I’m at Dell World this week and one of the things people are talking about is the product that Michael Dell hinted at during his keynote. It is a humongous (when compared to the iPad) 18” mega tablet. It isn’t an iPad killer, well unless you drop it on an iPad, but it could actually be a very successful product if folks see it for what it is and not for what it isn’t. It isn’t what we think of a tablet, what makes it like the iPad, is that it rethinks how you’d use a computer. It is more like a portable all-in-one, but could be the beginning of something very different.
In a way it is more of what the Microsoft Surface tablet should have been than what it is. Let me explain.
Image via www.microsoft.com
Looking At PC Differently
When we first saw PCs we didn’t have flat screen displays that were very good (I had one, it used plasma technology and had one color, orange) so we ended up using CRTs and this got us thinking of PCs as heavy and stable. Apple created all-in-ones, but they were boxy and not very portable and when laptops came out we basically took the typewriter form factor and added a screen. The next breakthrough was the smartphone and tablet and Apple was the most successful there. But even though a lot changed in technology, we largely looked at desktops as things that didn’t move (even iMacs) and laptops as things that did.
But Microsoft created a really interesting product called Surface with Samsung which turned the display into a tablet and allowed people to use the computer is very different ways, like to play board games or video games on the same screen with up to four people on the edges. As one of the folks that got hooked on playing games this way, I tried to buy a Surface tablet several times only to be told it simply wasn’t practical. I still think it was because Bill Gates wanted to be the only guy with a Surface tablet in his living room.
But Surface, the initial Surface, got me and others to start looking at what you could now do with a PC differently. You could use it flat on a table and, much like the iPad, the end result could be something that is both different and potentially (depending on what you could run on it) magical.
The 18” Portable Tablet PC
Now you are sure as hell not going to use an 18” tablet as a book reader and I doubt you’ll carry it on a plane to use in coach. Though, come to think of it, an 18” tablet actually would work on a plane where a 15” or larger laptop wouldn’t and you’d have a large screen gaming or movie experience while the poor sap next to you was living off a much smaller screen. But this isn’t the idea for this tablet, and Dell isn’t the only company that will be exploring this concept.
The idea is more like we used to have with portable TVs, where the entertainment experience moves with you from place to place. Yes you might take and use the machine as a tablet but only on your lap if you were watching TV and wanted to browse for information on the show or if you wanted to keep track of the game while your wife watched a girly movie (not that I think I’ll be allowed to do that). Say you wanted to watch a streamed movie out in your yard, or shop while you watched TV, or play a group game using the PC as a game board. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this form factor and Dell’s 18” will, rather than being on the large side, likely be on the small side once this concept matures because the Surface table concept that it will partially be exploring was 42”.
Wrapping Up: Apple TV
I have a feeling it may be something similar in concept to this that Apple will eventually explore as well. The idea of a living room all-in-one that morphs into a large format portable display for gaming, watching streamed or live content over the Web, or even for shopping. We are only starting to get a sense for what touch means on larger form products and recognize that the new Tesla S sedan has a similar sized display as its central control panel. Imagine what else a large portable screen could be used for.
It is nice to see a company step up and try something different. That is what created the iPad and the iPod after all. It is nice to see Dell make this attempt and, who knows what this could lead to?
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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