I’m now several weeks into my life with my HP TC1100, and it’s pretty indispensible. Below I’ve written up how I’ve been using the tablet, as well as what improvements I could make to it to make it more useful. On the whole, I think if you’re going to buy another laptop, you should definately be shopping for tablet functionality on your checklist of things your laptop should have.
I’d carefully compare any new prospective laptop purchase to the HP TC4200, a brand new "laptop with tablet features" that looks really, really good.
The tablet replaces my notebook; OneNote rocks
I’ve ditched the paper notebook and am using the tablet exclusively for
meeting notes and I absolutely love it. I can take lots of notes, in
the same free form as I do my paper notebook, complete with random
doodles and sketches. My notes are all searchable too, which is a huge
advantage for me. Microsoft OneNote, my notetaking program of choice, searches
my handwriting and does a pretty good job of recognizing without having
to do an extra step of running an OCR program on it. I’ve only hinted at how useful OneNote is here. Several people in my office use OneNote on their desktops, and I can’t imagine taking meeting notes without it anymore.
When I got the tablet, I decided to try and go paperless in my office.
Except for incoming magazines, newspapers that I don’t get online, and
business cards, I have been successful. I can’t tell you how much less
stressful it is without piles of paper around.
Managing my todo lists and prioritizing my tasks with the Getting Things Done: Outlook plugin
Right about the same time as I got the tablet, I discovered the Getting
Things Done Outlook plugin from David Allen, productivity guru. Since
all your todos are on your Outlook mailbox, I can access them from my
tablet anywhere that I have network connectivity. My todo list is
clear and prioritized.
Note that just having your todo list organized can’t do much if you’re not motivated, which is an entirely seperate problem. It just puts that thing that you should be doing front and center, where it stares you in the face.
Your "everywhere" Internet terminal
Websurfing is a huge part of what all knowledge workers do, and my job
is no different. I combined a Sony GC83 cellular modem (in the PC card
slot) to give me Internet access anywhere with Mozilla Firefox’s
extended features for "gestures", that allows me to control the browser
by simply making an abstract figure anywhere in a Firefox window. For
example, to create a new browser tab or window, I just draw a line
"upwards" and up pops a new one. I can type the url into the URL
window with the software keyboard, or, of course, find it in a bookmark.
Because of the GC83, I’m no longer dependent on finding WIFI hotspots
either. I caught myself in a meeting the other day looking up a patent
at the USPTO during a meeting, and I suddenly realized that neither I
nor the person I was speaking to had worked out getting on the net
first; I just showed up, pulled out my tablet, and connected. Pretty
Incidently, the GC83 (with Cingular service), doesn’t work all that
well in a moving car. Sarah and I drove to Philadelphia the other
weekend while I tried to carry on a conversation over IM using it, and
I had some disappointing service interruptions. However I had perfect
websurfing in the Fort McHenry tunnel in Baltimore, since they’ve had
it wired for cellphone service for years!
This has also been useful for my online poker hobby, as I can plop down
anywhere and play a game regardless of hotspot availability.
Memo editing in Vegas
I was recently in Vegas for a few days and decided to take my HP TC1100
with the attachable keyboard and the power adapter. While I was there
I ran two editing sessions on a memo that a coworker sent me that I
downloaded via my GC83. I have to say it worked great. While the
keyboard was a little stilted, it was bearable and I was productive.
And here’s what’s I would change about it. Not all of them are suggestions for HP.
- Fix the Zinio magazine reader: This is a service that lets you subscribe
to magazines and then download them on your tablet for reading like an
eBook. The problem is that the piece of software that downloads the
magazines hasn’t ever really worked for me. I’m giving it one shot at
tech support and then I’m going to ditch it.
- A better attachable keyboard: The keyboard that comes with the tablet
isn’t good enough to type a lot, and I haven’t been too pleased with
the experience of using it to type memos. I tried using the dock with
a keyboard, and it worked ok, but left me in the same position: I have
to have a dock and a keyboard anywhere I want to type. As a result,
when I have to type a lot I revert to my laptop. If the keyboard was better, I’d ditch the laptop. NOTE that the new HP TC4200 has a proper laptop style keyboard. I WANT.
- A better battery: The life is just too short at a little over 2 hours,
and I don’t see a bigger battery available on the HP website. I find
that I’m tethered to my iGo power adapter more than I would prefer. If
you don’t have an iGo, by the way, you have to get one. A single
charger with changable tips that you can use at home, in the car, and
on the plane. With interchangeable tips, you can power your iPod, your
phone, your tablet, your laptop, etc. No more carrying 3 or 4 chargers
around. (It’s a huge convenience) NOTE that the new HP TC4200 has 5.5 hours of battery built into it. I WANT.
- Typing is still hard with the onscreen keyboard: With the
onscreen keyboard, you’re basically one finger typing with the tablet
pen. This can be a drag for things like your unlock password (get a
fingerprint scanner!), and for instant messages.
- Subsume the functionality in StrokeIt! into the Tablet OS: I use a nice little software hack called StrokeIt! that allows you to add pen gestures to any application by training it. I think this is huge, but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be built into Windows Tablet OS. As an add-on, it’s a hack. It works, but it’s better in the OS.
- Get a fingerprint scanner: My single PC card slot is too valuable to occupy with the fingerprint scanner that all tablets should have, and you really want to have security turned way up on a device that you’re more than likely to leave lying around. Today, you have to either chicken-peck your password out when you unlock, or turn off sleep-password security. I’ve checked, and the new HP TC4200 doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner either.
All that being said, I’m really happy with my tablet. I take more
notes, and am more effective in meetings because I haven’t left my
mailbox and the internet behind. In addition, I can take notes on it
and pay attention to the people in your meeting in ways that are not
possible with a laptop.
Given the improvements in the new HP TC4200, I think getting one is a no-brainer purchase if you’re shopping for a new laptop and are intrigured by tablet functionality. It’s got excellent battery, a good keyboard, and tablet features rolled into one.
This is the wave of the future: tablet functionality integrated with laptops. It just makes a lot of sense. Factor this into your next laptop purchase if you want to be a more effective knowledge worker.