Tablet maker stays vertical

Tablet PC maker Motion Computing has come to the realization that its product will never receive mass appeal among buyers.

But in an interview discussing the release of its latest model, one of the company’s top Canadian executives says that’s fine.

“Microsoft thought everyone would use a tablet and that is not what I would have said. Motion Computing thought it was a vertical play instead of a horizontal one,” said

Scott Ball, the company’s business development manager for Canada.

Dating back almost 20 years, companies such as Go Corp. and Grid Pad came out with the first DOS-based tablets running Pen Write recognition engines, said Ball, who developed pen computing conferences with CDN founder Paul Plesman close to two decades ago.

From there Go created a Pen-based OS and Microsoft also released a Pen OS. Companies such as NCR, NEC, IBM, and Compaq adopted the Windows for Pen operating system.

More awareness came to tablet computing five years ago when Microsoft released Windows XP Tablet Edition and hardware companies starting making convertible notebook PCs.

Motion Computing does not produce a convertible Tablet PC, only slates, because it believes convertables blur the line between notebooks and mobile devices, said Ball.“People with convertibles do not write, but type,” he said.

Today the company has more than 6,000 tablets installed in vertical markets such as sales force automation, insurance, property assessment and surveys.

Walking and standing is a big part of their workflow. Input is usually done by a stylus, there’s also a model with an attached keyboard that forms a docking station.

The company is coming out with Intel Core Duo 2-based products. Ball said Motion waited for the release of Microsoft Vista to release its new line. The new LE1700 tablets will have better performance and power management features, he claims.

With Vista technology, the device can perform handwriting recognition training on the fly.

“Vista is it. There will be no more pen tablet OS anymore,” Ball said.

This means enterprises can now build a corporate image for all desktops, notebooks and tablets, whereas before there was a separate distinction for tablets, he added.

The new Motion tablets will have a fingerprint biometric reader that can work as a mouse for scrolling, a WAN pop up antenna and the option of outdoor and indoor screens.

The healthcare market makes up 48 per cent of Motion’s business. Other vertical areas include sales automation, field services, government inspection, legal and even some new segments such as professional athletic training.

Motion does not sell direct, which is saying something since the two founders of the company are ex-Dell executives.

“Partners solve (problems) with the right applications on this device. That is why we work with ISVs in certain markets to address this,” Ball said.

“Tablets do not belong in the general market. You have to have a reason to buy it. That said, Vista and Office has made it more of a value statement than ever before,” Ball said.

Motion products are distributed by Synnex Canada. The company has 50 partners in Canada, but Ball said the rate of channel growth is at 50 per cent per year.

Motion tablets will net a partner about five to six points better than a notebook, he said.

“We have to be competitive with convertible notebooks, which have the same price and margin levels than regular notebooks,” Ball said.

With add-on services, he claimed that tablet can get a partner higher double-digit margins.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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