REDMOND, Wash, June 25, 2002 — It’s easy to spot Jeff Raikes in a crowd these days. He’s the guy carrying and constantly referencing his Tablet PC, a new portable computing device that’s about the size and thickness of a writing tablet and offers all of the features of a regular PC. As group vice president of the Productivity and Business Services Group at Microsoft, Raikes was one of the first people to get his hands on the Tablet PC, which Microsoft played a major role in developing.
Jeff Raikes, Microsoft group vice president, demonstrates a new Fujitsu Tablet PC and Windows-powered Pocket PC 2002 phone by VoiceStream T-Mobile, which are part of a group of new products that will be launched in the next year.
But Raikes expects that by this time next year, Tablet PC users will be increasingly common. He and others at Microsoft are equally enthused about other new products that will hit store shelves in the coming months, including new devices using Pocket PC Phone Edition software, which combines the functionality of a personal digital assistant (PDA) with all of the features of a wireless phone. During his keynote speech at PC Expo/TechXNY, Raikes will discuss both products and offer insights on a new a new classification of technology worker: the information worker. Raikes sat down recently with PressPass to offer a sneak preview.
PressPass: The term “knowledge worker” has been in use for a few years in the computer industry. Now we are hearing more about “information workers.” What makes information workers different?
Jeff Raikes: We still believe that knowledge workers, and the work they do, are very important, but one of the things that we’re seeing is the expanding use of digital tools by a far broader range of people.
For example, if I asked the CEO of a hospital if nurses are knowledge workers, the answer might well be “No.” Or if I asked the CEO of an airline if pilots are knowledge workers, the answer might be the same. But, in fact, in each of these cases, digital tools are a very important part of the information work. We view information workers as people who have an active role in the business flow, information flow or business process. Also, information workers are often more mobile than the traditional knowledge worker. Some are “corridor warriors” who go to lots of meetings, but generally stay within their building or campus. Of course, there are also the “road warriors”, the biggest users of notebook computers. Others work at home part- or even full-time.
As an industry, we need to develop solutions that better map to the needs of the information worker. For example, it’s generally not acceptable to bring a notebook computer into a business meeting. Why? When you put up the screen, you put up a barrier to effective communication with others at the meeting. Typing on a keyboard also is very obtrusive in meetings. But when people can’t use notebook computers in meetings, they lose the power and efficiency of the PC. It stays at their desk. They can’t grab data on the fly or share documents they forgot to print or copy before the meeting. How many times have we all been in a meeting where someone says, “I’m sorry, I forgot to bring that document”? Or you take notes in the meeting and then have to re-enter them into your PC when you return to your desk? It’s just too inefficient.
That’s just one instance of how better tools would dramatically increase the productivity of information workers. The possibilities are endless. There’s also a need to continually improve the overall connection between PCs and work processes, corporate data and resources.
PressPass: What is Microsoft doing to meet the computing needs of information workers?
Raikes: We’ve got several really exciting things that we’re talking about at PC Expo/TechXNY this week. We are all tremendously excited about the potential for the Tablet PC. I’m using one as my primary PC now, and it’s incredibly liberating. I can check schedule changes or answer urgent mail without interrupting the flow of the meeting or other work that I might be doing. Meetings are so much more efficient with it. I’m wirelessly connected to Outlook, and I have all my key data with me. It’s a full-function Windows XP notebook, so I’ve got all my applications and all my files with me. I don’t have to sacrifice anything when I’m working away from my desktop PC.
We’re making great progress as we get closer to launch of the Tablet PC. We’ll be showing new hardware this week from some of our key partners, including Fujitsu, Motion Computing and Toshiba. We’re announcing SAP as our newest Tablet ISV, showing that the Tablet PC is an enterprise-ready notebook computer. And we’re also announcing software from Microsoft, including a new version of Microsoft Reader that’s optimized for the Tablet PC. Using the Tablet PC for on-screen reading is quite natural. You can read Web pages, longer documents or e-mails, and it’s very comfortable to pick up the Tablet and lean back and read. It’s just like reading a magazine.
PressPass: Will you talk about any other new products?
Raikes: We’re also showing off an upcoming Pocket PC from VoiceStream/T-Mobile. It uses our Pocket PC Phone Edition software and it’s a really elegant combination of Pocket PC functionality with cellular phone capabilities.
I’m a big believer in having many form factors available to information workers, and this Pocket PC pulls together aspects of a PC, PDA and a phone. Let’s say you are listening to music on this Pocket PC’s Windows Media Player, and you get a phone call. You can answer the call, and if the music is too loud, you can reduce the volume or pause the music. You can conference another person into the conversation. You can change the time of a conference call and synch the change with your primary computer. You simply become more productive.
PressPass: How will you know if information workers are more productive using these new products?
Raikes: I expect we’ll start to see lots of customer success stories as soon as Tablet PCs deploy. We are announcing Nov. 7 as the availability date for the first Tablets.
I’m interested in understanding better how products like the Tablet PC improve productivity. So are CEOs and CIOs, since this information will help them to more effectively deploy these solutions. We have a pretty good sense of what the costs are to deploy information technology, but quantifying the ROI has been a long-term challenge for the industry. The good news, I believe, is that the time is right to see how we can engage CEOs, academics, consultants and analysts to actually take a fresh look at information workers and see what the best practices are. I know that many of the CEOs who attended the CEO Summit last month were very interested in pursuing this further.
PressPass: The Tablet PC was used extensively at the recent CEO Summit. What was the reaction?
Raikes: It was very encouraging, and very interesting. Some of the CEOs were heavy-duty computer users; others were not. But they all are classic information workers; they make decisions all day long, have responsibilities for a wide range of projects and need the best source of information possible.
So we gave each of them a Tablet PC, trained them for about 45 minutes and let them use the Tablets throughout the Summit. Some started sending inked instant messages; others kept their notes on it. Even CEOs who admitted they were not computer-savvy found their Tablets to be useful. The reaction was very gratifying and indicated that we’re on the right track.
PressPass: Besides the Tablet PC, what other new directions is Microsoft’s Productivity and Business Services Group pursuing?
Raikes: I’m very excited that we’ll have a new version of Office coming out about a year from now. It will be aimed squarely at the broader needs of information workers. Users will see improvements in communication and collaboration via XML. We’ll help information workers improve the way they read, search, and manage their personal information more effectively. We’ll be talking more about Office functionality as we get closer to availability.
Beyond technology innovation, we’re really focused on articulating the value of our products. We want to ensure we offer complete solutions that solve the problems of information workers in a holistic way. This is an area of investment for us, to better meet customer needs from a solutions perspective, not just with individual products.