Viliv’s S10 Blade appeared late last year and then quickly disappeared in the tidal flow of new gadgets in the first two months of 2010. But its back now, thanks to the folks over at UMPC. Chippy at UMPC has managed to get hands on time with a production sample and so far it shows nothing that is really outstanding.
The Viliv S10 Blade is what some people are calling netvertibles. These are the convertible netbooks. They are much like convertible laptops but with all the features (and signs) of a netbook. The first one that hit the market in a major way was the Asus Eee PC T91, followed quickly by the T91MT.
This one from Viliv uses a multitouch resistive touchscreen along with keyboard. The display is 10.1 inch diagonal and the there is a removable lithium-polymer that will supposedly last for 10 hours. There is also an 1.8″ access panel for storage. The device that was reviewed had an Intel Atom Z530 which is clocked at 1.66GHz.
In the review, the S10 is put through tests that show its response to 3point touch as well as onscreen typing. There were some issues with palm rejection, which means you could accidentally trigger something or ruin your finger painting with palm smudges. Zooming in and out of webpages and handwriting input were also tested.
It does look pretty good in person and what we can see in the review is apparently 98% complete, so all the major components are in place with only a few tweaks left to go. It will be available form Dynamism very soon and you will have several choices of customization before your buy your S10. The website mentions that you can have a 2.0GHz processor as well.
The sleek design and the convertible aspect of it might win it a few loyalists but this form factor has always been a bit of novelty and not much of a functionality oriented device for the masses. Niche uses are many though.
Symbian Foundation recently announced that Symbian has officially gone open source. That means it is now legal and free to download and tinker with Symbian’s code and release your own version with your own branding or whatever the developers want to do. Symbian has already been shown to be running in several different hardwares through the ‘Wild Duck Project’.
This is a Symbian supported project in which developers are encouraged to run the OS on unmodified hardware. This means that the spirit of ‘tinkering’ is already in the souls of Symbian developers.
This move is arguably a result of the joint pressure of the iPhone and Android on Symbian, which is currently the largest mobile OS in terms of marketshare. A Q2 2010 report puts Symbian’s marketshare over 50% globally. It is a similar situation in the smartphone category where the real competition is. No on cares about the lower-end right now, although Android covers that segment too and thus directly rivals with Symbian.
During the announcement, Symbian Foundation CEO Lee Williams said that Symbian is likely to show up several different devices and that would include netbooks as well as tablets – -the two most popular form factors with manufacturers at the moment.
Porting Symbian over to larger screens and more powerful hardware (compared to an average phone that is) has already been done several times. And like any other mobile OS, with the right amount of coaxing and right kind of coding it can really work out well. But while tablet-makers would probably have an easier time with the UI, netbook-makers might have to rethink the entire thing.
That is mainly because Symbian as a mobile OS is more suited to showing lots of front -end with no back end such as a file system. This would suit tablets quite well. But with netbooks, it will be more of a challenge because customers expect something else from netbooks and laptops.
There has always been speculations about Chrome OS coming on tablets in multitouch versions and by now it is the logical thing for Google to do if they want to stay relevant. The rumor about a Google tablet was floated along with the claim that HTC will be making it. Now it seems like Google does have something in the development. Why else would a senior official get nervous when asked about multitouch in Chrome OS and fumble while giving an evasive answer.
During an event at Google HQ, Senior Product Manager of Search, Anders Sandholm, was asked this question directly and in reply he said – “I can’t… I mean… right now we are targeting netbooks, that’s what we’re focused on, but I expect it to work well… we expect it to target everything up to desktop computers. Chrome OS will be built for a specific hardware setup.” He couldn’t dropped a broader hint that something was indeed up in that area.
After all, it is clear that Google has to go up against the iPad like all other manufacturers who want to sell companion computing devices. And these companion devices are increasingly taking the shape of flat, touchscreen enabled slate devices. So to compete, Google has to step in against the Apple iPad sooner or later. In the mean time, they are focussed on coming to netbooks as fast as possible.
The Chrome OS is all set to be a unique approach to computing whereby everything is relegated to the cloud and all you need is a the Chrome OS device and the Internet. But while Google makes the Internet a great place to work and live by, Apple’s offering is right now the most polished and personal way to interact with that same Internet. So this should be an interesting fight to watch.
HP managed to slip in a video demo of their upcoming tablet right before the Apple iPad announcement. This tablet is much closer to a touchscreen netbook without a physical keyboard than the iPad and it might shape up to be a real competitor for the iPad at the basic hardware level. They do not have the content integration like Apple does but they do have the powerful Windows 7 in its full glory. So that means it is more open than what you will get on the iPad. But since both devices are currently far away from their shipping dates, there is no way to tell how either of them will perform — independently and against each other.
So let’s look at what the proper video demo turns up for the HP Tablet. The video demo features HP spokesperson Greta Schlendar and CTO of HP Personal Systems, Phil McKinney. Apparently the tablet was already in the work 2 years back but then it wasn’t worked on all that much because the market wasn’t deemed ready for it.
Phill mainly talks about how the device was created and why the device was conceived in the first place. He says the same thing that Steve would say a few days after him — there is a gap in the market where people like the smartphone usability but want a larger screen to work with. Conventional netbooks of course do not fit the bill in that case so they made a slate device.
Phil is quick to point out and emphasize on the fact that HP would like to think of this as the ultimate media consumption device. That basically means you cannot run a full OS on it properly, even though the HP tablet will be running Windows 7. At this point, if you want a good full OS experience in a small form factor — netbooks and ultraportables are it. And as touchscreen and touch UI’s grow, it is likely that both categories will collide into something new. So till then, we will have to make a distinction.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 was one of the most talked about gadgets at the CES 2010 event. Other than the Apple tablet of course, which topped everything else. The Lenovo U1 is a new kind of hybrid device that attaches a tablet to a base station running average netbook components. So imagine a tablet running Android and powered by SnapDragon. Now imagine that tablet having a docking station that has a physical keyboard, powered by Intel’s Atom and running Windows 7. Put them together and you have the IdeaPad U1.
Lenovo did talk a lot about what kind of uses people will have for it, so it is unclear at the moment what the strengths of such a combination would be. Right now, the major positive point that I see in this is the fact that Lenovo has managed to make the switch from netbook to tablet form factor on the U1 as painless as possible . If you were doing something on Windows that can be done on the Android, the tablet will automatically switch to that when you undock it. The best example would be web pages. So the two OS’ aren’t mutually exclusive and they do share data.
The body has a nice finish and the tablet is covered by a shell when it is docked. So it is immediately apparent that the screen is actually part of a stand alone tablet device. The storage for the tablet and the base station is split into their own storage units, which is an SSD for the tablet device. The shell also makes sure that once you take the tablet out, you can keep the keyboard covered and looking like a full device. It would make for a good prank too.
Over all, the design is a pretty interesting one. It would probably appeal to some people solely due to its unique dual form factor.
Apple finally released their highly anticipated tablet device on the 27th of January and it is called the iPad. There are two main models — WiFi only and WiFi+3G — and three sub-models based on storage — 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Storage is flash and the processor is made by Apple. It is called the Apple A4 chip and clocks at 1GHz. It is not shipping right now and the first models will ship in 60 days from the release day and a higher model will ship in 90 days. The battery life was advertised as being 10 hours and on ‘one month’ on stand by.
It has Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, Accelerometer, Compass and AGPS (only on the higher models). The UI basic iPhone OS and has all the features that you get on the iPhone on a large screen. The screen is a 9.7″ IPS LCD display with full capacitive multitouch support. The IPS display ensures that you have great viewing angles when handling this device. The price for the base model is $499 and the highest model is $829. Apple has struck a deal with AT&T whereby people can sign up for 250MB usage for $14.99 monthly or unlimited data usage for $30 monthly. No one is quite sure whether this ‘unlimited’ is actually a fixed amount like 5GB or 10GB.
But if it is truly unlimited, then there’s not doubt that AT&T will be put under a lot of pressure to deliver. Apple is positioning this device between an iPhone and a MacBook. It has a dedicated eBook reader app called iBook and there is a dedicated eBook store coming up soon called the iBookStore. Apple also introduced a new version of its iWorks suite that has been redesigned to work on a touchscreen surface.
Due to its positioning and size, the iPad is thought to be direct competition for both netbooks and e-readers. Especially with the keyboard dock that Apple showed off during the event. Only time will tell how the market reacts but a lot of consumers are already saying that they are not entirely sure that this will replace their netbooks.
There’s this new company in town peddling what they call netbooks. The company is called Netbook Navigator and they are essentially selling Windows 7 based tablet MIDs that have stylus and (hopefully) finger input. Now it has been reported by Netbooked the company is simply taking up Chinese devices (the good presumably) and rebranding them to sell in the US.
The company is talking a lot about netbooks but it is in then end selling tablets. That seems like confusion until you realize that they are probably doing it to lower expectations from device. Other than the fact that it is missing a physical keyboard, it is pretty much in the netbook territory when it comes to hardware components.
The 891A-NN model is 8.9 inches and is powered by an Intel Atom N270 processor. I has 2GB of Memory, a choice between 32-128GB of SSD storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, LAN, 3G, WebCam, Sim card slot, 3 USB ports, VGA out and a 2,200 mAh battery that will last you a good 2-4 hours according to the company. The resolution is 1024×600.
There’s a smaller model that has a 7″ screen with the same specs except that it has 1GB memory and 32GB SSD.
So far it sounds not the most interesting of devices but okay. But the real punch comes along when you read the price tag for the 8.9 inch model. Netbook Navigator is charging $1,199.00 for it. Now correct me if I am wrong — since when has anyone wanted to buy a $1200 netbook simply because it has a multitouch display and Windows 7 Home Premium? The Apple Tablet is definitely going to be cheaper than this and that is saying something!
The lower model comes for $799. Thinking of everything I could do with that kind of power, I think I laugh heartily at Netbook Navigator’s offering and move on to better things.
Malata is a company based in China and is known for making cheaper versions of popular devices like Eee PCs and Vaio P. But this time they have really gained our attention by introducing cheap tablet netbook convertibles that run Windows 7.
Netbook convertibles are like convertible notebooks, only smaller. They have a touch sensitive display that can be swiveled and turned around to attain a tablet like state where the back of the screen lies flat against the keyboard after being folded.
Typically, notebooks like these cost upwards of $1500 and the good ones have been known to cost twice as much. Asus was arguably the first mainstream company to dare to bring out the same functionality in a netbook format and bring down the price to around $500. The T91 was a typical netbook that was coupled with a touchscreen display. That was towards the middle of this year.
Recently, Asus brought out the upgraded version of the T91 – called the T91MT. It now has multitouch enabled. And this is the model that the Malata R108T fully undercuts.
The R108T features a 10” touchscreen display that has a native resolution of 1024×600. It runs on an Intel Atom 1.8GHz (N270) processor, has 1GB of RAM and 160GB of storage space. But at about the equivalent of $435, you are still getting a lot for the price. The original 8.9” T91 is now about $473 on places like Amazon.
Connectivity is pretty standard on the R108T. You get 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 VGA port, standard audio ports and a card reader. On top of everything else, you get the netbook in four colors – red, black, coffee and champagne.
Rumors have been flying around a lot lately that Acer’s Timeline series of CULV toting ultraportables are going to have a convertible tablet amongst their ranks very soon. So far, we have had images of such a device from various sources but so far they have all seemed like a normal Timeline device.
However, there were the images of a device with a swiveling screen that suggested the existence of such a device but no live images were available of the device.
This status quo has now changed, thanks to an active Italian blog. They have managed to go hands on with the device and put it through the paces. It is understandable that such an opportunity had to have been brief but they still managed to glean quite a bit of information out of the device.
The device itself is quite powerful and slim, when compared to the Atom-powered netbooks. The Acer Timline 1820PT is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CULV processor, humming away at 1.20GHz with 3MB cache. There’s 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM and Intel GMA X4500M HD graphics. Price is of course not available but from the looks of it, you can easily expect it to be at least around $550 and most probably around $600.
But that is mainly because it has a multitouch 11.6” screen and a 1366×768 resolution. The (comparatively) powerful components also warrant for some of the extra cost.
However, this is not the first time that someone has tried to make a tablet out of a netbook device. The Asus Eee PC T91 was the first such device but it wasn’t multitouch. It was only last week when Asus announced a new and upgraded version of the T91 called the T91MT. Whether this trend catches on is yet to be seen.
Google has been developing the Chrome OS for netbooks and Android was meant as a mobile OS for next generation smartphones. However, manufacturers are seeing the Android platform as quite a stable and robust OS that can easily power a small device that does not have the power or inclination to run Windows XP.
The problem here is of course that Android was never meant for something like a netbook. Even placing it on an MID like the Archos 5 is something of a stretch. But that is not going to keep manufacturers from experimenting with this exciting new platform.
The Skytone Alpha 680 has been built along those lines of thought and it runs on the Android OS. However, Skytone either did not have the budget or the inclination or both for decent UI customization. As a result, the OS does not seem very user-friendly.
Thankfully, the 7inch device does have a touchscreen that can be folded over the keyboard and used like a mini-tablet. That way, it is much easier to think of it as a smartphone that cannot make phone calls. The device is not likely to sell very well though because there is not built in networking feature on it. Even Wi-Fi needs to be bought as a separate adapter.
There has been a smattering of Android experiments on netbooks and quite a few manufacturers have surely flirted with the idea. But Google has jolted them all out of their musings by reminding them that a great netbook OS is coming very soon to the world and it is called the Chrome OS and not Android.