Confessions of a Tablet PC salesperson

NEC Tablet PC circa 2002

Few people remember that I sold Tablet PCs for NEC (here’s some details on that early thin tablet). We had a Tablet back in 2002 that:

1. Was 1/4-inch thick.
2. Supported multitasking.
3. Ran full Windows XP OS.
4. Supported Flash.
5. Had replaceable batteries.

So, why didn’t it sell? Well, it did sell. We sold out every month. Problem was that NEC could only make a few thousand a month for the US market and they never put the advertising/marketing dollars behind it.

But it had some really deep flaws.

1. It didn’t feel good after using it. Sorry, but Windows XP sucked for Tablet usage, especially now that we have iPads to compare it to. Apps didn’t feel like they were made for Tablet (most weren’t). To use it you needed to use a stylus. Lose it and the thing became pretty unusable. It also got warm so if you used it for a while it was uncomfortable to hold.
2. Batteries only lasted two hours. Compare to my iPad, which lasts 10 or more (I still haven’t depleted a battery fully on the thing).
3. It cost $2,000.
4. The wifi wasn’t all that reliable and not many places even had wifi, so walking around with it wasn’t all that useful.

I compare my experiences with that to the iPad and we’ve just come so far in a few years. The iPad is a sheer joy to use compared to that early NEC Tablet (which WAS revolutionary for its time!) Plus I can buy four of them for what one NEC cost.

It’s sad that Bill Gates tried to get Microsoft to deliver the Tablet PC vision but Microsoft mostly failed where Apple has largely succeeded. Some because the market is more ready for a Tablet PC today (we have wifi in a lot of places now, and 3G coverage is getting there). Some because technology has evolved (battery life is dramatically better than back then and lighter too). Some because prices have come down.

It is interesting to look back at gadgets just a few years ago and see how far we’ve come.