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The new Tablet Wars – I Want My Digital Note Taker!

Warning: this post contains geek content that may be inappropriate for some readers.

Normally I’m not the impatient sort when it comes to gadgetery, but I must admit my patience is running pretty thin.

I’m an avid note taker.  I find it very important in my line of work (and in my personal development).  Often I will come out of meetings with pages of notes.  Unfortunately, that means I have shelves of notebooks, which are incredibly hard to refer back to later.  I often find that when I need to look back, I don’t have the right notebook with me (who wants to carry 3-5 notebooks for a year of notes!). 

When I’m problem solving, I also scribble a lot.  It’s a very good habit, formed early in my programming years.  There’s always a notepad on my desk with only semi-legible thoughts where I have been working through some process or problem.

Needless to say, with where technology is today, pen and paper should be obsolete.  Somehow, it’s not yet.

Ever since the first slate-factor Tablet PC concepts were shown years ago, I’ve been in lust for a really good digital note taker.  Every year or so, usually around CEBIT, I find myself scouring the Internet for any progress towards the simple note-taker of my dreams. 

I’m actually looking for something pretty simple.  I want a digital note taker that does the following:

  • Lets me write and store notes
  • Lets me tag notes, sort them, and maybe even search them.

Best case is that I can actually just write directly into an application like EverNote or OneNote.  I don’t really need it to try to decipher my terrible hand-writing.  As long as the handwriting resolution is high enough that I can read it, I’m happy. Form factor is key as well: it has to be light, thin, and smaller than a letter-size page, preferably closer to an A4 sheet or Moleskine.  All day battery life would be ideal, but as long as it has more than a couple hours it would be acceptable.

Pretty simple, huh?  Apparently not!  Thankfully 2010 seems to be the year of the tablet!

TechCrunch recently posted a great article about the coming “Tablet Wars”.  It’s clear that technology is catching up to my dreams and that manufacturers are seeing the potential of slate/tablet style PCs. 

Most manufacturers’ primary focus seems to be media / Internet tablets.  These units are designed for using your finger as input.  Other than the Apple iPad, these don’t interest me terribly.  I’m not a media user – I don’t want to watch TV and don’t care much about surfing when mobile. 

I’m sure the Apple iPad, with the new rumors of a January announce and May release, is going to be one amazing device. Apple wouldn’t release it unless it was. Needless to say, we should all be keeping an eye on this toy!

There are several 7” and 9” slate PCs coming out with Windows 7, such the Archos 9. Great looking device, but I worry about things like the resistive screen and lack of palm detection, which would severely hamper my note taking ability.  In the end, these would likely end up as high end media and browsing tablets. 

Several eBook readers are becoming a potential option.  It’s a natural evolution for them – going from being a pure book to a notebook.  iRex has developed some options for doing this in the past (they’re very slow), and has a new line coming out over the next six months.  I can’t imagine that Amazon and the like won’t go this way within the next year or two as well. 

The Crunchpad could be an interesting contender as well.  I originally discounted it as an Internet tablet, but with comments in the Tablet Wars article about it being a blogging machine, my eyebrow went up. 

With the rumors floating around about the Apple iTablet and CrunchPad, you’d think the right toy for me was right around the corner.  Unfortunately, it seems that neither have any focus on actual note taking.

Until recently, I kept going back to the idea of picking up an old Compaq TC1100 for less than $400 on eBay, tuning it a bit, and using that as my simple note taker.  It’s more than fast enough for running Windows 7 and OneNote.

Then Microsoft “leaked” information about the Courier.  Windows 7 based, designed from the ground up around being a digital notebook/day timer with pen and finger input.  Very speculative release timing of mid-2010, but I’m guessing it won’t make that. 

CES 2010 will be very exciting.  Maybe this is the year I should head down. 

And now, I’m all hot again, and feeling very impatient. What are your thoughts?

3 Responses to “The new Tablet Wars – I Want My Digital Note Taker!”

  1. Mike Knapp Says:

    Looks like TabletKiosk could bring something interesting to the table:

  2. (Another) Mike Says:

    I’m more excited about the Courier than Apple’s prospective tablet.

    Apple has a reputation for bringing in innovative end user products and features, and already has their iPhone and iPod Touch as touch products. While an apple tablet would prove the culmination of a great deal of hype, I think much of the bang would be taken out from their two previous touch products.

    Microsoft on the other hand lacks this reputation, and people generally expect one of two things from them – competent and functional, or flop – and ‘functional’ has never much included ‘flash’ in Microsoft. If Microsoft manages to get this product out, and do it right (especially on time), it really will be immense.

  3. Gabriel Marron Says:

    Considerably, the post is really a notable contribution about the ipad. Although I dot concur with some minor points in general I´m fully on your way. I´m looking forward to your forthcoming updates. Just saying thanks for your Good work and writing is an important thing nowadays. Lets see what Steve Jobs might do in the next step. I will right away come back to stay privy of any updates, and let us both realize what the ipad will change.

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