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The Slate of the Tablet

Apple NewtonThe tablet market is moving fast this year and it’s hard to keep up. So here’s the State Slate of the Tablet.

Apple iPad running iPhone OS

Since the death of the Newton a long time ago there have been rumors that Apple was developing a new tablet. Steve Jobs finally announced the iPad earlier this year which, in case you’ve been on an extended remote vacation, is Apple iPad theONbutton landscapeavailable now running iPhone OS. It is available in WiFi only or WiFi+3G, the latter being a smart choice to get the most out of the iPad (pictured). The iPad uses the same App Store as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad can run iPhone apps but dedicated iPad apps look best.

We now either own one, want one or don’t know what it’s for. Personally I didn’t know what it was for, then wanted one and lined up on launch day to own one. I now know exactly what it’s for, which is around 75% of all my Internet and media consumption. The chances are that if a website doesn’t work on the iPad, I’ll find another website or better still, an app.

Limitations include the iPad’s lack of Flash support, no easily accessible file explorer and a beautiful screen which is difficult to read outdoors. Strengths include ten hour battery life, loads of great apps and the ability to enjoy good Internet content without having to trawl the whole Internet to find it.

PC tablets running Windows

Windows tablets have existed ever since the release of Windows XP Tablet Edition years ago. These early tablets were typically ultraportable laptops with touchscreens that swiveled to convert the device into a tablet. They used resistiveArchos 9touchscreens and required a stylus for input, or a very precise fingernail.

The current crop of Windows 7 tablets, spearheaded by the likes of the Archos 9 (pictured), are certainly far lighter than their ancestors but the weaknesses remain. Notably the resistive screens and stylus or trackpad input method. Unfortunately there are just too many aspects of Windows 7 usage that require precise interaction to allow tablets to really exploit the OS.

Multitouch gestures have been built into Windows 7 but as soon as you try using an application like Microsoft Office on a Windows tablet, it is beaten in usability by iWork for iPad which was created from the ground up for tablet usage. Battery life is also an issue on Windows tablets which mainly now use the Intel Atom processor. This is a very power efficient CPU but real life battery usage on these tablets tends to top out at 2-3 hours.

Android

The Google and Open Handset Alliance backed Android OS is making a big play for tablet market share. Or perhaps I should say lots of little plays, because like the Windows tablet market the Android one is made up of a gazillion of Dell Streakemerging models. Unlike the Windows market however, the Android devices we’ve seen so far are all running slightly different versions of Android.

Personally I feel that while Android will overcome the obstacle of fragmentation in the smartphone market, I believe it will greatly hinder the platform in the tablet market. Most users ultimately don’t care if they can’t run this or that app on their phone as long as the device runs a core set of important apps. With tablets it’s different because they are perceived as far more capable devices than phones due to their screen size. If a user tries to download an app which only works on Android 2.1 onto a 2.0 device she purchase that day, frustration will mount. The fragmentation of Android builds on tablets may hold back the rise of the platform if left unchecked.

In terms of actual Android tablet devices in the marketplace, we have seen the JooJoo come and be poorly received. That was the most high profile launch until the recent Dell Streak (pictured above), which is a small tablet and large smartphone wrapped up in a heavy, less than pocket friendly chassis. There was a ton of Android tablets announced at Computex last week running various builds of the OS, which seemed to reinforce the idea that fragmentation is the biggest issue facing this platform.

Palm Pre PlusWeb OS by Palm

HP recently acquired Palm and the jury is out on whether the HP Slate, which was due to be launched imminently running Windows 7, will be shelved in favor of a HP Web OS tablet. Those who have used a Palm Pre (pictured) or Pixi may feel that Web OS could be the foundation of a very useful tablet interface. We’ll just have to wait to see what HP has in store for us on this front.

Neil Berman

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Jun 6, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Windows 7 pre-Beta success stories responsible for Atom notebook rumors?

Today’s rumors that HP is discussing the possibility of using Atom CPUs for notebooks as well as existing netbooks is interesting for two reasons.  Firstly we have not seen the Atom in any laptops with >12″ screens, but secondly and more importantly I think this could be an indicator of confidence in early Windows 7 tests.

We have already seen Windows 7 running on an Asus EEE PC, and early impressions of the next-gen OS have been extremely positive for a stage so early in the pre-release phase.

So what does it mean if HP really is talking to Intel about supplying the Atom for notebooks?

  • Battery life should skyrocket, if the netbook crowd can be used as a benchmark.  My Wind gets over five hours in real-life usage and the only significant additional power drain on a notebook is a larger screen…but they also offer more real-estate for housing a larger battery.  Could full working-day battery operation from a large-screen laptop become a mainstream reality?
  • The concept is good news for organizations with a mobile/flexible-working workforce and a thin-client infrastructure.
  • Many consumers may only need low processing power as we move towards a web-based services computing model (eg. web-mail/photo/music/productivity apps).  They might trade notebook HD movie editing capabilities for longer battery life in real life usage…however this would require a sea change in marketing tecniques where high power specs aim to sell a life-changing experience.  It is probably a ‘Greener’ sell though, which could lead to Atom-based notebooks being more fashionable that more energy-hungry models.

Time will tell if anything comes of this, but when I put together the early Windows 7 success stories with rumors of HP talking to Intel about the Atom then it does all start to come together…in my hopeful mind!

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 2, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netbook market grows further, has Aspiring winners and falling Stars

A glance at Amazon’s top 25 bestsellers gives a window into today’s netbook market.

The recent $100 price drop of the Asus EEE 1000H has it selling strongly, Acer’s Aspire One Linux is sitting at number 11 and the pre-order XP version is at 14. Various other EEEs make up much of the middle groung and Micro Star International’s Wind is caught up in turbulence at 24.

Given its $399 price tag I expect the 3 cell XP Aspire One to climb that chart, although hopefully they won’t suffer from the quality control issues which sent my Linux One back for repair only days after its unboxing.

Lenovo announced its entries, the S9 and S10, a few days ago. Only the S10 will be coming to the US and will bring a ten inch screen, Atom processor and XP starting from $399 in October…and it looks great.

An unfortunate characteristic of the Wind since its missed launch date of mid-June has been rumored, and now official, price hikes. The 3 cell XP model is now at $499, which looks forgettable compared to the pricing of the One and S10. This Wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

We’re still waiting to see what Dell’s E is going to throw at us, shouldn’t be too long now. Their rumored $299 entry price will ruffle a few feathers and their marketing might will ensure a sale or two.

Then there are still more models expected to launch in Q4 with VIA’s celebrated Nano CPU, just to make buying decisions that little bit harder.

If I was a betting man I’d say that Acer’s Aspire One and Lenovo’s S10 are set to be strong sellers in XP guise. Dell won’t take any prisoners either when they launch. So within a year I expect the Wind and Mini-Note to be shaken out of the market or forced into price cutting. Perhaps the savior of the Mini-Note will be if HP can swap in the Nano for the C7.

For the Wind, price cutting alone may be too late for mainstream buyers. If broad stock fails to arrive soon then how will they break onto retail shelves which already have Acers, Dells and EEE on display? It may end up being too little too late for this great product.

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Aug 9, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini laptops = mini prices?

Don’t you just love market forces? Only a week after it’s launch at $649 and the Asus EEE PC 1000 is already down to $549 at NewEgg.

Part of the greatness of the original EEE was its price tag, and sales figures were through the roof. As everyone else caught up with models from HP, Acer, Dell and MSI all announced or launched, Asus’ pricing seemed off the pulse. So it’s good to see this correction, but more is still needed especially for the EEE 901 given Acer’s 8.9 inch Atom powered Aspire One is retailing for $379. By comparison the 901 is over $200 more expensive!

Now spare a thought for MSI’s Wind. The Wind is a great product ‘almost’ competing with the EEE 1000. I say ‘almost’ because although the Wind was due to rock the market over a month ago, the only model released was a low capacity battery version which had reviewers telling everyone to wait until September.

I expect by then the 10 inch early adopters will have bought the reduced price EEE 1000 and the Wind will be scrapping in the trenches for leftovers in a price-cutting market.

Did I mention the Dell E will be launching around then starting in the region of $299…?

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Jul 21, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asus EEE 900 vs. HP Mini-Note 2133 mini review

It’s been just six months since the launch of the first Asus EEE PC and the sector has exploded. The original UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) name has been supplanted by Microsoft’s ULCPC (Ultra Low Cost PC), Intel’s MID (Mobile Internet Device) and various manufacturer led acronyms – MSI’s forthcoming Wind is actually an abbreviation of WiFi Network Device.

Screen sizes and storage space have increased, but in most cases so have price tags. Asus itself is a case in point, with its recently launched EEE PC 900 offering a nine inch screen and up to 20GB of onboard storage but a hefty $549 sticker price. The majority of the hardware on the inside is similar to the 701, but the increased screen real estate in a similarly sized package makes web browsing and general working more manageable.
Unfortunately the keyboard feels the same size as the original, which I struggle with after a few months of daily use. It’s fine for occasional emails etc but for more consistent work I make too many typos with it as my fingers sometimes land on two keys at once.

The screen seems a bit brighter than the 701 and fills the (slightly larger) lid nicely, with the webcam still preserved. Looks and build quality haven’t kept pace with the competition however, as we segway into the HP Mini-Note…
…which is one of the best looking laptops money can buy.

Powered by a range of VIA C7 processors up to 1.6GHz it sounds at first like it will outperform the EEE’s 900MHz Celeron, but user testimonies indicate that the Mini-Note often gets stuck in the slow lane.

When I tried it out running Vista it was actually pretty decent, loading apps quickly enough for general usage. In fact if you write a lot and have limited multimedia requirements, then the Mini-Note is a fair choice because the keyboard is absolutely awesome.

The keys are large, almost as large as a full size laptop, and I was able to type fluently from the get-go. The trackpad is responsive too and although the buttons are oddly placed on either side, this makes the pad’s area larger and is not a problem if you tap-to-click.

The looks, screen quality and overall usability beat the EEE and the whole thing seems better constructed too, if larger, whilst pricing is similar. The Mini-Note starts at $499 for a Linux build, compared to $549 for the Linux EEE 900. The top of the range Vista Mini-Note model sells for a not so appealing $749.

Unfortunately for both the EEE and Mini-Note, their respective Celeron and VIA processors have a tough time managing multimedia applications fluidly. This is forgiveably in the $299 EEE 2G, but less so in a unit costing around twice as much.

Overall the HP Mini-Note and Asus EEE 900 have strayed away from the original EEE ultra-low-cost concept and are competing with budget laptops but offering limited power. Of course these machines are all about portability but other models due out soon may offer a better balance…

Speaking of which, we will see MSI’s Intel Atom-powered Wind in June. With an 80GB hard drive, ten inch screen and rumored six hour battery life under Windows XP, I’d wait to check out the Wind before handing over the plastic on either the HP or Asus just yet.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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