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Summary:

Ever since I left my I.T. career to write full time earlier this year, I’ve been paying much closer attention to my budget. I’m losing the budget battle, but I’ve gained a different perspective in terms of device pricing for the feature set. Case in point: […]

Wib4Ever since I left my I.T. career to write full time earlier this year, I’ve been paying much closer attention to my budget. I’m losing the budget battle, but I’ve gained a different perspective in terms of device pricing for the feature set. Case in point: the WiBrain UMPC I have on loan from Dynamism. I haven’t had much play-time with it yet since we have a new playmate in the house (no, not THAT kind of “playmate”, although that would have made for an interesting holiday gift!). I have noticed something interesting about the WiBrain however: it has an amazingly similar set of features when compared the low-end OQO Model 02, but it doesn’t have a similar price!

Let’s see what you get for $849 in the WiBrain, using Dynamism’s current price as a baseline:

  • VIA C7-M CPU running at 1.2 GHz
  • 4.8-inch WSVGA touchscreen (1024 x 600 resolution)
  • 60 GB hard drive
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Integrated Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Webcam
  • Windows XP Home
  • Split QWERTY keypad

Oqo4Now let’s hit up the OQO site and look at the “good” model, which is the lowest end unit, priced at $1,299:

  • Same VIA C7-M CPU running at 1.2 GHz
  • 5-inch WVGA screen (800 x 480 resolution) with active digitizer
  • 40 GB hard drive
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Integrated Bluetooth and WiFi, with an option for integrated EV-DO
  • Windows XP Home with the option of upgrading to XP Professional
  • Slideout QWERTY keypad

The feature-set is incredibly similar, yet the OQO is roughly 50% higher in price. You certainly can’t choose a device based on specifications alone of course, so I’m not suggesting that the WiBrain is a better choice than an OQO. There are definite intangibles and personal preferences to take into account here. For example, I suspect that the OQO keyboard solution is better than the one on the WiBrain. For folks wanting intergrated WWAN or a truly pocketable device, there’s only one choice here as well. Still, for folks on a budget, there is a compelling choice worth examining here.One thing I don’t understand is the use of an active digitizer on the lower end OQO units. For the component cost you get very little functionality here since the device comes with Windows XP Home or, for $100 extra, XP Professional. Without Vista or the XP Tablet Edition, this piece of the device isn’t worth the cost in my opinion. Yet another reason that adding a component for the sake of choice doesn’t make the device that much better to justify the cost.In any case, I thought this comparison had merit and once I get more time to use the WiBrain, I can offer some additional impressions on the device itself.

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  1. i think something else that needs to be considered in cost is the form factor itself. a slider design probably takes significantly more R&D than a candybar design.

    thats probably why the “cheaper” OQO competitors with keyboards all use the candybar design (WiBrain, Everun, etc)

  2. Another factor you have to price into the OQO is the large number of returns and repairs under guaranteee they have to do.

  3. @ jyhbtgvrfce: R&D gets amortized over time, though, and OQO has had a slider since the original OQO 01s. It doesn’t look like much has changed, so those costs have long ago been absorbed. And even so, aren’t enough in and of themselves to justify the greater expense.

    @ Scoobie: I don’t know if OQO has a better or more extended return policy over Wibrain’s or Dynamism’s, so that may not be an issue. If you’re implying that OQOs have a higher rate of return, then from an economic standpoint, the OQO is a worse choice than the Wibrain.

    I’ve always felt that the OQOs were targeted for executives who want to look cool, and give everyone else something to aspire to. When price doesn’t matter, the OQO is a decent choice. Otherwise, there is nothing compelling about the hardware, software, or design. You definitely need to use two hands.

    I don’t see many executives using the Wibrain. It looks too much like a game machine of some sort. And the right-sided touch pad will be off-putting to most executives as well, I suspect.

    Woadan

  4. In a way, it’s worse than you think. The low end OQO lost its digitizer when OQO cut its price by $200 in September. So, on one hand, OQO agreed with you. On the other hand, the low end OQO is still more expensive, and no one can blame it on an active digitizer.

    @Waodan The Model 02 looks to me like a different physical design than the Model 01. Also, it undoubtedly incurred engineering costs of its own. For one thing, it’s not the same size as the Model 01 so it’s unlikely they share mechanical parts, or design. It’s also possible that sliders are just plain more expensive to build than candybars. Of course, unless you have access to proprietary information, we’re both just speculating.

    In the end, as Kevin points out, whether an OQO is worth the cost depends on whether there is value in the OQO’s smaller size. If you absolutely need something pocketable, then it wouldn’t matter if the Wibrain were free. It still wouldn’t fit in your pocket. If size is not a concern at all, then you wouldn’t buy either the OQO or the Wibrain. For $849, you could probably buy a more powerful, albeit 5lb. laptop. If you just want something lightweight, but not necessarily pocketable, the Wibrain is just as computationally powerful as the low-end OQO, but cheaper.

    OQO has set its price points, and those who value its (unfortunately still) unique features enough will pay those prices. The rest of us won’t. (Perhaps some of them will buy a Wibrain instead.) Clearly, the answer is for some enterprising company to undercut OQO. Wibrain isn’t that company. Their product doesn’t match OQO feature for feature, certainly not size.

  5. Give me a break! Seems ridiculous everytime a new sub 7″ or thumb keyboard micro PC, UMPC, MID, or even PPC comes out, someone has to label it an “OQO killer”.

    1st, JC is correct in that the OQO 02 base model does not have a tablet screen, aimed at basic but mobile PC computing use.

    I disagree with Kevin and OQO’s approach to the tablet screen options. I feel OQO should quit futzing with all their Windows edition options and provide tablet functionality with all models and include a pen. Even though not all owners would use the tablet features, inking has the potential of opening new paradigms besides proving a nice niche function with the unit.

    Eliminating the tablet feature would be like providing a cheap Q1u without a touch screen assuming the thumb keyboard or external keyboard was sufficient for some. The OQO does have one of the best & most usable thumb keyboard & trackstick, but my point is the whole UMPC & Origami wave promotes more human like input for better mobility.

    The OQO 02 has a completely different investment than other “similiar” form factors. Despite other’s being close in size, the OQO has done the best in optimizing the dimensions, performance, and battery life in being the only true full blown pocketable Windows based PC.

    If I was looking at anything a bit longer, wider, or thicker to the point it did not fit my front shirt pocket or stuck out, I’d go with a lightweight convertible tablet PC with a full size keyboard, or a higher resolution 7″ UMPC.

  6. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, December 31, 2007

    Opus, I’m not suggesting nor do I think that the WiBrain is an “OQO killer”. I’m simply pointing out the extremely similar specifications between the two devices that have such a large variance in price. Not everyone can afford an OQO, so this presents them with a viable option. I also believe strongly in the Tablet platform and think that any device manufacturer (not just OQO) should include a Tablet OS by default if the unit has an active digitizer. Hope that clears things up!

  7. yo Kevin, sorry for sounding so harsh, the O.K. remark was taken from other posts.

    I find it ironic since the OQO 02 came out there has been a plethora of thumb keyboards & sub 7″ screen PC’s & MID’s, even though the OQO 01/01+ & Sony UX series been out at least another year prior.

    I believe each product will find their niche but cheaper products with lower profit margins might not stay in business long. I think some manufacturers are seeing this with the big picture in mind looking at offsetting price with service committments like cell phones.

    As far as MID’s, only reason most people got interested in UMPC’s was the thought of a more mobile & compact PC to carry with them, so I see MID’s & PDA’s losing steam to smartphones, smaller/lighter notebooks, and those still satisfied with their crackberries.

    But then that is what I think will happen. UMPC’s and other forms will continue to find their niches while Microsoft & Intel battle it out to decide about really promoting them.

  8. Even with as tacky as the wibrain looks, I think I would rather own the wibrain.

    It’s touch screen as well as a touch pad. I like the button layout better ESPECIALLY the “d-pad” design it has which would be useful for games.

    I know that having my hands at the side of the machine as opposed to the bottom of the machine is better for me (compare old game boy to newer game boy models and/or game gear).

  9. Late to the dance here, but the EVDO option on the OQO makes that the winner for me.

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