CES Tablet PC thoughts from Rob

I’ve been thinking about the Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and other devices that were announced / previewed at CES this week, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of them.

  • The OQO Model 02  – a stunningly beautiful unit. It is clear that OQO listened to user feedback. Integrating EVDO with Sprint and addressing performance and keyboard issues are huge improvements over Model 01. However, they stopped short at not implementing touch / multi-touch. A device that small, especially at 800 x 480 needs multi-touch support. In addition, the OQO does not have a slot to hold the active digitizer pen. On two occassions that OQO reps demoed the Model 02 to me, they were hunting around for their pen and couldn’t find it for several minutes. Not good. The price point is a bit steep, but they will sell a ton of them to execs. Would I buy one? If it supported touch, I definitely would.
  • The TabletKiosk Sahara i440 series – a very nice slate to hold and use. When Gail Levy and Martin Smekal demoed the multi-touch, it threw me for a bit. You press a button to turn on / off the touch screen. At first glance, I didn’t like it. I was used to the active multi-touch that Lenovo implemented ( move the pen toward the screen and touch automatically turns off/ move it away and touch turns on). However, the more I played with it and thought about it, I think TabletKiosk implemented multi-touch the right way. Having a button to press that turns touch on / off helps to alleviate concerns with screens getting activated when you carry the tablet.  One additional thing I like about the Sahara i440 series is that the back of the tablet can now accept a built-in stand for when you need to prop it up – kudos to TabletKiosk! I think TabletKiosk has begun to elevate their standing in the tablet arena with this new series. I love the fact that they are introducing Linux as an OS install option as well.
  • The Flybook V5i – If they featured palm rejection technology and I didn’t already own the P1610, I could see myself owning one. The form factor is perfect and the keyboard is just the right size. Integrating 3G via a sim card is very, very smart.
  • The Toshiba R400 – underpowered at 1.2ghz and 4200rpm harddrive for the business professional and at the selling price of $2300. Beautiful white design. I like the edge display and connection options, but I’d prefer to see something bigger and more useful. Toshiba took a bold step with the new rotating hinge and is something I’d like to see other convertible OEMs begin to implement. My favorite thing about the R400 is the wireless dock.
  • HP TX1000 – HP will sell a lot of these at $1299 via Costco, Sam’s, Best Buy, etc. Great entertainment Tablet PC at a very attractive price. Very hot to the touch, though.
  • The TabletKiosk eo TuffTab v7112XT – I was surprised how comfortable the eo TuffTab felt to hold. There was also more screen real estate over the eo v7110 with all the buttons moved to the right side. This will be a good device for the field users, especially with a built-in camera and compact flash drives.
  • The S-XGen – nice pocket pc with integrated keyboard and 8 hour battery life. This is the kind of innovation I like to see. Too expensive at $1399, though. I’d rather buy a full spec UMPC or Tablet PC for that price.
  • Intel vs Via – Via is making huge strides in the UMPC arena. From Medion to the eo TuffTab and other devices announced, it is clear that processor choice is benefitting the consumer at the ultra portable level. I see their impact continuing to improve.
  • The Medion UMPC – finally a UMPC with a usable slide out keyboard. In my opinion, this will be the UMPC that other OEMs / ODMs should model themselves after in terms of keyboard accessability.
  • 3G – As Scott Eckert and I talked about in our interview, WWAN is becoming almost a necessity in mobile pc solutions. Although I have nothing factual to base this on, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Motion come out with integrated 3G sim slot for their next line of Tablet PCs. People don’t want a USB stick hanging out of their mobile computer – either a pc card / express card or integrated 3g with sim slots is where things are at and going.
  • Vista – Needless to say, CES 2007 was mostly about Microsoft and Vista, and how all these new devices can talk to each other through Vista services. In my opinion, though, much of the punch about Vista has been lost due to the long beta process. What can be said about Vista that has not already been written? Vista Ultimate was garnered to get a lot of press; however, except for the DreamScene feature of playing video as your desktop background instead of a static image, there wasn’t much there. As the year moves on, though, I do expect a lot from Ultimate. I expect it to be the edition that most people will buy.
  • Motion Computing – a lot has been said about Motion not having any new products to announce at CES. It has been almost two years since the LE1600 release, and almost as long for the LS800. People are beginning to make choices on upgrading / purchasing their slates and they are choosing the Fujitsu ST series and will take a serious look at the TabletKiosk offering. That said, I think Motion is smart about waiting. I think they are taking a look at what the competion is offering and waiting for technological issues to smooth out so they can release the product they really want to come to market with. They will likely blow some socks off when they do finally announce their new lineup later this year. I think integated 3G, multi-touch support, and Core 2 Duo in their larger slates is a real possibility. Additional products to their lineup? I wouldn’t bet on a convertble unit, but I’d love to see an integrated keyboard, like the Medion or Pepperpad, on their upgraded LS800.