Super impressed with Kindle 2 – Can’t wait until UMPCs come like this!

kindle2I got a chance to get up close with the Kindle 2 over the holidays… Until recently, that’s been pretty hard to do here in Australia.

My verdict: Super impressed!

The eInk screen is very comfortable to read, although I didn’t get a chance to use it in the sun (as it rained in QLD pretty much the whole time).

What I like about the Kindle 2:

  • Super thin
  • Very light – easy to hold for long periods of time
  • Easy to read
  • Long battery life…

What I don’t like about the Kindle 2:

  • Still very limited selection of titles in Australia. It’s getting better, but still not good enough
  • Scrolling control / jog dial – could take a lesson from the old HP TC1100 jog dial
  • Lack of touch input
  • Device is locked in Apple style…

Pros outweigh the cons as far as I’m concerned. The Kindle 2 will do much to attract people to e-reading.

What I’m really excited about is the prospect of using a Tablet PC or UMPC that fills this form factor. No, I don’t want it to run some dumbed down mobile phone OS like Google Chrome or Windows Mobile either… I want full Windows on it. I want it to replace my desktop like my Motion J3400 does… Can’t wait for that – It’s only a matter of time.


Tablet PC – why you need to be patient…

Microsoft MouseEvery article I read about Tablet PCs in mainstream IT press seems to want label the Tablet PC as a failed concept. As I watch significant numbers of Tablet PCs walk out the door every month in our business, I chuckle every time I hear about it… Of course, even I’m old enough to know that it’s all happened before…

Into Personal Computing History…

In its current form, the PC mouse is now 42 years old, but it is really only 25 years since it went mainstream with the Apple Macintosh – 1984… Here’s what a respected PC journalist had to say about that:

"The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the “why” out of the equation – as in “why would I want this?” The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I dont want one of these new fangled devices."

John C. Dvorak – Commenting on the mouse that came with the Apple Macintosh, San Francisco Examiner, 19 February 1984

Tablet PC Meeting With Paper And ScissorsThat pretty much sums up the way the tech journos  write about Tablets and UMPCs today…

Like the switch from keyboard to the mouse, most people will initially resist the change… I still know people who hate the mouse so much that they continue to operate completely without one.

That said, even I was still using PCs without a mouse well into the 90’s (we had PCs at home, not Macs). Nowadays, it would be practically impossible to work without a mouse (barring touch and pen input of course!).

I believe that the adoption of Touch and tablet technology is similar. Digital pen technology has been around in a commercial form for 20 years now, but it really hit the mainstream in 2001 (2006 for UMPC). So it’s been 9 years and things are getting exciting for a couple of reasons:

  1. Better hardware – outdoor / indoor screens, capacitive touch, low power processors, mobile broadband access.
  2. Better software – Windows 7, multi-touch, Android, better handwriting recognition and ink enabled apps like Microsoft Office.

HP TC1100 Convertible Hybrid Tablet PC with Docking StationSo the Tablet will continue to gain ground as  an accepted mainstream form of computing.

However, it won’t play out exactly the same. That’s because tablets are most useful in mobile scenarios, whereas the mouse could be used practically on a desktop. Practical Tablet PC use also has much higher software and processing requirements – like handwriting recognition and virtual keyboard input.

That means that unlike the mouse which is now attached to practically every PC, tablets will probably never gain that sort of presence. Additionally, they will take longer to gain mainstream acceptance.

Apple will have a good crack at it this year… like they did with the mouse, with the release of some sort of Tablet. But like the much like the mouse, they probably won’t be able to change the market overnight.

Also, if Apple do adopt touch input on a PC – as the mouse has taught us – it does not mean that Apple will ultimately own the market.


Getting to know (and love) the UMPC

I’m definitely a Tablet PC guy and I have to admit that I never really got into the UMPC thing… In the early days, going to a UMPC meant taking a massive cut in power. It was like going back to the original days of the Tablet PC.

Anyone who ever used that slug of a thing called the HP TC1000 would know what I’m talking about. Simple tasks like clicking on a website link to 2 or 3 seconds to process. There is nothing worse than waiting for your computer to catch up with you.

Fortunately, HP quickly switched over to Intel Centrino processors, introduced the TC1100 and we never looked back from there. Things were reasonably fast again…

Then along came the UMPC. We go back to 600 MHz processors and super slow computing. It was like a time warp. It has always disappointed me that OEMs in the Microsoft camp (probably pushed into it by Microsoft themselves) tend to release things that aren’t ready for the market, ahead of their time.

So the first generation of UMPCs came out with hardware that was way underpowered and they struggled to run windows full stop. I wasn’t impressed and the market wasn’t either. Gigabyte T1028X TouchNote - Touch Screen Netbook

To their credit though, Microsoft and several manufacturers have hung in there and tried a few different things with UMPCs. We’ve now gone through three or four iterations of the UMPC.

In the meantime, the Intel Atom processor – that was first introduced to the Windows world in the UMPC – spawned the netbook craze. Massive netbook sales have meant that the hardware base for UMPCs with their tiny form factors is massively improved.

Add to the that release of Windows 7 and the swelling desire for touch functionality – particularly of the multi-touch iPhone style – and you have a plethora of new UMPC devices that are somewhat flying in the face of my last post on the subject…

In my collection I now have several UMPCs including:

With the exception of the Q1 which is about to move on from the collection, they all include inbuilt 3G / Next G mobile broadband hardware perform exceptionally well. The all use the latest generation of netbook style Atom processors and they run Windows XP or Windows 7 well.

The Gigabyte is a very useful addition to the family. We were thinking about getting a standard non-touch screen netbook for the house, but the Gigabyte was a great decision. Not only is it a really good expandable netbook, it is also great as a Tablet slate for eBook, news and blog reading. It is always more comfortable to read from a slate because you can get closer to the screen. The only thing that I would like on it is a backlit keyboard for working at night…

Viliv S5 UMPC - *Now Available*The Viliv S5 is truly incredible. It amazing that so much can fit into such a tiny package. In fact it is a little too small at times, but coupled with my mobile bluetooth keyboard it is pretty awesome. I can blog from it using my favourite wordpress interface – Windows Live Writer. I’ve tried blogging from the iPhone, but it is far too limited and small. The Viliv S5 fills that gap nicely.

Viliv X70 UMPC - *Now Available*The Viliv X70 is my take away PC. It is a much nicer size to work with, but it is also logically a fair bit larger than the S5, so not as “sneakable”… 3G inbuilt again, and with my stylus pen and custom touch keyboard it is quite nice to use. I think the X70 is the ultimate eBook reader.

I’m looking forward to the next generation of UMPC hardware. The UMPC won’t replace the digitiser based Tablet PC for me, but I am a UMPC convert. They certainly make life easier for me.

Written by brettg in: UMPC | Tags: , , ,

Installing Windows 7 on Viliv S5 without a USB hub

s5_2I’ve been attempting to install Windows 7 on the Viliv S5 tonight via USB memory key. I don’t have a USB hub so I had to pull out the USB memory key and plug in a USB keyboard when needed.

When I got to the installation drive options screen I still had the keyboard plugged in  and I kept getting an error when l selected the drive:

"Windows cannot install to the selected  location error 0x80300001"

After a fair bit of hair pulling I discovered that I could get past the problem by plugging in the USB memory key and using the Viliv buttons to get through that screen.

Problem solved and lesson learned:  Remember to have a USB hub and keyboard handy before installing Windows 7 on a Viliv S5

Written by brettg in: Business | Tags: , , ,

Message to HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo – Pull up your socks before Apple and Google spank your rear end with UMPCs and Tablets

computers The Microsoft Windows based Tablet PC has been around for over 7 years now, and Microsoft are pushing ahead with lots of tasty touch and multi-touch support in Windows 7.

What are the big hardware vendors doing though? Nothing.

Playing it safe with boring convertible Tablet PCs. No innovation. No imagination. I mean, I am a big fan of the Tablet PC, but convertible laptops are hardly risky.

HP have tried a couple of things, like the original TC1000 and TC1100. The TC1000 was a huge step outside the square on form factor. Unfortunately it was dismal failure because of the Transmeta Crusoe processor, but the TC1100 fixed that.

It was a compact 10 inch machine that weighed only 1kg. It could be used purely as a slate Tablet, but the design of the convertible keyboard that it came with was just brilliant. It was such a versatile machine.

But of course, to get people to pony up the money on a product like this requires sustained effort. It requires lots of marketing and some patience.

HP_TouchSmart_tx2_Front So what did they do with it? The hid it under a rug of course and did no marketing to speak of. When it failed to sell in large enough numbers, they reverted back to the usual dumb strategy above. Play it safe…

HP have tried a *bit* harder with the Tx2. They have targeted it at consumers and done some online marketing. They’ve built in a multi-touch n-trig digitiser to get some ooh and aah action going, but will it work?

There is a lot of interest in the Tx2, but I doubt that it will sell in huge numbers. The price is better, but the specs aren’t awesome. But hey, I should give them credit for having a go, even if it is a little safe for my liking.

The netbook trend shows the potential of the ultra mobile computing market, but why can’t PC manufacturers see past their noses? The only big consumer brand playing in the UMPC space is Samsung, and they are minnows in the PC world.

img_6036_4648_large_q1utlra_frontWe have had a Samsung Q1 in the house for six months now and it is always in use. It’s often in the kitchen being an online recipe book. For emailing, web browsing, IM and media it’s awesome. I personally wouldn’t be without a device like this, but it’s just too darn expensive to be a big hit.

If just one of these four big PC manufacturers took a risk and innovated in this space, the result could be incredible. There is a huge demand for mobile computing devices as netbooks and the iPhone has shown. But the iPhone only chips away at the edge of the potential. Ditto for netbooks.

Unfortunately, it seems that the hardware vendors have overwhelmingly taken a “we tried that once and it didn’t work” approach. They are too busy not making mistakes to ever learn anything. I think that they will pay for this missed recession proof opportunity.

iphone_hardware1_20081217In the meantime, the entire space will be stolen from them by an iPhone like device from Apple. More Apple devices in the hands of people mean that the Microsoft hegemony will die.

If it’s not Apple, it will be Google. Google and T-Mobile are about to go to market with a slate UMPC style device to run Android. There is a demand in the market here, and the capabilities of the hardware are able to meet it. It’s just a question of who is going to take the risk of making something to meet the demand.

Hopefully Microsoft will wake up like they did in the Netscape v Internet Explorer era and do something about it. But the cosy and boring little arrangement that they and the big four have going must come an end. They need to kick the big four into action before it’s too late.

Written by brettg in: Tablet PC | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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