Some very unscientific research this week suggests retailers remain unconvinced about the business benefits of tablet PCs.
Retailers I spoke to on Tottenham Court Road - London’s busiest technology shopping street - said tablets weren’t really suitable for serious business use, and that anyone – like me – looking for a work tool should stick with a netbook or laptop. Essentially, something with a proper keyboard.
I visited ten stores in my quest to purchase a new netbook to use solely for writing while travelling, and staff all report that sales of netbooks and laptops remain healthy despite reports of a tablet onslaught. That said, few of the stores had tablets on display, suggesting they remain focused on old-school computers and reinforcing that ‘consumer only’ tag for the new breed of machines.
One salesman even said tablets were “frivolous”, but try telling that to the hundreds of people hunched over iPads in Apple’s flagship Covent Garden store. It was my first chance in a while to nose round the shop, which looks more like a fashion boutique than a computer outlet. It reminded me of ‘experience’ centers run by Japanese operators – sites where you don’t go to buy a new phone or contract, but rather can mooch around all the new handsets, technology and services the carrier is offering.
Retail is meant to be a dying art, and that was highlighted to me when trying to kill some time in a bookstore. There aren’t any. Well, ok, there were some, but I couldn’t help feeling they were missing a trick in terms of interactive information. I’m not so clued up on what’s hot in the world of literature at the moment, and for the first time in my life would have welcomed an interactive information display providing details of best-selling books and brief reviews or synopses.
Despite buying three books – a good old three for two price offer – it was the new netbook I reached for on the train home last night. I eagerly consumed my 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi offered by the train operator, and caught up on the work I missed while searching for some decent literature.
The only potential downside to the new machine is that – I think – my local pub offers free Wi-Fi. This could get messy!