Microsoft today identifies a key demographic for its TabletPC initiative, and it isn't pretty.
"She's a corridor warrior," begins the blurb. "she spends more time attending meetings and dashing between conference rooms than at her desk."
"Yet as she dashes along the corporate hallways…" it continues, but we think you get the picture. There's actually an interesting story buried in the gwana gwana, but we shall come to this in just a moment.
The phrase 'Corridor Warrior' has been used before for the TabletPC, and appears to have originated in Redmond. But thankfully it has gained little traction in the world at large so far: Google shows no use of the term outside the TabletPC context.
Perhaps they should have chosen "PowerPoint pugilist", "Canteen Commando" or "Soda Machine Samurai"?
But all the alternatives are unnecessarily martial, and it's odd to see such aggressive terminology used for a device which ought to make computing less obtrusive and more informal. TabletPC is a full feature notebook you can use when lying down - which is the great advantage of wireless clients, and the most attractive result of giving the venerable netBook a wireless upgrade, as John Lettice noted here.
And give the Beast some credit, it is trying to breath life into a design - the notebook computer - which has seen hardly any innovation in the past decade. With wireless networks cheap and affordable, and so much to read on the Web,
Ink in Bill's eye
But the interesting thing is the prominence of "ink" - a phrase Microsoft's chief software architect Bill you-know-who rarely mentions. Gates himself invariably refers to "handwriting recognition", and it's more than a semantic difference, as Jeff Raikes suggested in this interview last year.
"One of the things I think is very important is that we use the handwriting recognition but we also use ink. Guess what, ink is really pretty nice," Raikes told an investor conference in May, according to a transcript that's now missing from Microsoft's site but still in the Google cache .
Gates favored a dictionary-based approach which required training - like Graffiti, but the more imprecise "ink" technology appears to have won the day. As Microsoft's Alex Loeb has pointed out: "...the initial success of the Tablet PC is not dependent on 'perfect' handwriting recognition. We see great value in treating 'ink as ink' - allowing people to revise, edit, and repurpose their handwritten notes after they've written them on the computer screen using the stylus."
Which just goes to show software development at Microsoft isn't as top-down as you might think. Just because Bill says something should be done one way, that doesn't mean it's set down on stone, uh… tablets.
The TabletPC launches on November 7. Supplies of the $600 Transmeta pad we mentioned here have sold out, alas. ®
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