Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Pack – Tablet computers for Execs

I got out of an especially grueling session of our weekly management committee meeting. A typical meeting for us is the board room table occupied by different business unit heads from different offices, each armed with a tablet or a laptop (and a couple with both).
Today, someone commented on the appearance of the ever popular iPad with yet another participant. And the few hold-outs (yours truly included), queried about utility and whether we could junk our laptops in favour of the iPad. After the gushing was over, the usual grumbles started. Great for consuming content, but not so great for creating it. You need to be hunched over to type at a decent speed (God help when the soon to arrive aches and pains from bad posture start). No Excel. No Outlook (I piped up).
Which is what set me thinking.
What is an ideal Tablet for Execs? The core functionality that you need a computing device for.
  • A device with a sufficiently large screen to read reports and presentation. (Rules out a phone. BB was a serious compromise and useless beyond looking at some really brief reports)
  • Connect to projectors to make presentations.
  • A device where you can type relatively long responses to a relatively large number of emails. (Unless you are a Head Honcho where email involves writing. FYI, yes, no etc. In which case your phone should be sufficient)
  • Something that runs Excel (and Outlook). (Yes, I know of the alternatives, but come on… Really?).
  • Legacy software. Though increasingly, these are being turned into web based interfaces (UPS still runs COBOL in their systems somewhere). In any case, as of today, with the exception of games and special purpose software like design tools (and Excel), hardly anything that can’t be done in the browser.
  • Has the form factor of a tablet (To match the oohs and aahs reserved for the iPad)
The last, goes fly in the face against the second (mainly for reasons of typing ergonomics).
So, logic dictates that
  • The device should look like a tablet.
  • Should have a no fuss connection to a blue-tooth (V4) keyboard and mouse and a display connection
  • A dock that doubles as a stand and charger (and maybe some USB ports)
  • Run Windows 8 (with Office 15)
  • Has an x86 core (for backwards compatibility). Sacrificing processor speed for better battery life.
No big deal. The market is already responding to this. Transformer Prime, Samsung dock to go with their Win8 tablet etc. Android ecosystem funded a lot of this early experimentation.
The Branding challenge
Microsoft (along with it’s hardware partners) should create a standard pack around these three items. i.e. Input devices, dock with ports and call it something. I propose that it be called the “Action Pack”. This needs to be positioned and sold separately (at a distinct, yet reasonable price as a value addition and utility multiplier)
The term needs to be infused with qualities signifying completeness, speed to get going etc.
Marketing needs to be focused around the following key benefits
  • Tablet form factor that can be converted into a full fledged laptop experience with the Action Pack
  • Office and millions of other Windows compatible software including legacy software.
So the conversation will modify into:
So you got a new tablet. Can you really replace the laptop with the this?
Yes. with the Action Pack I can do everything that I could on my laptop. But I left it in my office, because I don’t need it for this meeting and I have one at home as well.
Eagerly waiting.

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Time for a cold shower

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