Leading Innovation… Off a Cliff

Toshiba unveiled their new Tablet’s promotional website, which, if viewed on an iOS device without Flash, attempts to pique your interest in the device by insulting you for your previous purchasing choices. They’re not even doing any proper feature detection for this either; as Graham Ballantyne noted on Twitter, they’re simply doing userAgent sniffing for Safari. If you run desktop Safari without Flash installed, you get a generic “missing plugin” error. Good job, Toshiba.

What adds injury to insult is that Toshiba calls their promotional site an “interesting place” on the Internet, and then pompously finishes with their marketing slogan: “Leading Innovation.”

Rrrrrright.

I’ve already vented some of my frustration on twitter (no, really, I have), but thought I’d take a few more words to describe why this has bothered me so much. Three main reasons:

1. The hypocrisy

I get that a marketing slogan is just that: a piece of marketing. But Toshiba’s “Leading Innovation” is now so antithetical to their accomplishments in technology that it makes you wonder if they really believe any of that themselves anymore. “Pursuing Innovation,” while useless as marketing copy, is at least somewhat applicable.

Toshiba have attempted to do something worthwhile in the tablet space for many, many years—never without more than a modicum of success. For instance, in the past decade I’ve known only three people who have had or expressed desire for a Toshiba Tablet PC. I had more people express such desires for the iPad just the day it was announced. Now that’s just a purely unscientific, anecdotal example of course, but sales statistics reveal very similar evidence.

But the hypocrisy isn’t even remotely as annoying as:

2. The bad use of Flash through and through

I’m probably known fairly well for my general dislike towards Flash, though I find it incorrect and inappropriate to say I am “anti-Flash” in a sweeping generalization. It’s not that I am against Flash at all times, it’s just that I am against bad use of Flash at all times. The sad reality is simply that most use of Flash on the Web is bad.

Toshiba’s Tablet website is another shining example of this bad use of Flash. It is completely exclusive—meaning, if you don’t have Flash installed, you’re out of luck and are unable to access any content. Minus 1 point for accessibility. Then, even if you do have Flash, you cannot navigate the site using the keyboard. Another -1 for accessibility. Want to select some text from the site? Well, you can’t. Another -1 for accessibility. I could go on, but the point is made. If this is what constitutes an “interesting place” on the web, then count me in the “square and boring” standards camp.

By relying purely on Flash to communicate anything about their product, Toshiba is taking a pretty anti-standards and user-hostile stance towards a large number of potential customers. Unless they only ever planned to sell it to the 52% of Android users with Android OS 2.2 or higher installed.

Which brings me to the final reason:

3. The attitude

It’s all downright insulting. Even the All Things D headline labels it as such. You may disagree with Apple’s walled garden ideology, or its “anti-tinkering” direction, but it takes a twisted view of reality to describe Apple’s marketing of its products as insulting. I don’t know what kind of customers Toshiba hopes to attract, but I don’t think this kind of attitude will help them either way.

I wish Toshiba good luck selling their tablet with “long battery life” (without mentioning what that actually means) and no known price or release date, because based on what I’m seeing from them, they’re not even really competing with the iPad in any way. Instead, they’re competing with the 44 other tablets shown at CES. And among that mix, Toshiba’s tablet has very few differentiating factors.

“Leading Innovation” indeed.

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