Flex sings the praises of tablets

Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex has made his decision — he’s chosen a Tablet PC to take notes about the contestants as they pour their hearts out.

Whether he thinks the idol wannabes need to rethink their dreams of a career on stage or that one of them could well be Canada’s next superstar,

Farley writes those thoughts down on a Toshiba M200 Tablet PC.

“”If there’s a particular thing I like or dislike, I’ll jot it down,”” says the Toronto-based Flex.

If he has something funny to relate to one of the other judges, but can’t say it, he puts it on the Tablet PC and shows them on the screen.

“”It’s great — it’s the same physical action in terms of paper, but you retain the information much more easily in terms of archiving,”” says Flex, who was the original music director for Toronto’s FLOW 93.5 radio station.

“”It’s compact. It’s light. It’s a really cool unit,”” he says.

It’s much easier to manage information on a Tablet PC, he says.

“”The difference is, with paper, I have to keep the paper and file the paper.”” The Tablet PC helps him better keep track of his files.

“”I’m not the most organized person — my office has paper all over it, and stuff like that. So, the more I can minimize paper use, the better. And it’s more environmentally friendly too.””

The Idol set is just one of the places Farley uses his Tablet PC.

He and his partner, who also has one, use their pen tablets to keep track of their business endeavors through Microsoft Windows SharePoint Service.

The collaboration tool helps teams keep track of their documents and share information either through the Internet or a corporate network.

Flex and his partner can provide others with access as well, and control who has access to what.

Flex was able to see designs for his label’s first album through SharePoint when they were ready.

He and his partner currently have a number of projects on the go, and each one has a SharePoint site.

Because the Tablet PC is open face, Flex can see alerts right away.

And because writing into a Tablet PC is more discreet than typing into a laptop, Flex can also chat on MSN or check e-mails when he is in meetings.

He uses his Tablet PC in flat mode 90 per cent of the time.

“”It’s very user friendly. I’m not Mr. Tech Guy. I’m old school,”” he says.

His only complaint about the Toshiba is the way the stylus fits into the unit. “”It’s a little delicate.”” And it’s important nothing happen to the stylus, he said.

“”It’s sort of minor, but it’s not minor, really.””

Pen computing is still a fairly nascent market, says Eddie Chan, a research analyst for mobile and personal computing and technology at IDC Canada in Toronto.

“”Part of it is the price premium,”” he says.

This is of particular concern to the Canadian market, which has more small and medium businesses. SMBs have a harder time justifying the cost, Chan says.

Tablets accounts for less than two per cent of the market and have had more success in the utility and health-care markets, he says.

Rob Enderle, a principal analyst at the San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group, agrees.

“”It plays best where forms are used,”” he says.

Manufacturing and health-care verticals love tablets, he says.

On the hardware front, there have been issues with readability because of overhead fluorescent lighting, Chan says. While a laptop screen can be tilted at a 70 or 80 degree angle, pen tablets are held the same way notepads are — making them more susceptible to glare, he says.

“”Some of the screens out there are still a ways away from (users) being able to read a book (on them).””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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