Yes Lenovo, there is a better way for tablets

Yes Lenovo, there is a better way for tablets

Summary: The largest PC maker in the world has started a campaign to push a better way for tablets. That's well and good, but I want specific things from my tablet.

TOPICS: Mobility, Lenovo, Tablets
Lenovo Yoga Tablet_3
(Image: Lenovo)

Lenovo has partnered with actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher to promote its new advertising blitz, the Better Way campaign. A live event was held in LA recently with Kutcher to launch the company's Yoga Tablet line. A lot was said at the event about the innovative hardware design, although similar design has been used in the past on products that didn't make a splash.

The Yoga Tablets have a cylindrical grip that people will either love or hate. Lenovo must realize that's the case, as Kutcher acknowledged that the company was taking a risk. He stated that several times so it's obviously on the mind of Lenovo executives.

To break it down, I want my tablet to be aware: what I do each day, where I do it, and at what time of day. Be aware if I am alone, or if friends or colleagues are with me.

I applaud what Lenovo is trying to do with this campaign. The tablet space has become largely static, with most tablets more or less like the others. While changing the hardware design is definitely a good attempt to shake things up in the tablet world, there is far more that can be done on the software side. Lenovo (and other OEMs) would be wise to give this a lot of thought for future products.

I use tablets heavily for both work and play. I own four of them across the three major tablet platforms -- iOS, Android, and Windows 8. You are more likely to see me with a tablet in hand than without. I love the form, and find it a great way to get information and create stuff.

As good as I find tablets to be, I agree with Lenovo that there is a better way to leverage them. But I believe that is on the software side, coupled with the tablet's ability to learn what I like and do regularly.

As an example, when I start my day I check my email and spin through hundreds of RSS news feeds to see what happened in the world while I slept. If my tablet would automatically help me do that each morning, that would be a better way than manually going through the ritual. 

When I first pick up my tablet in the morning, run the Gmail app. After I finish working with email, fire up the Newsblur app so I can check the RSS news feeds. The particular apps are not important, any similar apps people use are fine, it's the function that matters.

Learning what I do each day is something a tablet can easily do with the right software. Using a lot of available clues -- eg. location, what task I am performing at a given time, whether a keyboard is connected or not -- the tablet can come up with lots of ways to make my usage better. The webcam can be leveraged, too, to determine what may be pertinent in my immediate environment. Even how I am holding/using the tablet can provide a clue to the device to help it determine what I might want to do next.

To break it down, I want my tablet to be aware. Be aware of what I do each day, where I do it, and at what time of day. Be aware if I am alone, or if friends or colleagues are with me.

Many of us are creatures of habit and we follow consistent routines throughout the day. I'm no exception and the tablet should be able to learn this routine quickly, and then use environmental clues to determine how best to help me get stuff done.

That could be as simple as opening the right app when I take the tablet out of its bag at a particular time or place. Or, it could be more complex, like reminding me to email a colleague with information requested in an email received that I haven't done.

When Uncle Bob emails me that he is coming to town and wants to visit, without any action on my part my tablet should remind me (based on past appointments entered over time) that he likes to eat at Joe's BBQ Emporium. If it could then make a reservation online that would be even better. The point is to do things for me in a natural way that helps me focus on the major stuff.

These are just simple examples, but using environmental clues tablet software could do sophisticated functions for us that could revolutionize our user experience. It would be like having a personal assistant always with us, looking silently for ways to help. Without complaint, and without the need to pay a salary.

I'm happy to hear Lenovo talking about a better way for tablets, but I don't care which company might implement the software I want. As long as it helps my tablet get smarter, and learns how best to help me, I don't care what logo is on the bezel.

I'm sure some will not want their tablet to be 'spying' on them all the time in spite of the potential benefits. That's fine, those folks have the option to not buy such a tablet if it existed. I do want that, however, and am open to my tablet learning as much about me by observing my actions and environment as possible. I would still be in total control over the tablet so I'm not concerned. To have my tablet constantly making pertinent suggestions and doing things for me would definitely be a better way.

I hope Lenovo and Mr. Kutcher get this better way thing figured out, and they take my wants to heart. I'm willing to talk about it if they're interested. Otherwise I hope somebody, anybody, gets me a tablet that gets me.

See related:

I am ready for a smartphone that "gets" me

Topics: Mobility, Lenovo, Tablets

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  • What You want

    After reading your article, it became painfully obvious that what you want differs significantly from what most of my customers want. Perhaps, it would be good to catch the pulse of the mainstream and write in regard to them.
  • No thanks.

    Until I have some trust in the technology creators to know this information about me, than I might be interested. I can't argue that it all sounds very convenient. Do you really think this amount of data collection/analysis would not be abused commercially, politically, and likely criminally as well? We see it everyday. These companies need to know LESS about us, not more.
    • Edit:

      Until I have some trust in the technology creators to know this information about me, than I am NOT interested.
  • The principle of least surprise . . .

    "That's well and good, but I want specific things from my tablet."

    Keep in mind, though - you're an edge case; you're not an average consumer.

    Most people want their tablets to be predictable. When they press a certain button, it should always act the same way. It shouldn't do anything unexpected, even if it's an attempt to "predict" what they will do.

    Microsoft tried the whole "let's try to predict what people want" thing with Microsoft Office. Remember those adaptive menus and Clippy? Both attempts to try to be "predictive" with the user. Neither panned out so well in the long run.

    I'd say what you want is an edge case, sorry. The principle of least surprise is more important than the coolness of "adapting to the user." People want to feel as if they're in control over their devices - they don't want their devices heading off and doing stuff in a way they're unaware of and can't predict.
    • Actually...

      I use predictive text on my phone all the time. A lot of people do.
      • Usually it's very predictable

        Predictive text algorithms are actually intentionally written to be very predictable - if you're typing fast and accept the prediction out of habit based on what you know it generally predicts, the last thing you want is to go backwards and correct it because it predicted something different.

        So they're not so much "adapting to the user" as "giving predictable recommendations."

        The line can be a bit blurry sometimes, I guess.
    • Also...

      What do you think Google Now is all about and why people like it so much? It learns and starts to predict fairly accurately, so there's another example of where a lot of us use predictive technology...
      • Which people?

        Which people? Haven't seen anybody use it.
  • Sad truth...

    So as you are checking your email while taking the morning want google to note that? Do you really want google to see where your kids are or where you are all in hopes of predictive ware? People would go crazy! You have any idea how many people at work will put a tape over their company laptop - in fear of someone watching? Until people trust these companies, and I do NOT think they should, this would just scare customers away.

    As for location sense, what if you decide not to go to the restaurant that day. Who would call and cancel the reservation. So you and your budding at work decide to grab a quick bite: DO you want the tablet to ask you: "it looks like you are headed to lunch, would you like me to make a reservation at XXX?" few minutes later... "it looks like you are driving in the direction of XXX Salon, would you like me to make a reservation?" yet few more minutes... "It seems you have not had oil change in three months, would you like me to make an appointment?" few more minutes... "You have a "massage scheduled at Happy Ending Massage, would you like directions?" yet few minutes... "you are headed in the direction of your ColonRectal Doctor, would you like me to verify your appointment?" As your friends look at you funny, you turn off the feature because all you wanted was a quick bite at Taco Bell...

    Technology is great when it predicts your need, but would you want it that far into your business?
  • Time for you (and Uncle Bob) to crawl out of your ruts, James.

    If your tablet knows what you do when, then I'd suggest you try doing something completely different once in a while. I personally consider electronic gadgets that try to "read your mind" to be annoying and creepy.
  • Lenovo, the Cool tablet!

    Oh! God, here we go again. Lenovo sign's Mr. Kutcher to shill for their tablet. This smacks of the I'm a Mac Justin Long crapple commercial, "Hey kid's look how cool I am". Lenovo should just tell people about their new tablet form factor and sell it by showing that it's a better way to hold it. I thought at first it was just a way to use regular batteries like a flashlight does, lol. Hey I think that that might be usefull, you could always have some AA's recharging overnight and keep them handy when you're needing some more juice watching What Happens in Vegas for the 5th time.
  • You are talking about software not hardware

    Lenovo makes hardware... why are we talking about software here... I for one do not want my hardware maker to force Microsoft bob type software on me.
  • Ouch

    So when Uncle Bob emails you, you want Apple or Samsung etc to scour through the email (and all other emails) and take the action that Apple or Samsung tablet has defined for you?

    I don't think so! How far would you take things?

    "Aha!", says the tablet, "You've been eating a lot of Chinese food recently and Uncle Bob seems to like Indian, so I'll book you a Thai restaurant as a compromise. I also see that Uncle Bob has been buying a lot of booze of late so I had better get onto Walmart a lay in a few bottles. I notice that Aunt mary died over a year ago, now. I also spotted that your colleague Mavis has been dumped by her boyfriend (you may have read it on Google+, last week) so I'll invite her along because she loves Thai food and he might hit it of with Uncle Bob. I took the liberty of stocking up on Vodka and Coke because that seems to be Mavis' tipple at the moment. Whatever you do, don't mention Brad and don't tell her he's taken up with Sal (the one whose Facebook page you are always looking at) because she doesn't know yet. Btw. You have an email from Apple about the launch of the new iPad Super. It told them you were busy. "
  • Absolutely - same for smart phones

    Between 5 and 6 each workday evening I call home to let them know I'm on my way. Phone on. Swipe. Phone icon. Favorites. Home contact. Call. Speaker on.
    How about any sequence I do X times gets saved into a table in the phone provider's cloud which I can peruse and either mark for getting it's own icon or mark for remember I don't want an icon and hide this sequence.
    I'd like a screen or screens devoted to "My Sequences" with the ability to COPY individual sequence icons to my home screen.
  • Nice Utopian View

    A bit to creepy for me. I like to have my own choice about what I want when I want it and it's not always the same so Id say no to automatic fill in the blanks for me. I'm always triggering the fraud alert on my credit card too... because I change my patterns. It would be useful at times but even then its a double edge sword. Maybe if I had to fill out the same form several times a day or week id let it go on full automatic but Id still want the option to just do it myself.

    So far an example of the tablet trying to do with it thinks is right for me is generally embarrassing. When it autocorrects my typing and substitutes words for me they more often than not end up being something I didn't want and it takes more effort to use the word I really wanted but I don't always catch them and then you know how it turns out. (The suggestion for SMTP was Smut for the longest time) Now if you take that up a notch and start having the tablet (computers) going off doing things for me there's no telling the trouble I could get into. :-)

    Yeah, it's coming though, cars driving themselves etc. ... look, judge I was in the passenger seat don't look at me.
  • Within a week, he'll have his New Tablet ..

    I bet that his unique and arbitrary shopping list will be answered within a week. And it'll be a Surface II. And I'll bet he knew that before he wrote this article. And he'll be SO impressed! And SO surprised!

    Who will take the bet? Owl? Loverock?

    Cat got their tongue, it seems ...
    • Owl,Net

      will take your bet. He's too busy trolling the Apple forums to answer you right now.
      Jacob VanWagoner
  • Software is not hardware

    James, your article was all about software. Lenovo announced a new tablet form and tried to connect it to a new usage philosophy. The philosophy is not new, just re-boxed stuff from long ago. The tablet, while looking very interesting, is far from leading edge technologically. Essentially, the Yogi Pad is extended battery life without the external keyboard/battery. The screen is low res. The OS is an older version with no talk of KK. The CPU is mid-range. No micro HDMI. The pricing is reflective of a mid-range tablet but I'll still take my Nexus 10. Lenovo needs to fill this price range but it needs to show that it can really innovate and the first release of Yogi Pad does not achieve that goal.
  • Funny how everyone finds predictive tech creepy...

    Yet, most of us Android users use Google Now on a daily basis...along with predictive input software (Swype, etc). Seems a little hypocritical...
    • Most?

      If by "most" you mean "you" and possibly "the few people you know who use smartphones that you have convinced" then sure, it's "most."
      Jacob VanWagoner