There's not need to be embarrassed for owning an old -- really old -- PC that barely gets from point A to point B without coughing up a hairball. There's something to be said for that kind of loyal commitment and frugal tenacity (do we even need to mention gas prices?). But hey, maybe it's time to think about moving on. If it's fated to be, you could win a new rig for doing nothing more than sharing your name and email address with Crucial, and a few details about your one-legged system.
North American’s in search of the perfect tablet PC Steve Job would never make, won’t have to wait much longer. Gigabyte’s S1080 made its way through the FCC offices last week, and is expected to be made available here in the next few months. The tablet has been on sale in Taiwan since mid-April, and is pretty much the anti iPad in every way possible. Under the S1080’s 10-inch 1024x600 res display, sits a dual core Atom N550 processor, along with a 320 GB hard drive preloaded with Windows 7.
Google’s AdMob division collects a ton of data on the general public’s web surfing habits, but recently released statistics on tablet usage might actually surprise you. According to a recent survey more than 28 percent of all respondents said that a tablet is their primary computer. As technology enthusiasts that admission should send chills up your spine on the future of computing in general, and points out just how little of a computer’s full potential is utilized by the vast majority of users.
Maximum PC readers love their desktops, and that's why it warms our hearts to hear someone else agree for a change, even if his reasons for doing so are remarkably self -serving. Gigabyte's Henry Kao (vice president of motherboards) is making the somewhat bold prediction that laptops, not desktops will die off as a result of the rising popularity of smart phones and tablet PCs. Because of their "internet capabilities" Kao said "users will eventually stop buying notebooks for their mobile computing needs. Instead, everything done away from the desk or even on the road will be through a smart phone or tablet".
To this end Gigabyte is predicting a boon in the future for more powerful desktop PCs that users can return to for more complex tasks. "Once those people have those mobile devices, people need performance desktop at home or the office," said Kao. In another somewhat unusual twist for a PC executive, Kao labeled the iPhone and iPad as game changers in the mobile computing space.
Kao predicts the full death of the notebook will take three to five years "100 percent replacement won't happen overnight". His argument in favor of desktops carries at least some merit, but I think many in our community would be willing to pick a fight over anyone who claims the iPad is capable of replacing a full-featured notebook for day-to-day tasks. I suspect tablets will need to go through a few more iterations before we reach that point, making the three to five year timeline somewhat ambitious.
Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said on Friday that he sees mobile internet devices making up the vast majority of the company’s profits, possibly as much as 70-80%, in as little as 5 years. Currently, most sales come from the Thinkpad and Ideapad line of notebooks. Lenovo plans to accomplish this changeover by expanding into emerging markets. Devices likely to make up these sales are tablets, smartphones, and smartbooks.
Lenovo is currently the world’s number four PC maker, having purchased IBM’s PC division in 2005. The China based company just released their first touchscreen smartphone, the Ophone O1, in China. Lenovo also plans to release another phone called the LePhone sometime in mid 2010. Most of Lenovo’s energies are being focused on the China market as part of their “protect and attack” strategy. After they feel more secure in China, Lenovo may more into underserved markets like Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The Mini 5, code named “Streak”, is a 5-inch WVGA (800 x 480) touchscreen, with a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with flash on the rear, and a VGA webcam on the front. It also has a 30-pin docking connector. Unfortunately no other specs are available, other than finish. It looks like the Mini 5 will be available in a rainbow of colors.
Another interesting tidbit from these leaked documents--Dell’s partnering with Amazon for content delivery. It looks like the Mini 5 will come with a Kindle eReader application, and support Amazon's MP3 and video streams. Such a connection is logical, given that tablets are going to need content, and making it easier for users to get that content might make the Mini 5 more attractive in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, the information of greatest import (besides what's under the hood)--price and availability--is still unknown at this point. But, just knowing the Mini 5 is out there might give some potential early iPad adopters pause, which could play out to Dell’s advantage.
It’s a challenge trying to parse what a company might be up to. It’s obvious, for example, that Amazon will need to respond to recent events in the tablet PC market to keep its Kindle competitive. But what exact path it might take for this endeavor isn’t necessarily obvious. Unless, of course, you happen to be a keen observer of the want ads.
Michael Calore, at webmonkey, thinks Amazon is working to improve the browser engine of the Kindle, which he likens to “taking a step backwards in time.” According to Calore, a job posting for a “browser engineer” at “Lab126” is a dead giveaway that an upgrade is in the works. Lab126 is the Amazon division that develops the Kindle, and it is on the hunt for a person to “develop “an innovative embedded web browser” for a consumer product.”
Calore suggests that once the iPad hits the market, allowing for a fuller web browsing experience (and the HP Slate not too far behind it), the Kindle will look pretty lame. Looking lame is no way to hang onto market share.
Freescale refers to this reference design as the “Smartbook”, which is7.87 x 5.04 x 0.59 inches in size, with a 1024 x 600 resolution touchscreen. It has a i.MX515 processor with an ARM Cortex A8 core. It has 512MB DDR2 memory and from 4GB to 64GB internal storage. It is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable, with support for 3G and RF4CE. It also has a 3 megapixel camera, a microSD slot, a USB2.0 port, a USB mini port, audio input/output, and a SIM card slot. The battery is charged via USB.
While the tablet itself looks good, though perhaps a tad small, its pricing makes it look even better. It’s reported that Freescale is positioning its tablet for the sub-$200 market. Not a bad deal, if the proof of concept bears out. We’ll know in a couple months, as rumor has it Freescale is looking to have its tablet available this Summer.
Tablet PCs might just be a signal of a shift in the direction of computing. Simple, portable, functionally specific devices intended to meet particular computing needs efficiently--not dumbed down PCs, but something unique in its own right. Take for example the just released info on Microsoft’s Courier tablet/eBook. Like other recent tablet announcements, the Courier defines a new ethos for personal computing.
Engadget’s offering some new pictures of the Courier, along with two high-def videos that show off its look and functionality. The Courier, Engadget tells us, will have a clamshell form, which will measure slightly bigger than 5 x 7 when closed. The device is built around the Tegra 2 and is expected to run on the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows Mobile 7 series devices, rather than a constricted version of Windows 7. The device will be pen-based, but also allow for touch operation. It appears to have tightly integrated applications that mimic a journal. And there just might be some web/cloud computing tie-ins as well.
Microsoft’s approach with Courier seems similar to that of Apple with the iPad--a multi-functional, but limited device that stresses mobility over power. This suggests that the uni-functional eBooks of today might have a relatively short shelf live. (Amazon’s rumored color Kindle upgrade seems consistent with this possibility.)
The Courier is expected to make a formal appearance in “Q3/Q4”. Pricing is unknown as this time.
The Highlander battle among chip manufacturers has started anew. This time it’s among the makers of chips that run smartphones. Besides initiating a new round of cutthroat competition, this battle suggests that computing is undergoing a substantive conceptual shift--from units that are all powerful to ones that are strategically powerful.
The objective is to make more powerful chips that consume less energy, and take up less space, with the intent of creating products that are smaller and less functional than their PC brethren, but are more in-tune to the particular needs of their users. The big players include the well known, such as Intel, ARM, Samsung, AMD, and Apple, and the lesser known, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Microelectroincs, and GlobalFoundaries. The money being spent in this competition totals in the tens of billions.
These chips are prevalent in smartphones, and they are working their way into netbooks, tablets and eReaders, where the current PC processor OS restriction doesn’t apply. This means that a whole new world of computing potential will be showcased as this little war plays itself out. It also means there will be some multi-billion dollar casualties along the way.
Suggested by this is the concept of computing shifting to address the particular, rather than the general, needs of users. If this market becomes economically attractive it might lead to a decrease in attention to the higher end, which in turn could mean slower development of the ‘hot’ technology that currently drives the market.