I’m sitting in front of an ExoPC which is now referred to internally as the Exo-1 because they’re looking for new hardware for the next generation ExoPC device â€“ Product X
There’s a very open an interesting post up on the ExoPC discussion board about new hardware they’re testing. It’s clearly an Oaktrail-based device but they’re not giving the ID away at this stage because there’s some negative points being aired. It’s a thread that has already prompted me to post something on our own forum about Oaktrail and I’d like to bring it up here. Maybe it’s useful for Exo PC. Maybe it’s useful for readers.
Obviously if you’re going to bring similar looking / acting hardware to the market as a new model, it needs to be better than the existing product, right? If there’s one thing that’s worse than the previous model, it confuses customers and causes rumblings in the owner community. While the battery life on the Oaktrail-based devices might be better, the performance isn’t. An Atom N450-based Win 7 product will outperform a 1.5Ghz Oaktrail equivalent in most, if not all, departments. Even if you bump the CPU up to the new Z615 at 1.9Ghz, the GPU isn’t going to be better than the previous generation. It’s a problem for anyone that’s got a 10 inch Atom N-series in the market. Where do you go?
The problem is, the N450-based tablets aren’t exactly zippy and are not the best at battery life. Fan noise, weight and size are an issue so some progress needs to be made there. Oaktrail is not the solution here and until Cedar Trail or more Ultrabook-like designs (E.g. EP121) come along, there’s no solution.
The way to make for ExoPC to make a second device is to move to a new form factor and / or a new operating system. Changing the OS is a problem for ExoPC because most of their business is wrapped up in their overlay software development, for Windows. Personally, I don’t use it but if it’s their bread and butter, it’s important.
So why not keep the user interface and apply it to a 7 inch model? The 7 inch Windows tablet market is small, yes, but so is the 11.6 inch Windows tablet market. In fact, there’s less competition in the 7 inch space, more importance placed on efficiency and at 7 inch, Windows needs an overlay more than it does at 11.6 inch Using Oaktrail allows you to make a different hardware product for a new market and it also brings a bridge to other operating systems that could boost hardware sales. Meego is an interesting option for an Oaktrail tablet and if your skill is in user interfaces, you could turn something round quickly and make quite a differentiator in the Meego market. Acer turned a lot of heads when they presented their 10 inch Morestown-based Iconia M500 tablet that’s due to be available in Q4. Don’t forget the Windows 8 mobility path either. If you’re working with Oaktrail now, making the move to Clovertrail and Windows 8 should be easier later. It will make an even better 7 inch tablet platform and gives the company a product to focus on should Windows 8 kill the ExoPC software overlay business.
ExoPC should do two things. 1) Look at the 7 inch slate space where user interfaces become even more important. It’s currently a fairly empty space if you consider pro-mobile users and although niche, could allow ExoPC to become the king of it. Better to be king of a small niche than a bit-player in a large one. Asses Oaktrail devices and think about Meego, Windows 8 and even Android which we’ve already seen running on Intel. Look to break out a new product with a new customer base. 2) Take time to find a better product platform for the existing (10-12 inch) ExoPC market. Mid 2012 perhaps? Sandy Bridge-based tablet designs could be cheaper then as Ultrabook-style manufacturing matures.
Of course there’s a risk. You’ll need to investigate why the 7 inch space is empty for a start but the Galaxy Tab 7 sales (millions of them) say something about the form factor. There’s also the risk that someone else has seen this opportunity too. The Viliv X70 Slate design still exists (although the company appears to be going under) and we shouldn’t forget the ECS 7 inch slate design either. WeTab appear to be going through the same process so stay tuned here, ExoPC, for the latest news! (And good luck, of course.)