Yes Lenovo, there is a better way for tablets

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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

Editorial standards