Last week I wrote about the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and how it could drive adoption of the Windows 10 Mobile ‘smartphone’ as a core computing device for all consumer needs, whatever the screen-size or input method. The Lumia 950 rumor and that image of the USB-C dock brought back memories of the Continuum demo at BUILD 2015 and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that extending into barebones laptops driven by Windows 10 Mobile devices. At IFA I saw another interesting accessory. It’s not a smartbook but could be a smartphone-book. A phab-book perhaps. OK, I’m still working on the name!
With Windows 10 comes a potentially huge change in the way that the 5-10 inch consumer computing category will be addressed by manufacturers. As in the Windows 8 era, manufacturers can still choose between ARM and x86 options, desktop and no-desktop options but this time round there’s the possibility of crossover. If the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is a success then why not allow Windows 10 Mobile tablets to compete with large Windows tablets and small laptops? The inclusion of ARM in this segment could increase competition and lower prices which is a bonus for Microsoft. It could also reduce the desire for a ‘desktop’ and puts consumer Windows devices at risk from competing post-desktop products.
$399 buys you 1.7KG of 14-inch Android smartbook. Maybe this isn’t something for ultra-mobile computing fans but it will be worth tracking the HP Slatebook 14 to see how it’s received in the market. The unique specifications and a ton of local apps (and a ton of great games) will differentiate it from Chromebooks and cheap Windows laptops.
Video and gallery below.
64GB of storage is good (16 and 32GB also listed in the specifications) and when you pair that with 9 hours battery life, the dynamic OS that many many people know and love from their smartphones, a fullHD touchscreen, three USB ports, a MicroSD slot and HDMI you have indeed got something unique. We assume the Nvidia Tegra 4 processor is fanless too. Try getting FullHD on 14-inches with an SSD in the Windows PC world for $400!
We’ve been discussing Android smartbooks for years on UMPCPortal. It started four years ago when we got the Compaq Airlife 100 and has been an interesting possibility ever-since. The latest Android book is from HP and offers a Full-HD 14-inch screen – something you’d consider as part of a fully productive laptop. This is the HP Slatebook 14, a product which leaked at HP.com this week and has subsequently been removed.
The ASUS Transformer Book Trio arrives in Europe soon. 999 Euro ( 839 pre 19% tax / 1133 US dollars) buys you a tablet and keyboard dock along with two processors, two operating systems, two drives, two WiFi modules and more. The tablet runs Android on a Clovertrail platform (not the latest BayTrail) and can dock to the keyboard where it can also act as a screen for Windows 8 on a Core i5 processor. It’s a multifunction device that needs careful consideration.
Surface is out and the reviews are in. Most reviewers seem impressed; Many worry about the lack of apps.
From tomorrow you’ll be able to fill that app-gap with a product sector that I’m more excited about than a Chromebook on ARM, a Nexus 7 3G or a convertible Ultrabook.
Atom-based PCs don’t exactly bring up images of advanced computing but since the netbooks died a few important things have happened. A very new and very advanced power engine, a new operating system and a break-out from the rather restrictive specifications, prices constraints and designs of the simple netbook category.
We’ve got six Clover-Trail tablets/dockables on the product database right now and we’re expecting more to pop up soon. Windows 8 provides a nice boost for this category but one of the barriers could be price. [See â€œUnlikely Smartbookâ€] European retail prices for two of these Clover-Trail tablets have already shown up and sure enough, we’re not exactly talking netbook-level pricing. Specs are interesting though.
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC (XE500T) is showing up, without docking keyboard, for just under 700 Euros.Â The Vivo Tab (FT810C) for 800 Euros. Both come with 64GB of storage, without any 3G.
If you’re looking for the keyboard dock you’ll need to add 100 Euro.
iHS, owner of iSuppli seems to find it funny that they’ve had to slash their estimations for Ultrabook sales by 50%. “Dude, You’re Not Getting an Ultrabook” does a great job at getting the media to echo the story but did iHS cock-up or did the market change dramatically in the last few months? We’re a month away from Windows 8, prices have dropped considerably and the Ultrabook looks well-positioned to take a large percentage of the laptop sales market in Q4. Was the back-to-school period disappointing or is the laptop market overall going to suffer in Q4 and take Ultrabooks with it? This is no laughing matter.
Many of you know I run three sites. Carrypad, the tablet-focused site. Ultrabooknews, the thin-and-light laptop site and this one, UMPCPortal. Â At UMPCPortal we’ve been focused on productive mobility since 2006 (almost exactly) and as you will probably know, the last few years have been hard on us. Trying to get productivity into a two-handed mobile experience has been completely ignored by mainstream manufacturers. We’ve all tried tablets of course and all been disappointed at the lack or processing power, lightweight apps and of course, the full web experience which requires a full web browser. Mozilla tried with Firefox for Android but didn’t really get there yet. Most people settled on Dolphin HD as the best of the bunch but it wasn’t anywhere near the experience needed for web-based productivity and creation.
Intel offered us some hope with Meego, an optimised Linux-based OS that included a Chromium browser…
MeeGo offers me some hope. A full internet experience and an app store but it’s something needs to mature until at least late 2011 and in fact for it to function fast enough to be productive it will need a high-end dual-core ARM or Intel Moorestown platform that will not be able to provide all-day battery life in a smartphone form-factor. [ref June 2010]
…Â but we all know what happened there.
And then along came the best smartbook yet. The Asus Transformer Prime has fantastic looking hardware, 18hr battery life (with leyboard dock) and some great sensor, touch and app experiences. The problem was that it also had issues when addressing productive and creative work. The apps are still thin and the browser still terrible.
But there was nothing else to choose from.Â Until today that is.
Chrome for Android has been launched. It’s in the Android Market for anyone with an Android Ice Cream Sandwich device and it’s fully functional. Well, it seems to be. This Beta software may have a few bugs but it represents the best step yet towards a productive handheld ‘UMPC’ solution. There will still be problems with low-quality, unstable and badly supportedÂ native apps, Â but Chrome on Android is going to develop fast, encourage a new market for Android tablets and Â enable a whole new world of desktop-quality browsing.
There are early issues. Mouseover doesn’t seem to be working well and there could be performance issues related to the (relative to laptops) lack of CPU, memory and general platform speed but these are likely to be fixed very quickly given the effort Google is putting into its browser.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have an ICS tablet right now. I will be looking for ‘ROM’ upgrade for the Acer A500 I have here as it supports USB host (for keyboards/mice etc) and would work well as a smart, Chrome-based desktop device but that could take a few days before I get round to it. MaybeÂ I’llÂ be looking for an ASUS Transformer Prime though. Given its smartbook credentials and Chrome for Android it now has the potential to span Carrypad, UMPCPortal and Ultrabooknews!
A quick note on the Android 4.0 requirement. I think it’s a brave bu neccesary move. It means that only ‘Google Android’ gets the best browser and encoruages a big shift to ICS over 2012. it might be annoying for some now but it makes absolute sense to encourage a move away from 2.x and 3.x variants and get everyone moving with ICS. When that happens, ISVs will be far more likely to invest in high-quality tablet application development and that’s where the turning point comes.Â FollowingÂ the turning point, the nicheÂ designsÂ will jump in too. There’s every chance that we’ll start to see UMPCs again…running Android. I know you’ll be concerned with security, apps, interfaces and such but I feel sure we’ll see those issues solved. The market for alternativeÂ designsÂ is going to grow quickly so watch out for a fresh batch of ultra mobile PC news! Â It also makes Apple think hard again about a smartbook although my guess is that they have been working on one for a long time already.
Don’t forget that this app is very likely to be in development for X86 devices too. Intel will be putting massive effort into getting this optimised for Medfield-based devices. Comparing Sunspider tests, hopefuly at MWC later this month, will be fun!
I’m interested to hear your thoughts below. I’m sure we’ll have a good discussion.
Noted – There’s no Flash support. I’m not sure too many are going to have a problem with this and it sends an important message out to web developers – Stay clear of Flash!
There seems to be a problem with agent-id. I’m reading that Chrome for Android is identifying itself as a mobile browser.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is a very popular device and I’ve seen a number of reports of it being used in productivity scenarios. The gaps between devices like this and traditional laptops are closing and so it’s no surprise that people are testing the limits.
Find out where these gaps are with the start of another good series over at Carrypad. The question is, is Android good enough to allow all the gaps to be closed through 3rd party software or are there jobs that will always need doing on a PC?
I keep reading articles that talk about Ultrabooks being an alternative to tablets and I think some misunderstanding has crept into common thought. Yes, there was a mention of ‘tablets’ when Intel talked about Ultrabooks but they weren’t referring to the tablet marketplace, they were simply referring to features.
Consumer tablets offer some excellent advantages over the laptop. Not only in the mobile form factor but in the software. Features like always-on, touch user interfaces, long battery life, sensors and more. What Ultrabooks are aiming to do is to look at some of these features and implement them in the laptop form factor. A bit like a smartbook.
Mainly we’re talking about always-on or ‘always updated’ as I think Intel call it. Quick-startup is a part of that and it aims to get you working as soon as you lift the lid. Ultrabooks are likely to take some design cues from tablets too. Thin, light and attractive.
Other ‘features’ will take a while to feed in too and they generally hinge on Windows 8. Sensor support, ‘apps’ and user interface layers will help users fill in some of the other features that tablet users are getting used to.
So you see, the Ultrabook isn’t going to target the same users as the iPad but it’s going to learn some lessons from it. That’s a whole different ball game.