ThinkPad Tablet Goes to Yamato

- Some time has passed since the tablet was released, how has the reaction been?

Kinoshita: It’s been superb. Right now there are many tablets that all look the same, but the ThinkPad Tablet has been praised as being “recognizably ThinkPad”.

- That’s great. What specifically do you think it is about the ThinkPad Tablet that makes it “recognizably ThinkPad”?

Kinoshita: I think the ThinkPad Tablet is recognizably ThinkPad in two ways, it’s “toughness” and “design”. There was a lot of debate about toughness, but eventually the development team came to a consensus that sacrificing toughness to make the tablet thinner and lighter wasn’t the right way to go. I’m fairly satisfied with the finished product where design is concerned, considering the “the comfortable feel of the luxurious black rubber coating”, “sturdy and solid construction” and “a style that uses red effectively”.

- I suppose that as a ThinkPad, it would have to pass rigorous testing focused on toughness.

Kinoshita: Yes, that was a major consideration for us. Some of the testing standards were actually more severe than the ones we use for ThinkPads. We wanted to design a tablet that would be okay to use outside, even if it rained.

– Personally, I have some doubts about whether the Android OS can really be used in a “professional business tool”. Is it really up to the job?

Kinoshita: It’s perfect for my work style. In my case, when I don’t need a keyboard I’m always on my ThinkPad Tablet. I do almost all of my meetings with just the ThinkPad Tablet so I think I must be using it 4 – 5 hours a day. I mostly use it for checking e-mail, looking at documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF formats or for taking notes. Sometimes I use it to quickly check my e-mail during a meeting. I really should be concentrating on the meeting, so maybe that’s not the best way to use it, but it’s so convenient (LOL).

– That’s true. But, I think I know how you feel (LOL). For simple tasks, the ThinkPad Tablet is more than sufficient.

Kinoshita: I myself didn’t think that I would be able to do this much work with my ThinkPad Tablet. When it comes to new devices, a lot of the times you just don’t know until you use them. I want a lot of the people at the Yamato Lab to experience for themselves what it’s like to work with a ThinkPad Tablet so I’m working on a project to distribute them to a lot of the people here.

During this project, it really hit home with me that we wouldn’t just be simply transferring our technology and experience from notebook PCs to tablets. Here at the Yamato Lab, we like to talk about “having new experiences and proactively incorporating them into development”. I plan on distributing the ThinkPad Tablets to a lot of divisions so I’m sure that we will hear about a lot of ways to use and areas to improve the tablets that we otherwise would never have even conceived of.

Of course, it’s easy to consider adopting the ThinkPad Tablet in a company because of its ample security and integrated management functions. It features a lot of software that business users need like Good for Enterprise, Notes Mobile and Documents to Go, so I’m hoping they will really get into using the tablets.

– One of the other features unique to the ThinkPad Tablet seems to be the rich supply of peripherals. Is this the result of your insistence on making a “professional business tool”?

Kinoshita: In order to make it a tool that you can “use to work” we paid special attention to the pen and keyboard. The pen is very easy to write with, almost making it fun to take notes by hand. The keyboard was developed expressly for this unit, which is rare for a tablet product. I think the two points that are most loved about ThinkPad are the keyboards and TrackPoint. I just couldn’t imagine going to a third-party product for the keyboard.

Even though the development schedule was short and it was a lot of work to develop peripherals along with the actual tablet, we somehow got it all done. Before development, we actually examined developing ARM and Linux products, although those products never made it to market. Without that experience, I don’t think we ever would’ve been able to finish development on time.

– I believe that the TrackPoint you used is optical. Is this a new development?

Kinoshita: Yes, it’s new. Since it’s a ThinkPad, it has to have a TrackPoint. However, current TrackPoint units are thicker than the keyboard and would have affected the keyboard folio thickness. We chose an optical design so that we could make it thinner. It feels a little bit different than previous units, but I think it’s an easy device to use once you get used to it.

– The last thing that I would like to ask you is if there is anything specific that you would like to achieve with future tablet products.

Kinoshita: This might contradict what I said earlier, but I think we need to make a Windows tablet. There are a lot of advantages to having a tablet that uses the same OS that you’re already using. We also have to work on making it thinner and lighter. Of course, that’s without sacrificing the attributes unique to the ThinkPad.

There’s another thing that I wanted to do, but wasn’t able to this time. I think it would be really convenient if you could place it in a dock and then use it as a second display. Notebook PCs still have an advantage when it comes to content creation, so I think your notebook PC will still be your main computer at your desk. I often find myself wishing that I could put my tablet next to my notebook and use it as a second display.

I already have several other ideas. It would be nice if I could achieve them all in the next generation.

Hidenori Kinoshita is reflected on a ThinkPad Table

Hidenori Kinoshita is reflected on a ThinkPad Table