Friday, February 29, 2008

US News & World Report article about Tablet PC demand

Tablet Tales
Demand for tablet PCs is going up. What are the latest features?

Posted February 28, 2008

John Hill got so jazzed about using a tablet computer that he started a business to sell them five years ago. "Tablet PCs always get called a niche market," says Hill, 40, founder and president of Allegiance Technology in Horsham, Pennsylvania. "But we sell them to all kinds of people: teachers, construction managers, pilots, someone who inspects yachts, even a cowboy who uses a tablet to write down numbers while sitting on the back of his horse."

Allegiance specializes in both slate tablets, which require a pen for taking notes or choosing menu items, and their convertible cousins, which accept both pen and keyboard input. Hill believes tablets are best for entrepreneurs who spend a lot of time in the field or who take lots of notes during meetings that need to be shared. Convertibles offer the best of both worlds for those who divide their time between the field and a desk.
Allegiance customer Dom DiJulia, 39, who owns a New Hope, Pennsylvania-based golf instruction business, uses his tablet out on the links to take notes about students and create videos of their swings, which he captures with a Canon video recorder and saves directly to the tablet's hard drive. "I plan to add another one so my other instructors can do this," he says.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Solution for handwriting recognition if you use RDP

Only a small percentage of tablets users access their network over Citrix or RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), but if you do then you cannot use the Microsoft TIP (Tablet Input Panel) for handwriting. Usually, you can bring the TIP up and tap on the keyboard, but handwriting doesn't get entered into the RDP window.

A solution has been around for some time, but a client reminded me about it today so I'm sharing it with you. ritePen from EverNote is an alternative to the Microsoft tablet input panel. In addition, ritePen gives you the ability to "write anywhere", a feature found in the first version of the MS TIP but subsequently removed. Using the Write Anywhere feature, you can ink directly into a document and have it converted to text without first entering it into a special area like the tablet input panel.

ritePen costs only $29.95 and more information is available at their website.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Do you really need a rugged tablet?

Because I work with a lot of people in the construction, inspection, field service and other "dirt under the fingernails" industries, many prospective customers are concerned that they need a rugged tablet like the Panasonic ToughBook to survive their environment.

I've found that spending the extra money is not worthwhile except in the most extreme environments. Most of our clients are using slate Tablet PCs from Motion Computing, Fujitsu or TabletKiosk that are not billed as rugged but still have features that make them durable. With shock mounted hard drives, screen protectors and bump cases that have shoulder straps and handles, use in the field isn't what causes breakage. My experience is that most times it takes a significant force to cause damage. Recent causes include leaving the tablet on top of a car and driving off, dropping a paint can off a ladder onto the screen and leaving it in the trunk where it got hit by a loose item (one of my own employees!).

Even if something happens to the screen, the tablet invariably continues to work just fine (except for the one where it was left on the car because after it fell off it was run over by another car). Screen repair on a Fujitsu or Motion is around $700 while the Sahra is only $300. I'm not sure why Sahara is less but it was good news for a recent client.

If you truly need a ruggedized device, the OtterBox case can be used with the Fujitsu and Motion tablets. It adds bulk and weight but can be used in dusty, wet environments where a standard bump case just won't do.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Automatic backup made easy

I have been looking for a truly simple, straightforward backup solution for several years. All of the ones I had seen required some intervention to make the backup work. I had to choose which files to backup, or load some software onto my computer, or trust my data to an online storage company. While my email, accounting and customer data are backed up daily via our company server, all the other files on my tablet like attachments and photos and PowerPoints required a manual process.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, I checked out an automatic backup system called GoClickFree and was so impressed I bought one to try out. Here is how it works:

1. Make sure your computer is on
2. Plug the device into a USB port
3. After the device installs itself, it backs up all your data files
4. Unplug it and put it in a safe place

I did the above when it arrived the other day and it automatically backed up the 16Gb of data files (it doesn't do program files but you could set it for that - those are better reloaded from the original CDs if your tablet is lost, stolen or crashed). The inital backup is the longest because after that, GoClickFree just backs up files that have changed. My initial backup took just over one hour and I was able to work easily (albeit a little slow) while the backup worked in the background.
A VERY COOL FEATURE IS that after the majority of the backup was complete, a message came up on the screen advising me that several open applications were about to be backed up and would be unavailable for a short time (just 1-2 minutes for me). This is great because if you have a just completed PowerPoint or new spreadsheet or never close your Outlook (like me), the device still backs those items up for you.

Not trusting the backup, I wanted to see exactly what was and wasn't there. First, I looked at the summary of files that the device backed up.

Next, I used Google Desktop to search for spreadsheets on my computer and on the GoClickFree device (which containes a 120Gb hard drive). Google Desktop found the same files, whether they were on my desktop, in My Documents or elsewhere on the hard drive. So did the GoClickFree device. Yeah!
Restoring files is nearly as easy. If you need to restore everything due to a hardware crash, that is a single click on Restore All. If you need to restore a single file, you must navigate to the folder and file you want to restore. You can then put it in the folder where you want it or restore it to another location.
For just $169, I think this is a great value because it is so simple. The device fits in a short pocket or small purse. THE BEST PART is that the software is all on the device - you load NOTHING on your tablet. And if your tablet (or laptop) gets lost/stolen/damaged, there is no software to load before you restore - just plug the device in and let 'er rip.
If you want one of these, we now have them on our website.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

$232.79 free software with your Motion LE1700

One of the unsung advantages of buying a Motion LE1700 is the Motion Pack software. It used to cost $34.99 but now is included FREE with every tablet. Here is what it includes:

Microsoft OneNote 2007 $99.95
Microsoft Streets & Trips $39.99
ArtRage 2 $39.95
PDF Annotator $49.95
nFinity QuickVoice $24.95

That is $232.79 worth of software for free. Sweet!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Step Estimating software for painters

This software is designed for painters to do estimates while walking around the house and utilizes a tablet PC to tap through choices. Of course, the prospective customer can easily sign off on the estimate and get the project started.

It looks like a pretty basic program and utilizes Excel and Word rather than software specifically designed for inkable electronic forms. You can view their online demo and get a feel for it yourself.
I am seeing an ever increasing number of ISVs (independent software vendors) who are writing software specifically designed to take advantage of the capabilities of a tablet PC.
Do you use custom software for your mobile work? Let me know about it and we'll feature it (and you) on this blog.