Toshiba [TYO:6502] is going to start shipping a new portable in Japan next week and it is called the Libretto W100. It is one of those unusual designs that can only start in a place like Japan. It is a dual screen design where one of the screens is a touchscreen, allowing for it to act as a keypad whenever necessary and a second screen whenever needed.
You might remember a similar design that was seen at CEATEC earlier this year. But that one was one single flexible screen being folded in two. This has two separate 7 inch displays. So it is only bordering on a netbook and will need a new category name if this goes mainstream. And even though it is smaller and probably has less power under the hood, it is priced at something equivalent to $1100 — above and beyond what netbook does and should cost. Adjusting the economic differences, it would come down to just below $1000 if sold in the US.
The availability in Japan is scheduled for the 11th of August apparently but there’s no news of it being available anywhere else. Seeing it from Toshiba’s point of view, there is no reason for them to want to release it elsewhere. Japan is the perfect testbed for a device such as this. The company of course does not expect to generate a lot of sales for this.
Instead, Toshiba is actually doing this as a way to test out a concept and see what the demand is for a design that is only going to appeal to certain niche markets. However, as touchscreens become more common and mass produced — we will see more of such devices. Touchscreens are becoming popular to the point where companies are starting to use them just to use them. So there is no getting away from them at the moment.
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.
Entourgae’s eDGe is neither an eBook reader and nor is it a netbook. It is what the company calls a ‘Dualbook’, which is essentially the juxtaposition of both an eInk screened eBook reader and a LCD touchscreen bearing netbook/UMPC.
It has been looking very interesting from the very beginning and now some new videos courtesy of netbooknews.de, we can see what we can expect from the device at the very least.
Scheduled for early 2010, the very first version of the eDGe was shown off at an event. Although this version is significantly thicker than what the final product is expected to look like, it shows off very nicely what we can expect from the device.
Both the screens are touch oriented with the eInk screen supporting a digital pen for scribblling directly on to the screen. The LCD touchscreen seems quite responsive in the videos and it certainly looks like the company is on the right track with this.
It was already known that the device uses a Marvell chipset underneath it all. Now we are informed that the processor is an Armada PX168. Entourage has also claimed that the device will be able to playback video in HD quality and it will support true 3D graphics. Although those are not always priorities on a device like this, their presence means that the device will be extremely powerful.
Running Android on the device must’ve been a no-brainer for the developers. The OS truly compliments the device and gives the developers the flexibility that they need in order to make such a unique device work. Overall, the eDGe seems like just the thing that will eliminate the need to carry both an eBook reader and a netbook.
If you are looking for a tablet, look no further than the netbook that is sitting on your desk. There has been a wave of new tablet devices from various manufacturers recently and it seems like the market for these devices is heating up despite the dearth of specialized components for them.
They are mostly in their prototype stages and are not available for purchase by the masses. This sudden upsurge in their numbers can be attributed to variety of factors.
One of those factors is Apple and their rumored tablet device that is almost certain for early next year. Apple has already shown what it can do to an established market – like the mobile handset market. So companies are afraid that they might get buried under the device if they do not make their own devices public.
Another main reason is the rise of the ebook readers. These handheld, unifocal devices are suddenly creating a lot of buzz in the industry. So much so that everyone seems to be making one. Computers manufacturers thus see a golden opportunity in this and hence are trying capitalize on the handheld device craze by offering something as convenient as the ebook reader with the capacity to do more than just display e-text.
But even then, there are constraints regarding battery life and processing power. So tablet makers have chosen the path often followed and have made their tablets follow the way of the netbook. Hence, we are witnessing devices built around Atom, Snapdragon and some other ARM-based chips with build similar to smartbooks and other ultraportables.
Their battery life is also s problem. With comparatively large displays to feed, these devices cannot expect to have more than 4-5 hours of continuous usage. Their form factor also stops them from carrying bulky batteries. Thus over all, only their form and UI differentiates them from netbooks and everything else remains more or less similar.
Sony has been showing off their flexible OLED screen toting netbook concept at every opportunity and this year’s CEATEC wasn’t an exception. Sony showed off a non-working concept model of the netbook and a working model of the flexible screen.
The netbook got a lot of positive reactions from the crowd and there is good reason for that. Sony’s design aesthetics clearly show through in this netbook offering and there is absolutely no point in denying that fact. However, since the model displayed at the event was a non-working, for-show-only model there is no news of when we might actually see at least a working a prototype of the device.
The netbook has one 0.2mm thin OLED screen that is bent to form both the screen and the keyboard. So Sony is looking at a fully touch-based device where there will be a lot of scope for innovative UI design. For example, the keyboard can be made to easily adapt to the persons preferences and hands. Since it is on-screen, it can change to display different keyboard layouts almost instantly. There will also be scope for designing non-keyboard based UIs for applications that need them.
The flexible OLED screen is also going to be a lot better than present day LCD screens if only because it is OLED. OLED is far superior to LCD in terms of brightness and power efficiency but so far it has not reached mainstream displays because it is expensive. That is changing quite fast though and we are seeing it emerge in to the market in the form of AMOLED screens.
Flexible screens are being developed all over the world and it is quite clear that it will soon take over all other types and will become the de facto.
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.
Sharp displayed their extremely small Netwalker PC-Z1 netbook at CEATEC Japan this year. It is nothing like the smallest of small netbooks that you have seen so far and it is more like an MID with a keyboard or a so-called UMPC.
That said, its 5inch screen and tiny keypad has a way of making you interested in using what seems like a perfect miniature. Since this is Sharp you are dealing with, the aesthetics are pretty good and the 5inch screen works quite well. Also, it does not have a touchpad and make do with its touchscreen and a built-in ‘optical mouse’ instead. The main idea here is to surf the web and edit a few documents. So you are not expected to need anything else.
Performance wise it would not match up to a ‘full-sized’ netbook with an Atom processor because it uses an ARM 800MHz processor. So it is more like the iPhone than an Eee PC.
This is a very noticeable thing when it comes to smaller devices that are almost handhelds but not quite there yet. They almost always go for ARM processors and that’s because ARM is the only company that can give them good power efficiency without completely decimating all hopes of processing power.
Much as Intel might try, it is indeed very hard to compete with someone like ARM in a segment that the latter dominates. Intel would love to pretend that Atom is a great choice for small devices such as the Netwalker but that is quite far from the reality at the moment.