What locks you into products that you use?

I recently switched from a Dell laptop to a Toshiba M400 Tablet PC and I’ve also been spending some time using Shonali’s new MacBook and I’m discovering something interesting. Keyboard layouts vary pretty significantly and I think if I were an “average” user (as opposed to someone who is an early adopter, a techie), this would be one of the biggest barriers to switching from one PC to another.

Shonali’s MacBook doesn’t have a PgUp or PgDn button (though I eventually figured out that Fn + Up or Fn + Down accomplish the same thing. My new Toshiba doesn’t have a Windows button in the same row as the keyboard (I’m used to there being at least two of these buttons — one to the left of the spacebar, one to the right of the spacebar). My new Toshiba also has a ` button in the same place that my old keyboard and every other keyboard I’ve ever used has it’s control button — this particular difference is a major annoyance!

Anyways, the point here is that when I’ve bought new computers, I’ve never paid attention to the keyboard layout. In fact, until now, I can’t say that I ever gave keyboard layout any consideration at all while purchasing a laptop. You certainly don’t hear reviewers talking about keyboard layout as they whiz through the latest speeds and feeds.

Sometimes non-obvious things (at least, non-obvious to early adopters) are what lock people into one product vs. another.