Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Should the UMPC be called a sub-netbook?

Some of you may have no idea what I mean when I say "netbook." Typo? No. I don't mean notebook or laptop. I mean netbook.

The term netbook was introduced by Intel in early 2008. It basically refers to sub-compact notebooks that are also low-cost. The Asus Eee has been the classic, trend-setting netbook that others have been trying to beat.

So if netbook refers to a sub-compact notebook, then is a UMPC a sub-netbook? The problem with this logic is that many UMPCs are much more expensive than netbooks. Netbooks are supposed to run between $200-500. UMPCs are often over $1,000, and those that are $999 are praised for falling under that $1,000 price tag. The most expensive ('best') OQO model 02 configuration costs $2,999! I think I paid around $1,400 for my OQO model 02.

What is the future of netbooks? Will they turn into mini convertible tablets and bridge the chasm between netbook and UMPC? That only seems logical since many people want the touch screen interface and the ability to use their device while standing.

I've had a Fujitsu LifeBook P1610 for over a year now. This tiny convertible notebook/tablet has a 9" screen - so this thing is tiny! Fujitsu now has the P1620 that has an Intel Core2 duo processor. It's too big to be called a UMPC, and it's certainly much more expensive than your typical netbook. Plus, it's a convertible tablet with a touch screen. Should this be called the netbook pro? The netbook plus? The netbook tablet? The net tablet?

Most people probably won't be spending close to $2,000 for the Fujitsu P1620 if they can purchase an Asus Eee for $300. Traditionally, tiny sub-compact laptops would cost even more than a standard sized notebook. Now, the netbook phenomenon is changing the landscape of mobile computing. I can't wait until this trickles down and affects UMPCs. I want to see some UMPCs that are around $300-500. No, I don't mean MIDs. I mean UMPCs running full operating systems like Windows XP, Vista, Linux, or Mac OS X.

The other big factor that will impact mobile computing involves SSDs replacing standard spinning hard drives. The first generation SSD have some limitations - mainly price and efficacy. The next generation of SSDs should be less expensive and more effective. I can't wait to see how they get incorporated into mobile computing over the years.

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