I’ve been using tablet PCs as far back as 2004 when I bought the HP TC1100 with Windows XP Professional Tablet edition. The TC1100 is more of a slate than a tablet PC since you can detach the keyboard and use tap on the screen with a digitizer pen to input commands and text by way of a soft keyboard. On one occasion my daughter borrowed my Tabby (yes, we give names to our computers at home) and many of her classmates thought it was a “cool, new” computer. Once on board a plane I took out Tabby to do some work and the passenger next to me asked what device I was using. I could never fathom why HP would decide to kill this product in favor of a conventional tablet PC with a swivel screen. You can see the slate formfactor of the TC1100 on first season of Bones.

Anyway, Lenovo had its Tabby equivalent in the form of the X61 and more recently the  X200T. The next iteration is the soon to be available X201T.

With Tabby being six years old and nearing retirement I’ve been on the lookout for a  replacement machine. I’ve checked out HP’s TX2 and Dell’s XT2 (ever get the feeling some product marketeers just aren’t that creative?). Both are too heavy for a  truly portable experience. The growing popularity of netbooks certainly made me think of  the possibility of a netbook equipped with a digitizer. True enough a number of tablet  netbook (netvertible) have recently cropped up (see list at the bottom).

The success of the iPod Touch and iPhone shows the possibilities. But even the latest Apple product – the iPad – can’t be construed as a true productivity tool because of its technical limitations. To get a sense of what I mean, click here to watch this video.

One vendor that has been pushing hard and fast in the netbook craze is Lenovo. Lenovo has branded its netbook offering under the label ‘Ideapad’. Early this year, Lenovo launched its first tablet netbook. What is unique about this tablet netbook is Lenovo’s use of a capacitative touchscreen (the same technology used on the  iPhone). This is important because capacitative screens are one of the reasons why the  iPhone and iPod Touch became popular. Unlike resistive screens which require you to put  pressure on the screen to register an action, capacitative screens uses static electricity to initiate an action. The net result is a more fluid experience.

The Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t uses the new Intel Atom Processor N450 which  offers a 40% reduction in power consumption. It is rumored that when the N470 becomes  available, the S10-3t will offer this option as well.

The fact that this is a netbook and not a laptop means you have to be prepared to take things in stride. A standard feature in most laptops and desktop computers is the ability to multi-task, i.e., run a number of applications at the same thing. The good news is that on a netbook you can still multi-task (unlike iPhones, iPod Touch and iPad). The bad news is that depending on the applications you are running, the experience may not be as smooth or satisfying. For example, watching a video while surfing the Internet will result in the inevitable skips or pause in the viewing experience. Don’t fret! This is hordes better than on an Apple iPad where you can’t surf the Internet while writing your memoirs. The Apple iPad OS simply doesn’t support this today. (more…)

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The gift-giving holiday wisked past me with my wife asking what I wanted for Christmas. I threw in the usual I want a new laptop. My current home computer,  Tabby, is six years old. For a laptop this is old! But Tabby still works ok. In fact I partitioned its 80GB hard drive and installed Windows XP Professional Tablet edition on the C Drive and Windows 7 Ultimate on Drive D. Both worked very well (side note: Win7 boots much faster than XP on this Celeron 800Mhz machine). Bear in mind that Tabby has a 1.2GB RAM (256MB base memory and 1GB on the expansion slot).

I do envy people using the iPhone not so much because of its sleek, cool design but because of what it represents – the opportunity to have a single device to make phone calls and also to do some light computing work – like micro-blogging. But for the type of work (video editing, writing, surfing like help – all at the same time) I do, the iPhone ain’t the slavehorse for me.

I thought about a Netbook. These devices are becoming more gorgeous the longer you hold on from buying one. The new Asus EeePC T91 for example is almost everything I want in a slavehorse except it is uses the Intel Atom processor – which for the uninitiated is not designed for anything beyond surfing the net, writing on a word processor, or watching a video – one at a time. The minute you load a game on a Netbook, it stops being a thing of beauty.

Mind you laptop prices are coming down faster than underwear. Today the cheapest laptop can be had for as low as HK$4,500 (US$576 ) – or about the price of a Sony Vaio P series (a slick Netbook but a Netbook nonetheless). But I am veering of course from this discussion.

What I want is something similar to what Sports Illustrated claims will be the new digital magazine of the future (read 2010 if you believe their advertisement). If you haven’t seen it, click here. I promise its going to knock your socks off.

Of course it probably needs a digitizer (pen and mouse) and a keyboard, plus a stand so I can look at it like a normal laptop while typing or editing videos.

Will this device really come out in 2010? Who knows? A lot of people are throwing their weight on the rumored Apple tablet due out in early 2010 (I say early because the months keep getting pushed back). But I don’t trust Apple to come up with a device that has everything you ever wanted plus more. Sure they could come up with a sleek new design that is generations ahead of everyone else is. But Apple also has a tendency to deliver just enough to wet your appetite and then force you to wait for the next generation for some of those features you wanted in the device at launch (Just look at the iPhone 3GS and its built-in camera -most smartphones come with 5 megapixels).

Apple also has a tendency to not include everything on the device on day one and built-in. Instead the vendor creates an ecosystem of add-on suppliers to give you the special digitizer, the superduper speakers, the pouch to carry your new toy, etc. So much new must-buy add-ons are tied to owning an Apple device purchase. Plus on top of that you are locked in to Apple technology the minute you get sucked in to buying one of its devices. Its just the way Apple works (Can you update your iPod music using software other than iTunes? I don’t think so).

I would love to see Microsoft Surface installed on a portable device. I think it has everything anyone would ever want in a computing device.

If only they could bring it down to a truly portable formfactor.

For now, I will hold off any new purchase and patiently wait for things to come. I just hope Armageddon doesn’t arrive until after I’ve tried my hands on the next best thing.

Happy New Year everyone!