Let’s talk about OEMs, Tablet PCs, "Wow", and Your Dream Tablet PC / UMPC

In continuing the “Wow” series, I’d like to turn the focus to that of OEMs. As I talked about in my first article, I feel like OEMs have been resting on their laurels the past several years. Part of why I feel that way is due to my being in the tablet pc space for 4 1/2 years. I see that as a positive thing, because it gives me some perspective looking back and comparing it to what we have today. Dennis is right that when new buyers look around the marketplace, they have a lot to be excited about. But I still feel like things have been stagnant for too long, and I wonder what that says about the state of the market and OEMs take on the future of it. That said, I don’t want to concentrate too much on the past. Lets move forward and take a look at some of the exciting things that are happening, see if it raising any “wow” reaction, and what we should come to expect from OEMs in the future. We also want to hear from you, the entire Tablet PC community. Read on.

We’ve definitely seen some good things come from OEMs the past several weeks: Gateway’s E155c, HP’s 2710p, Fujitsu U series UMPC, and Samsung’s Q1 Ultra.  We also got wind of Lenovo’s new Santa Rosa based X61, courtesy of NotebookReview.com. The OQO Model 02 reviews have just started hitting, and the press on them are pretty positive, too. I’m really looking forward to testing the eval unit OQO has sent us to review.


So, as I look at all that has come out, what are my impressions? Is the Wow starting to come back?

Well, I’m impressed that OEMs are listening to customers. That is my biggest takeaway from the past several weeks. Take Samsung for example. One of the biggest complaints about the first generation UMPCs was the lack of a keyboard and hard to navigate screen resolutions. Samsung addressed both of those issues, and added two cameras. The price is still way too high, but they are making progress, and deserve some kudos for continuing to move forward on the platform. In addition, HP listened to all the feedback they’ve been getting since discontinuing the TC1100. They ditched the ugly TC4400 and finally came out with another sleek looking Tablet PC in the 2710p. They added a camera for scanning, a keyboard light, made the screen a WXGA, and included Integrated WWAN. Again, they listened to feedback and went to the design room armed with good info.

Some more confirming news about Dell coming to market with a Tablet PC is also encouraging. This will definitely be a very good thing for the Tablet PC space, especially in the enterprise and school markets. Dell is entering this space to recapture marketshare lost to Lenovo and HP because they had Tablet PCs to offer. Another black convertible tablet pc just doesn’t do it for me, though. Make it cool looking, Dell, and give us some features beyond those found in your typical Latitude line.


What I would really love to see is Sony enter this space. They have some of the coolest notebooks and ultra-portables around. Their screens are simply beautiful. Sony always pushes the envelope in their designs, even if they do some weird proprietary stuff like memory sticks. You can buy their notebooks in Office Dept, Circuit city, Best Buy, etc. Consumers love them. Sure, they are full of crapware, but wouldn’t the T Series make for an awesome looking tablet pc?


However slow it is, the space is continuing to plod along and make progress. OEMs are continuing to refresh their tablet and occassionally come to market with a whole new design and innovative features. I’ve been really hoping at this point in the game we would have seen at least one OEM convert their entire line of notebooks to tablet pcs, but it feels like we are a ways off from that. For example, in 2002, Toshiba launched with 1 tablet pc, the 3500. They got as high as 3 models ( R4, M7, M200 / M400). But, now they are down to 2 ( M400, R400). Why isn’t their thin and light R200 a Tablet PC yet? Do OEMs legitimately have long term plans to convert all their ultra-portable notebooks to tablets or is it all just a pipe dream?

The UMPC news coming out of WinHEC is definitely positive, especially when journalists are admitting that they are starting to get the form factor after first dismissing it. The new Fujitsu U Series looks really interesting, but they really dropped the ball by not including Bluetooth for tethering to a phone. How are folks going to use this while mobile? The UMPC space feels like it is primed for take off – if OEMs, Microsoft, and Intel can just get their messaging down, offer up an easy to use UI, and get prices down.

So back to my original question – Is the Wow starting to come back in relation to OEMs? Well, we are definitely off to a good start and there is plenty to be excited about. I can’t wait to get my hands on the OQO Model 02, the HP 2710p, and the Q1 Ultra. The OQO Model 02, for me, represents the ultimate in mobility and is the most deserving of a definite “WOW”. In fact, I just placed my order for one today, as did Dennis. HP and Samsung are listening to their customers and delivering more innovative, cool looking products as a result – Another WOW slotted for listening and doing something about it. I also want to take this opportunity to correct something that I regret writing. I was a tad hard on Motion Computing in my original article, but those guys really do deserve a “WOW” with their LE1700. SXGA+, integrated WWAN, Write-Touch support with SXGA, and Core 2 Duo. I take back my original statement – they did push the envelope and they raised the bar.

We need to continue to give feedback back to OEMs about what we want and encourage them to push the envelope, and market the heck out of those things. Don’t complain about a lack of consumer market if you are not going to market to it :-) We need to continue to ask OEMs the tough questions and expect great things from them.  


Along those lines, lets get the creative juices flowing – Tell us about your Dream Tablet PC / UMPC

So, Tablet PC community: dream up your ultimate Tablet PC / UMPC and tell us what it would look like. Sketch it out, show us some prototypes, include some specs, how it would be used, and post it here in the forums for us all to see. We’ll make sure OEMs are reading and seeing your ideas. If we see some really great ideas and drawings, we’ll send some Splotches to a few folks! For those itching for a Splotch, now is your chance. Lets get those creative juices flowing!