December 8 2010
by Todd Hixon

What Are You Packing?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a reader survey that asks, how many gadgets do you carry around with you [link]?  They found one man who carries 18 gadgets weighing 26 lbs. in a backpack, including a full size laptop, an iPad, and a camera.  WSJ reports his name is Phil Libin, and I think my leg just got pulled [“fill a bin”?].

The survey, however, shows that most of us carry one or two devices:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

So, given that a phone is a survival necessity, most of us choose pretty carefully what additional device we carry.

In the weeks after the iPad launch, many of my fellow VCs showed up at board meetings packing their new iPads, proudly propped them up on the conference table, and took a few notes.  But, after a while the note taking stopped and the iPads were idle, except for a bit of surreptitious (or blatant) e-mail checking and web surfing.

And one of my partners, who is as good a gadget man as you will find, waxed prolix about the joys of taking his iPad on business trips:  it weighs less than an ultra-slim laptop and even (he claims) gets through TSA inside the briefcase.  Until, one day when he called me from the road and said “Can you quick dig out [some deal doc] and e-mail it to so-and-so?  I’m on the road with my iPad and it [hmmm] doesn’t really have a file system …”  Last month he bought the new MacBook Air.

However, C|Net reports that, if you count tablets as PCs, Apple is now the #1 mobile PC vendor [link], and Gartner believes that that tablet sales will displace 10% of PC sales in a couple of years [summary here].   How should we understand this?

I think the answer is pretty clear.  The tablet is a media consumption device.  It’s primary uses are reading eBooks, listening to music (at the same time), watching videos, surfing the web, playing games, and video chat.  It extends to light e-mail, making lists, and such like.  It is not a platform for serious writing, number crunching, or data management.  In the video Google released yesterday describing Android 2.3 (the first release since tablets hit the market), four of five featured improvements are gaming, multi-media tools, video chat, and SIP tools.

Javier Segovia, the CEO of tablet software company Tap ‘n Tap*, describes tablets as a “lean-back” experience:  relaxed in a comfortable chair, enjoying the media, not pounding the keyboard.  The PC experience is “lean-forward”:  sitting up at a desk or table, absorbing detailed information from the screen, interacting constantly.  These are very different things.  The cannibalization of laptop sales will be limited to the minority of users for whom media-consumption is the dominant use case.  Mostly tablets will expand the digital electronics market.

So what do I pack?  a small laptop.  Unless I’m going on a short trip to a place with no internet, in which case I take my tablet to relax and have fun.

* A NAV portfolio company.


December 8 2010
by Jay Pulli

With the right handwriting recognition software, and some simple versions of Powerpoint, the business traveler could probably just replace the laptop with the tablet, even for longer trips. Especially with a company cloud for collaboration. Heck, even with my Android I can log into my office desktop system and run Matlab.

December 10 2010
by Alex Murphy

With LogMeIn and a separate keyboard/pad your tablet can do anything you want, converting the experience from lean back to lean forward.

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