The Gilded Cage: Why My Next Tablet Won’t Be an iPad

I love my iPad, truly I do.

But this is my last one.

Other than a few iPods over the years, it’s been my first true Apple product — at least one I purchased and wasn’t handed to evaluate — and the experience has been nothing short of excellent since I lucked into one late last April at an Apple store in North Carolina. The anticipation leading up to the launch of the iPad made it a foregone event — at least within the walls of Lenovo — but no one anticipated the excellent responsiveness, elegant user interface, and impeccable integration with iTunes and the iTunes app store. The product was far more than an upsized version of the iPhone, and came as a sharp rebuke to the stylus-based tablet computing model pushed by the PC makers and Microsoft.

Nearly a year later I spend as many hours with the iPad as I do with my classic laptop. I’m purchasing and reading an average of three Amazon Kindle books per week on it, do nearly all of my television/movie consumption through the Netflix app, and use a mixture of browser, Google Earth, and other reference tools as I read and research various non-fiction topics. I hate typing on it

In short, I’m a satisfied customer and am glad I winced and bought the $500 device when I did. I think it represents the most significant shift in computing devices in over twenty years, and has shown a way forward for a completely new model of information/entertainment delivery and consumption.

Now with the next version allegedly already in manufacturing, I  can also say this iPad is probably my last Apple tablet. My next one will most likely be an Android Honeycomb version, not purchased with a 3G/4G contract from a carrier, but most likely a WiFi enabled device.

I shared a table on the Acela to NYC this week with Forrester’s tablet analyst, Sara Rotman Epps. Like any good analyst she took the time to survey me, the average man on the train, on my purchase intentions. I told her — this time next year I’ll probably spend as much as $350 for an Android tablet and expected it would be much lower in build quality than an Apple — plastic instead of brushed aluminum. The real question is what, other than god forbid breakage or loss, will induce me to move to a new tablet. Camera? I don’t think so. Video calling is the most overhyped technology since speech to text recognition.

Why will I leave Apple?

In order of importance:

  1. Monopoly: I’m alarmed by Apple’s monopolistic moves towards publishers — and book sellers — that essentially forces them to sell content — books, movies, magazine subscriptions, through Apple’s commerce infrastructure. This tollbooth will jack content prices up, with the impact inevitably being handed down to me, the buyer. I am sick and tired of Apple’s proprietary/walled garden approach to their platform from the lack of Flash support to sticking guns into the sides of the third parties that have coalesced around the platform to make it so successful.
  2. Google integration. I am a Google person. From Gmail to Google Docs, Google Voice to Google Earth, Chrome to ….. the Google mobile app on the iPad is weak. I am also an Android phone owner, so I want better sync capabilities between devices. Google’s stuff works ok on the iPad, but not great.
  3. Cost: I want to pay way less than $500 for basically half of a laptop. I hated netbooks although I inflicted one on my daughter, but regard the $250-$350 price point to be just right for the form factor. Sure, my next tablet will be made out of cheesy plastic, but slide it into a nice cover/case and who cares? It’s all about the screen and the processor.

CES finis

Writing from the airport with blessedly free wifi but no AC power, I get ready for that middle seat back to Boston and an alleged snow storm. Last night’s blogger dinner went well. I got to meet Greg Verdino, Steve Garfield,  and Joseph Jaffe in person. Had some interesting conversations about monitoring, advertising, media, new products, clouds, gadgets, porn stars and old french brandy.

I demoed a few products, but more importantly received some great feedback from Jaffe on the art of hosting a blogger event.

  1. Involve a strong connector. The Social Media Club was looking for a sponsor of a blogger dinner. I had a restaurant that needed some bloggers. That is an easy win.
  2. Work the invite list. I should have been more involved in lighting up my network and doing a lot of investigation of who would be blogging from CES. We had a list provided by the show’s press office, there were the obvious people to consider (I need to do a detailed post on the ever-shifting definition of a blogger as the blog CMS revolution and the ascent of the big gadget blogs makes some “blogs” more “media” than ever before, with large staffss and operations, versus one man bloggers like yours truly). We missed some good people, I should have been a little more involved, but ….
  3. Don’t be a dickhead with the agenda. Inviting people to hang out doesn’t mean asking them at some point to shush and listen to an executive suit with the microphone. When I was a reporter I hated the dog and pony aspect of marketing “parties.”
  4. The loud CPR music? Loud music in a bar or nightclub is an attempt by the owner of said establishment to make civil conversation impossible. After a few dozen attempts to communicate with someone interesting the frustrated person gives up and does one of two things:  orders a drink or dances, gets thirsty, and orders a drink.
  5. It never hurts to have one’s products lying around to be touched. Don’t have a bunch of over helpful people hovering with the old “may I help you?” Let people discover stuff on their own and if they have a question, be available to answer it.

Just read a good post by Rob O’Regan at Magnosticism about budget cuts and social giving way to the tried and true world of demand generation. He makes good points which I pledge won’t become the rule at Lenovo. The point of the post — survey shows marketers are sick of hearing Web 2.0 buzzwords but still feel the need to know more.

Which reminds me — a new role for me at the company. I’m now more focused on social media, less on “demand” generation (paid search, banners, metrics) and a project I can’t talk about. So, will my title change from VP of Global Web Marketing to something else? I dunno. Not a title person. Basically if it happens in web 2.0 it is my problem.

So I have that going for me.

New Lenovo TV ads

These are making their debut during the Olympics. I’d really appreciate any feedback. I’ll disclose my favorite later. These are Ogilvy and Mather spots. I’ll get the credits on the creative and production teams from my colleagues this evening. Time to hit the beach.

We call this one “Troll”

This one is “Laser”

And “Castaway”

Finally, “Sumo”

New laptop – X200 for Beijing trip

I ordinarily don’t rant about Lenovo products on this blog. Old journalistic allergies to conflicts of interest, subjectivity and public relations sort of chills any professional promotional instincts. But I’m making an exception here because new technology has come into my life and, well, of the dozens of PCs that I’ve used (beginning, technically, with a Wang dedicated word processor in the spring of 1980), this one, by far is the most impressive and “personal” in the sense of strong ergonomics and usability.

I’ll get the punchline of this post over early: the X200 is the best ultraportable notebook computer I’ve ever owned. I’ve gone super ultraportable for the most part in my PC choices — avoiding anything above a 12″ screen and using external monitors and keyboards for extended desk use.  Weight is important, but having gone too small, I’ve come to realize that in order to function happily, I need a serious keyboard and a crisp screen. This is my first widescreen PC, and the increased screen turf is appreciated. It isn’t the lightest ultraportable, but I don’t quibble about a half a pound difference at this point in life. I want something that is sturdy, and the X200’s magnesium frame makes this feel more hefty than my old X60s and X61. The screen is far crisper than my old X61 tablet, and the Intel Core Duo P8600 2.4 GHz processor is the fastest by far. As Computer Reseller News notes in its review, this sucker isn’t quiet, it’s silent.

Thin? Very, not as skinny as our former flagship, the X300, but definitely a sleek notebook and not a brick. I think for hardcore ThinkPad users, the machine will be appealing because a) it is Trackpoint only with no touchpad to mess with your head and b) since optical is (in my opinion) going the way of the floppy, you need the UltraBase dock to get a DVD rolling. I take both omissions from the system — touchpad and optical — to be a big plus. But, it does have three USBs, a SD slot, and the usual port stuff happening.

I’ve put about four hours into it, and the port layout, the keyboard, the wireless, everything is working like a charm on this Centrino 2 machine, our first. I need to dig, but not sure if this has a WAN card. I know it has the new  N standard 802.11 wireless and potentially Wimax, but I need to dig into the system config to see what’s inside.

Oh, and it is the first time I’ve used Vista.

Can you believe that? I work for a PC company and have never used Vista? Weird. Anyway, that will be short lived as I need to send this back to IT to get the Lenovo VPN and usual Lenovo specific apps installed and will most likely get re-imaged with XP (I can connect to the VPN, I just can’t download the apps from the LANdesk service until IT gets their hands on it.)

The X200 is out next month, until then we need to do something about pre-orders because I get the feeling that while this may not make the cover of Businessweek like the X300 did, it definitely is going to be a very high demand laptop.

Here’s PC Mag’s take. “The ThinkPad X200 soars to the top of the performance charts, while delivering battery life well into the 6-hour range. It maintains many of the classic ThinkPad qualities, like the industry-leading keyboard and a wide range of wireless connectivity options.”

And here’s CRN’s. “In fact, the X200 is now giving the X300 a run for its money for the title of year’s best notebook.”


Trust me, best PC I’ve ever used.

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