Battling The “What Do I Take” Question: An Opportunity for Microsoft

Several weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about the allure of the iPad and its’ potential for replacing her laptop on business trips. I listened to a lot of the common reasons people bring up that make the iPad an attractive looking option for those who do a lot of business travel or frequently work from home: lighter, longer battery life, combining e-reading with a work tool, giving presentations, leaving cords and laptop bags behind, and much more. The desire to leave the laptop behind reigned supreme.

I then began to dig beneath the surface by asking about the kind of work she did on these trips: answering a lot of email, finalizing PowerPoint presentations, working on new Word documents, editing existing ones. When on an airplane or just relaxing in the hotel, she reads e-books on her Kindle and watches movies via NetFlix on her laptop or the hotel tv. The deeper I dug, a common theme then began to emerge: more times than not, she doesn’t know ahead of time what type of work she’ll end up doing while on the road – sometimes it is just email, other times it turns in to a lot of  editing work or needing some of the other specialized programs on her laptop.

I then began to layout some of the challenges to replacing her laptop with an iPad for business travel:

  • PowerPoint files don’t always convert over well to the iPad and vice-versa when sending them out
  • heavy editing of Word documents will begin to get cumbersome using the on-screen keyboard – she’ll eventually need a bluetooth keyboard, and then a case to store it all in. That package gets to be about the same size as a small laptop with less functionality.
  • While packing bags the night before, she’ll begin to deal with the question “do I bring my iPad or laptop?”. Over time, she’ll find herself leaning more toward the laptop because of the unknowns of what the week holds for her. The last thing any business traveler wants is to be stuck a thousand miles away without the tools they need to do business. The iPad will then cease being her go-to travel device and she’ll either leave it behind or pack it alongside the laptop.

I then challenged her to look at the iPad for what it is: a companion device to take with her to a client meeting and lunch, while she leaves the laptop in a safe back at the hotel. She can give a quick PowerPoint presentation during lunch, take down some quick notes, and check her email. She is traveling light when it matters most, but still has access to her main tools during the week when she might need them. The iPad also makes a great tool to sit back and relax with during some downtime. Justifying an iPad as a laptop replacement, though,  is a recipe for disaster. That “What Do I Take” question resonated deeply with her – she didn’t want to give up any flexibility to react to customer needs while traveling and could see where this would ultimately end up.

This is where it gets to be an interesting opportunity for Microsoft: how to blend a tablet experience that offers both the flexibility of getting work done while away from the office, while seamlessly transitioning into a personal entertainment device during downtime that doesn’t sacrifice on weight, battery life, form factor, or user experience. In fact, it ought to excel at all those. During a time that the consumerization of tech is infiltrating the work place, Microsoft has a unique opportunity to solve this problem and come out a winner in the eyes of both the consumer and the work place – if designed from the bottom up with these two user experiences in mind. Don’t make the user choose, design the ultimate blended solution for them: the power and flexibility of Windows combined with the natural user experience of an entertainment, note-taking, and presentation tablet.