Where is the business tablet?

There is a computing product that is easy to imagine, for which demand exists, that is not on the market.  This device is ultralight, portable, offers a high-quality screen and long battery life, good-enough processing power, and contains an input device sufficiently better than the touchscreen on the iPad.  In terms of software, the key difference from the iPad would be an exposed file system, or at least an app that offers access to an exposed file system.  Every business traveler would much rather carry this than a clunky laptop, especially if it was cheaper than an ultralight laptop.  As it is, many carry the iPad, but it’s really not effective for sending emails longer than a single line, or for producing documents.  Why has no one taken that part of the market?  Some possibilities:

  1. IT departments’ legitimate concern is the key bottleneck – none of them want to certify the security standards of iOS or of Android.
  2. IT departments’ inertia is the key bottleneck – none of them want to support newfangled devices or think tablets are toys.*
  3. Nobody has cracked the input problem yet in a convincing way – a detachable keyboard is a pretty awful replacement for a real one.
  4. Lack of an exposed file system makes both iOS and Android extremely difficult for managing real work.
  5. Users are resistant to new paradigms and extremely attached to their laptops for simple inertia.
I think that 1. 3. and 4 are undoubtedly true, with perhaps a smidgen of 2.  If the Microsoft Surface is well-designed, I think it could handle all of these concerns in the enterprise market.  IT departments will be certifying Windows 8 anyway, so that’s not an issue.  If the keyboard-cover works well, it will take care of 3.  And 4 will definitely cease to be an issue.  I think there’s a real possibility for Microsoft to completely destroy the enterprise laptop market as it exists today, which is a shockingly large business opportunity that has more or less been sitting on the table for a while.
It’s a big “if”, but I think the tech writers who are giggling at the Surface are missing the point.
*: They are. Today.

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