The VAIO Prototype 2-in1 PC made its global debut in Los Angeles at the Adobe MAX 2014 on October 4th – 8th. Industry professionals from around the world gathered to talk shop and test new technologies, and this is some of their feedback on the renamed “VAIO Z Canvas”
“Putting a nascent prototype into the public’s hands to be experienced directly was a challenge and risk for developers,” said Yoshifumi Ito, the Product Producer of VAIO, looking back on the MAX experience. Already the product of a dialogue between graphic artists in and outside of Japan, the prototype now needed discerning professionals to tell us what they thought. Stepping outside the normal rules of rollout by risking a negative impression of an unfinished product, an anxious development team, including Ito, flew to Los Angeles with a handful of prototypes in an unprecedented attempt to rethink 2-in-1 PC development.
So how did it go? The prototype was introduced during the “Battle of the Hands: Posterpocalypse” pre-conference competition held by Adobe Sr. Creative Director (and VAIO Duo 13 user) Russell Brown. Participants were tasked with creating posters for a monster movie using Adobe Photoshop CC to integrate, edit, and print photos taken on their smartphones and tablets. A VAIO booth was set up for a live prototype demonstration by renowned digital artist Rayce Bird, who was able to complete a rendering of his movie creature in a mere 30 minutes. At the same time, 3 additional prototypes were made available in the booth for artists and designers to have their own hands-on experience.
As mentioned, industry access to the prototype was risky, but the development team got compelling feedback that made the exposure worthwhile. “The response from people at the booth was overwhelmingly positive. It was also surprising to learn that a little less than 70% of people who answered the touch-and-try questionnaire were Windows users,” said Ito.
One of the features most remarked upon was the 2560x1704, 250 DPI resolution for high definition drawing. It impressed attendees with its ability to portray accurate colors from more than 95% of the Adobe RGB ICC profile, and the minimal parallax pen earned high praise from Rayce Bird. Many MAX participants visiting the booth lost themselves in their ability to create subtly detailed drawings on the prototype.
“Allowing attendees to operate the prototype meant they could explore the full functionality of specs not listed on the CPU. This was one of the big takeaways from exhibiting at MAX,” said Ito. For example, the built-in stand which allows users to tilt and set the screen to any angle has a sturdy hinge that keeps the unit stable even when drawing on it with the pen. This function was highly rated by attendees. Another example was the response to the application that streamlined shortcut functions. Simply tapping the screen with a pen may not seem unique, but after a lengthy interview process we determined that being able to multi-task and maintain creative workflow was a priority.
On the other hand, we were fortunate to discover a new flaw during the touch and try experience. “There were users who exerted more pen pressure on the screen than we had considered, and this is precisely the kind of direct feedback we could only get from MAX,” said Ito. “We were able to communicate the concern back to VAIO headquarters in Azumino where developers could get a head start on a resolution. And to this day we continue to fine-tune the prototype with the feedback from those users.”
There was a rumor at the conference that a creative director from Adobe Premiere Pro asked to test drive the prototype during his MAX session after finding out it had the power to draw 5k of footage before any rendering was necessary. According to Ito, this kind of exposure from presenting at Max “made us confident we were on the right path by developing a tablet PC with discerning creative professionals in mind.”
The plan now is to continue exhibiting the prototype at design and industry events after November, and then proceed to a new development phase in domestic use which includes recent feedback from photographers. “We understand that it is natural for a new product to excite with a great first impression, but the real test will be in its use over time. Each new challenge helps us develop an exceptional tablet PC,” Ito said, “and we promise not waste the valuable lessons the development team learned at Adobe MAX 2014.”
*VAIO and the VAIO logo are registered trademarks of Sony Corporation.
*All photos in this article were taken when the prototype was released in fall 2014, and are not the final design.