just putting this down in case some company comes along and tries to patent the idea. Prior art and all that.
  • migo - Saturday, April 02, 2011 - link

    When I got a tablet PC back in 2005 it worked out well because of the digitizer pen - I could hold the tablet in one hand and write in the other. It was also particularly handy for writing in multiple languages (I was learning Mandarin/Simplified Chinese at the time), and even for including accents and umlauts for various European languages. Writing is also an already learned skill - one of the reasons we use keyboards is because they were originally used for typewriters, and now it's because we're taught to use them for computers. Using pen input is the same for tablets.

    The other option is of course Swype for tablets that only use capacitive touch - I haven't yet used Swype on a tablet, but I've emulated it on an Eee Slate and an iPad, pretending that it would actually work, and it at least didn't cause any cramping, in the way that quickly typing one handed on a regular keyboard did (admittedly it worked perfectly well for short input, like entering a web address, or perhaps a tweet, but wouldn't even be good enough for this post I'm writing.

    Third solution is the hybrid format, such as the Compaq TC1100 or Motion M1300 with the protective case/keyboard add on, or in all likelihood the Asus Eee Pad Transformer (which being Android should also benefit from Swype, and conceivably a 3rd party capacitive pen of some sort, that should be usable as an alternate input system on Android).
  • Xyst - Sunday, April 03, 2011 - link

    Whatever happened to the Laser/IR projecting keyboards that were being tossed around in the earlier days of Palms and trios? I was never a big fan of the fold up keyboard of the same era, and I can only imagine since the light projected keyboards aren't around, then they weren't very good, but why not try and expand on that?

    That would give you the portability of the iPad still without the bulky peripheral and still be readily available. You could use an external add on or someone could build it into their tablet device for when the on-screen keyboard just doesn't cut it. It would let you set up like a laptop when needed, or use it as a pad/tablet for consumption only.
  • mediasorcerer - Sunday, April 03, 2011 - link

    i agree with you,i know this has been done,but surely someone can come up with a more elegant solution,like a case that rotates 360 degrees from a hinge on the edge,,so the keyboard is flat behind the ipad,and can be rotated out when needed?imagine a laptop,but the keyboard is underneath the body not on top,ah just get a laptop !!!!

    ,simple,get a mba /few hundred more and u get so much better everything!and be done with it,touch screens suck anyway,too dirty!!!
  • mijj - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    umm .. how about a keyboard on the back - split into two parts under where your fingers would be when you held it .. with proximity sensing showing your finger positions on the display (as if the tablet is transparent). .. i guess that means, make the back of the device touch sensitive (when needed) as well as the front.

    I have a vague memory of seeing this idea somewhere - no idea where tho. Maybe i dreamed or nightmared it.
  • Muunsyr - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    I find it strange that we (as in big companies, particularly those trying to muscle in on ipad consumer space) haven't developed a pen to CO-EXIST with capacitive touch. Everyone knows how to write. A pen doesn't get in the way of screen real-estate, nor does it make you feel like a 'tard or a wanker when using one in public (ie, it isn't disruptive to the environment), nor is its ability to work affected by the volume of the space it is being used in (ie, the environment isn't disruptive to it). Everyone already knows how to write. And finally, it can be used for so much more than words (drawing, etc).

    I believe there is a product called 'Kno', which seems to have promise, although I think it should be targeted at far more than just students.

    I can't see myself investing in a 'pad like device until there is a pen style input. For me this seems like the perfect combination - when a 'pad is lighter than a pad of paper, has the ability to write with a precision tool (a pen, as opposed to a finger) and has the internet, I will get one. That would be ideal.

    Want to communicate an idea to a colleague, but can't express yourself? Draw a diagram.
    Want to take notes in a meeting? Write them.
    Want to annotate another document? Go ahead, use a pen.
    Want to contribute to an Anandtech comment thread? I think you get the idea.

    The above examples are all things we would either turn to a computer with a keyboard/mouse or use some good old fashioned ink for. There is no way I would have tried to peck this message out on a tablet, nor would I be able to comment with voice recognition with my girlfriend trying to watch TV next to me.
  • jd254 - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    I was just talking about this last week with my friend:

    -make a x86 smart phone (multicore like the where the cores are not shared, but specialized for specific functions, like one will be dedicated for touchscreen only) that runs windows 7 (or what ever is the latest windows, or it can dual boot android and windows... that's up to the engineers) it will be a smart phone with a detachable slide out keyboard.
    -once detached, you can attach it to a tablet terminal. the tablet will have just a screen. It's now a real tablet with an extra lb of weight.
    -Now that you need real power and functionality, you add on an attachable keyboard (bluetooth keyboards are also available) Also, external graphics card has been all talk up till now, but they can make an external video card to be attached via USB 3.0 or w.e. RAM and an SSD can also be attached to the tablet. again, dual booting is up to the engineers. I don't see why this is impossible... besides for the x86 CPU designed for a phone... either develop a better battery make it REALLY efficient
  • 789427 - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    When I think iPod, iPad, iPhone, I immediately think sms, maybe mms, reading emails and browsing.
    If I think about a Blackberry though, it's business and it's emails.
    I'm not suggesting that the Blackberry is good for typing 10,000 words in an email but I'd use that for IM or email over the iphone any day.
    A Blackberry style keyboard would reduce the screen area so an iAlternative would be to have a split thumb operated keyboard in overlay.
    What I'd do would be to put a bigger thumb keyboard split between left and right thumbs at each end of the widescreen display in overlay. This would require multi-touch and an activation button on the side or even a gesture recorded to activate input.
    So the solution is, for a device that requires one or two hands to hold it, when you need to input data you need to provide an interface for the unused digits...
    I did visualise a qwerty keyboard on the back of the device where your fingers naturally end up when using the device but your finger-eye coordination won't work on the reverse of the device.
  • quickbunnie - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    How about those 2?
  • andyleung - Tuesday, April 05, 2011 - link

    It's interesting that Anand brings this up again but we all know that one size never fits all. In fact, we constantly love products that are designed specifically for one thing. e.g. In the old days you use scissors for everything like cutting, opening beer cap, etc. In the old days, we used one tool for all but of course it didn't work best. Nowadays, we have one tool for one thing. Meat cutting is one knife, fruit cutting is the other. So you buy 20 knife just to cut 20 different things. Environmentally it's not a good idea but they really work best for their jobs because of the one size fits one concept.

    Back to the topic, I don't think iPad/iPad 2 was ever designed for that kind of productivity. I could think of productivity for another type such as how Apple Store uses it as order taking platform, clicking buttons more than typing. I could imagine how hospital uses it as patient report browsing. I could also imagine how supply chain uses it in warehouse managing shipment and invoice.

    If you so too keen on saying iPad/iPad 2 or any tablet is bad for typing long email, you can also say laptop or netbook is not for fast touch interactions because you MUST use mouse as pointing device.

    So if one must want to do long email on tablet, all I could think of is to get the bluetooth keyboard, it's a trade off.
  • AverageCustomer - Tuesday, April 05, 2011 - link

    Just a heads-up for all those who live in belgium and are planning to buy an iPad: people always praise Apple customer services.

    But in Belgium, things are not as rosy: Apple does not have stores in the country, they have "Associates". And they have a return policy VERY different from what I have read everywhere.

    I have purchased an iPad 2, unfortunately it suffers from the "backlight bleeding" issue everyone has been talking about on the Apple Forums. (And, to those who doubt, yes it is a real issue. I love Apple products, but defects happen.)

    So I went to exchange it, thinking: "Ok, I got a dud. No big deal. I'll get another one, and that will be the end of it."

    Not possible, according to the store! They HAVE to send all Apple items for repair, and it takes 3 weeks to get a new one!

    The guy in the Apple section of the store then had the nerve to tell me that I should have taken an AppleCare plan to get a replacement in 48 hours!

    All that for a product that was defective right out of the box!!

    So, if you are planning to buy apple gear, and live in Belgium... Watch out. NOT the same quality of service as in France, or elsewhere.
  • Socratic - Wednesday, April 06, 2011 - link

    I think its obvious at this point that no single solution is the answer here. Users can't even agree to the utility of the tablets in the fist place. I think they serve a niche market for the casual user/novice or as one more device for the power user. They seem to be a great solution for casual e-mail use, surfing, and reading of digital content. Perhaps for more serious users the choice is that they are truely not meant for heavy/technical users. For this there is the laptop/desktop. That being said for those wanting a bridging device no single input method will suffice. I would guess there are some who would still love a functional handwriting recognition method, others a voice input method, and still others some bluetooth keyboard for typing. A single choice will never suffice, because we are all too different in what works for us. Reply
  • gardenian - Thursday, April 07, 2011 - link

    The ipad2 cover could have a built in keyboard so when screen uncovered, keyboard becomes exposed. It would need some design work so it charges via ipad and so ipad can be propped up when typing. I'm sure apple designers could solve this though. Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, April 07, 2011 - link

    YOu mean... something like a netbook? ;) Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, April 07, 2011 - link

    So Anand.... I brought up this conversation with another iPad user (gee, I think I notice them more) about your problem and my recommendation.

    He agreed, just leave it in your living room.

    I also wanted to post whats up at this moment.
    I have my Windows7 desktop with a nice 24" LCD monitor, etc. Been doing work much of this afternoon. I felt like relaxing for a while... I lean back, prop my legs on the desk - pull out the iPad and propped it on thigh and did some casual browsing on your site.

    Unlike ANY desktop, notebook or netbook. It can be held like a book. I charge it once a week or so - unlike my notebook which spends most of its time on AC. it requires less effort to read websites - simple zooms when I need to. I can easily bring it with me to other rooms... easy to flip it to show my son something.

    ah... invest in a $3 book of Zeiss wipes (50). I may use one a week. It works long enough to wipe clean the iPad, my phone and my fingers. When doing business with the iPad, I'd wipe my fingers with it (fast enough that nobody notices) which allows me to use the iPad without leaving little to no finger traces on the screen. :)

    We are already starting to see operations like from the Avatar movie - in which a person can grab data from a computer and move it to a tablet device with a swipe from the hand. (HP's WebOS does this between the upcoming HP phone and tablet by touching the devices)

    [No, this was not typed in from my iPad]
  • dionicio - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    On software. Games are the most usefull paradox for tablets.
    So let us experiment with letter, syllabe or word hitting games.

    Predictive algoritms, profiles up on my mailbox,
    useable anywhere.

    On hardware. Remember ·3D mouses?
    wireless, inside a soft and relaxing massage ball.

    This sound fun
  • madhatter61 - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - link

    Smart Pen from Livescribe has a innovative pen that writes on special paper with a special pattern of tiny dots on the paper. The pen can be used for sketching and the output is completely digital. The pen also has solidstate storage and a built in voice recording capability.

    The microphone is highly directional so as to tend to block extraneous background sounds. If this could be combined as an App to use the ipad display as the special paper with dots does, then perhaps the Smart Pen becomes the new interface.

    There could be some technical issues ... I don't know if the laser pick up sensor will work with an LCD display. The pen interfaces a computer for sync and data transfer via USB 2.0. If iOS5 will enable data (like Photos) via the USB photo adapter, then the iPads could have a new way to input. So dictation rather than typing becomes the way. If this can be teamed with Dragon Speak for conversion to word processing, then your finished articles to happen fast and efficiently.

    On the other hand the voice recorder section could input via the standard TRP audio port.

    Food for thought.
  • effects - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - link

    Kensington KeyFolio Bluetooth Keyboard and Case for iPad Wireless Keyboard. It seems to work really well and might be just what you are looking for. Reply
  • Beej2020 - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Thank goodness Project Origami had the spheres to crack this tablet nut back in 2006.
    I had no idea it would prove so challenging to move that ball any further.

    A Samsung Q1 Ultra from that wave has carried me pretty far... it runs Windows 7 like a champ... i'm stunned how unchallenged those specs are 4 years later ... every year i keep expecting it to be clobbered but still nothing hits all the points any better... in the meantime, i had to wait out the netbook wave taking all the attention away from evolving the tablet... finally Apple legitimized the space... but the dang vendors (including Apple) have been like a room full of monkeys throwing darts at my particular usage scenarios.

    To cut to it, the place where my wants/needs/desires converge into a tablet are:
    - an eReader
    - a bicycle GPS

    yep, not a whole lot of human input going on there... so i've got nothing creative to say about how to solve the iPad2's input dilemma... i still use a comfy desktop keyboard for that junk... i'm not a road warrior... that's why i say, understanding specialized personal usage scenarios is key...

    so maybe my needs are esoteric and there's never going to be enough market for the vendors to show me love... but i just can't help but wonder how many "fragmented markets" there are similar to me waiting to be captured by the right device... and really, we are dancing around it so close with so many different unit, why the heck not just round out the shotgun blast approach ... these are the specs that would finally get me off the fence and into another unit:

    Right off the top, I'll admit, the Samsung Galaxy Tab nails my list pretty well... but other shipping device specs make me just jealous enough to turn my nose at the SGT and hope for better.

    * 7" screen - i just don't think i can handle staring at anything smaller while reading/riding... 7" is great for reading a full page of text and looking at a map while bouncing down the road... so i don't want to deal with carrying around anything bigger.... Steve Jobs is just plain wrong that 10" tablets are the only thing worth doing

    * 1024 x 600 resolution - it's really easy to find cheap Chinese knockoffs running 800 x 480 @ 7" but everything with higher res is also double the weight due to larger screen

    * 0.75lbs = 340g - iPad 2 is the current thickness champ at 8.8mm but it's 1.3lbs... that's nearly what my current old school tablet weighs... obviously amazing what Apple has accomplished given that much more screen weight but i don't think it's for me

    * 12mm = 0.47 inch thick

    * 3G is sort of the dividing line between cheap and not so much ... e.g. Samsung Galaxy Tab (with and without 3G)

    * capable of running Garmin Topo maps - where i'm at in Germany is just awesome for cycle mapping.... there are other vendors but Garmin is just that go-to sweet spot... unfortunately they have zero interest in running their higher end trail mapping products on anything but their locked down devices ... they're obviously paranoid given that they did actually launch an Android solution but only on specific co-branded Asus Android smart phones ... so the best thing i've cobbled together so far is a dead end Windows based solution ... it's pretty clunky by today's mobile interface standards ... if an Android device finally hits all the other points i'm prepared to drop down to OpenStreetMaps and ween myself off of Garmin.

    * 1GHz sounds nice
    * dual core sounds nice :)

    * Android 3.0 - this is finally the Android version that's supposedly designed with tablets in mind... i'm probably more of an Android kind of guy but that could change with the wind

    * Can we get down to $350 for an unlocked 3G tablet?

    (sigh) hopefully some day
  • kevith - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Couldn't you make a pad with a lid?

    And - like some phones - have a screen on the outside for pad-use, where you could use swype or normal-style touch-screen input.

    And then you could open it like a normal notebook and have a normal screen and keyboard on the inside for more demanding work.
  • pawel d - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Recently I was checking components to build my HTPC. It was to play music and occasionally some avi movies. All quotations ends over 2000 dollars and yet there could be lot of troubles to make this fanless and working under Linux. In this connection I was thinking to turn my old Compal EL80 into HTPC (in custom made wooden or stone case). The only problem was to set up touch screen based on original one from Compal. Then I have got brilliant idea to use tablet with some kind of docking station as HTPC. Docking station would have SSD for my music collection and good music card to connect to amplifier. Both would talk each other via USB. Such a construction should cost less than 500 dollars which with tablet makes just under 1000. There is no need for fast computing as this is to serve as ultimate music set with video futures and everything the tablet offers already.
    Best regards, Pawel

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