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Summary:

I am an unusual Tablet PC user, I know that.  I am totally dependent on taking ink notes in my work and why the Tablet PC is so critical for getting my work done.  In addition to the inking ability the other criteria that is vital […]

Mini_vs_fuji_2I am an unusual Tablet PC user, I know that.  I am totally dependent on taking ink notes in my work and why the Tablet PC is so critical for getting my work done.  In addition to the inking ability the other criteria that is vital to me is mobility and since Tablet PCs usually come in thinner and highly mobile forms they work well for me.  The Fujitsu P1620 I am using now is a highly mobile inking machine and I love it.  It makes my work better and easier and that’s worth a premium to me.  The recent introduction of ultra-portable notebooks like the HP Mini-Note have driven home to me how much a premium I paid for the Fujitsu and it’s got me thinking about that.  The HP Mini I am evaluating is is about the same size and weight as the Fujitsu and with the exception of a much slower processor and the lack of a touch screen is similarly configured.  That means that it’s roughly as mobile as the Fuji so the primary difference in functionality between the HP Mini and the Fujitsu P1620 is the Tablet PC bits.  Those bits are important to me as I mentioned but is it worth a 300% price premium?  Is it worth such a premium for you?  Let’s discuss that so read on.

My work being totally dependent on ink note-taking makes this question more moot for me than for most as i must have that capability.  But I speak to a lot of tablet owners who admit that they primarily use their convertible Tablet PC as a notebook and only rarely go into tablet mode.  Some of them admit they only use the tablet mode on flights where the work room in coach is very cramped and thus they go into tablet mode so they can work with their computer in those tight quarters.  That is not an issue for ultra-portable notebooks like the HP Mini so they likely wouldn’t need tablet mode for that.  These particular users could probably work just as easily without the tablet functionality so price premium becomes a big point for them.

When I was preparing for the review of the HP Mini and comparing the components and size of it with the Fujitsu P1620 the price premium between the two hit me in the face.  The price difference is so large that I admit I was shocked when I started thinking about it.  The Fujitsu cost me three times what the HP Mini with the similar configuration would cost me and that means that the tablet premium is huge in this case.  I am willing to pay a healthy premium for my required ink note-taking but what about most users?  I can’t believe that most would be willing to pay that kind of a premium for the ability to swivel the screen and work in slate mode.  Sure it’s nice but if it’s not really mandatory to get your work done you’re not likely to find it a good deal to pay that much extra for it.  Even I had to do a double-take at a >$1,000 premium and I need the capability. 

Now before you jump all over me I realize that some important components of the Fuji are much better than those of the HP Mini or the Asus EEE PC (9-inch model).  But having used the Mini as a capable mini-notebook computer I would have a hard time convincing myself that the cheaper components make a big enough difference to justify spending a ton of extra money to improve them with a similar device like the Fujitsu.  I realize that the technology to include a touch-screen that swivels around and provide a good inking experience is a premium and I have willingly paid that premium for years.  But for most people I question if that high premium, now that these portable notebooks are coming way down in price, is actually worth it.  If you can do what you do for hundreds less why shouldn’t you?  This topic is very interesting to me and will get even more apropos as these cheap laptops continue to be released and push the envelope.  Tablet premium- worth it or not?

  1. Very good question.

    I think for people outside the states – this is even more of an important question.

    Here (Australia), I can get an Eee PC for $450 – i’m considering one but am waiting for either the newer HP, the 9″ or the rumored Acer. I actually wanted a P1620 but in Australia they hover around the $4000 mark. This is about $3600 or so US.

    Tablets here are virtually non-existent.
    While I do like them, I just don’t use them enough to warrant the premium myself.

    Just for a bit of perspective too. I showed my non-geek friend who was actually looking for a 2nd laptop (!!) the Eee the other day.

    His first words were “That’s S***”… Then a day later I get a phone call from him asking “Where is the place I can get one cheapest?” – he thought about it and linux made sense, smaller footprint and lower system resources used. Most of his applications are online and all his media is on his 160GB ipod. As a companion PC the Eee makes wonderful sense for him.

    The tiny laptops are really gaining steam. People are realising they don’t need bohemoth 20KG portable desktops just to get things done. Particularly with periphery devices like mobile phones and portable media devices which take a bit of a load off what the computer is required to do in some circumstances.

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  2. James… this is a very interesting topic you started. I’ve often wondered about this myself. I use a tablet, but only for note taking, and not as often as you do it seems. I find a tablet only really useful for the typical “I’m sitting down to a meeting for more than 30 minutes” scenario. Otherwise, if it’s a impromptu get together, I rarely get my computer to start up fast enough to avoid missing those first few crucial moments: back to pen and paper. Still, tablets are generally lighter than other laptops so I continue with them when traveling: like you, I use a Mac when at my desk.

    But I’ve gotten into photography lately and when I travel, I can see these mini-format computers coming into their own. I can live without the e-ink if necessary, it’s small, and with the HP, it has a large HD unlike the Asus to store photos on the run (hey, photosontherun!). I was thinking about the P1610 or P1620 because of this very reason, but with the HP coming in at 1/3 of the price, a small tablet for travel where business needs are not critical might just tip the scale for me. Certainly, the HP Mini and the Asus are not much more than a portable media viewer, and are a lot more flexible.

    Great topic James!

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  3. Yes, for me the “tablet premium” your are speaking about worth it.
    The tablet pc is a fantastic tool once you tried it one time.

    But it is now possible to work with a TPC without spending a lot of money in it : my TPC is not my main work computer, but it is regularly an essential working tool for me.
    It is an “old” model, the specs are not “high end” (centrino 1.2Ghz + 1.5Go RAM + 80Go HD), but my TC1100 will never leave my office !

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  4. James…

    I really see your P1620 and my X61T has a different class of machines than the HP Mini.

    While I agree that based on your video the Mini was acceptable from a processing power standpoint for email and other lighter load work I suspect that I would truly miss the Core2Duo processing power, battery life, and 7200RPM disk of my Thinkpad tablet.

    As for paying a premium price for tablet capabilities, I do hope that these mini-notebooks put continued downward pricing pressure on the entire marketplace. I also hope that vendors will utilize Intel’s ATOM CPU core and chipset platform to create low cost tablet and touch sensitive devices.

    I use my tablet in tablet mode all the time, including for presentation work. Using a wireless projector and my tablet make everyone gasp when I walk around room scribbling on the screen and moving things around in OneNote. I also love web surfing in tablet mode.

    For my vantagepoint, I am glad there is action and an increasing number of options in the sub $750 portable computer marketplace. But I also appreciate the differences between my machine and what the ASUS and the MINI are. My hope is that as a result of these developments my next full featured and high performance TABLET will cost $1000 – $1200 rather than $1700 – $2000.

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  5. I think my purchase yesterday of the HP Mini Note is a good example of that premimum. I would much rather have the P1620. Althougth I’m not the note taker James is (thank goodness I don’t have all those meetings), I would like to become more Tablet PC orientated.

    But when I seriously weighed whether I would justify the cost of the P1620 by using it in the manner in which it was designed, the answer was no. I write as a second job, and maintain a few websites. For that, I need good keyboarding, not inking. (Although I love marking up manuscripts in ink and sending them back to authors – they always wonder how I did that electronically!)

    So, when it came down to crunch time, I looked at the checkbook, studied the specs, and compromised. I wanted the bigger keyboard and bigger hard drive, and gave up a little in the performance arena.

    These are the tough decisions.

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  6. No wonder Tablet PCs remain a niche product. While the price gap for regular convertible Tablet PCs usually isn’t as large as the premium for the P1620, it’s still disheartening to see the disparity. We got new computers at work last year, and even though I went for about the cheapest option I could—a mid-range Gateway M285—my coworkers got better equipped notebooks for a few hundred less than my machine. A few hundred here and there adds up when you’re purchasing 10 or 20 machines. And when you expand that to large corporate IT—where there are hundreds or even thousands of computers—it’s easy to see why tablet adoption rates are so low except in vertical markets.

    Tablet PC manufacturers need to get the price difference closer to just the cost of the digitizer hardware and a slight markup for R&D. Then in order to justify the premium, they need to focus marketing on the real world benefits derived from the tablet functionality. The marketing needs to show users that the tablet functionality solves a problem they have. Early adopters like us will buy something just because it’s new and it’s cool, but it doesn’t work that way with mainstream users. Lenovo/IBM had an eye-catching commercial for the Thinkpad tablets, but it didn’t show any features of the hardware. Gateway tried with the marketing for the Convertible notebooks, but it was simulated content, not real world usage.

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  7. Travis Carnahan Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    James,
    The other factor you didn’t mention is the ease of surfing the net with a tablet. There is not a better experience than sitting down to keep an eye on my kids and being able to still keep up to speed on my email, do work online, edit documents, and brainstorm (all on a good size screen without having it “standing up” between me and everything I need to see!) I agree (mostly) with Ozone about the TC1100; if Hp had kept it alive, I would have it instead of the new X61 that will be delivered in the next few days!

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  8. At work, I currently have a desktop and a laptop. My next laptop was going to be thinner and lighter than my current one, but I am not so sure now. They recently decided that we can have either or which means I get a laptop only. Could I still go ultra portable?? If I have scads of ram and a decent processor (with 2 cores at least) I would be fine. I have at least a year until I have to decide things.

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  9. Like you, I depend on ink and I have no problem with pure slates (my first tablet was a Motion m1300). I am willing to pay a premium for that and I have, choosing the OQO 02 over many lower priced UMPCs.

    I would note that, for me, portability is different than for you. I wanted something that could go in my pocket or (forgive my inner geek) hang on my belt.

    For the general market, though, I think you are right. Inking is a different paradigm for computer use and most people don’t gravitate towards it because they’ve always used a keyboard and they have a comfort level with it.

    That said, I would see the low price notebooks competing more against the high price notebooks. Except for people who want a desktop replacement, low price notebooks can serve as their only notebook.

    I would see the UMPC market becoming even more of a niche with most UMPCs being inkable. The non-inkable UMPCs will lose out to either the smaller MIDs or the more capable low price notebooks.

    Eventually, though, as the iTouch generation grows up, I think that inking will come back into the fore. They will be used to working without a real keyboard and will realize the benefits of handwriting recognition versus the virtual keyboard.

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  10. James, when you consider the fact that slates are at a similar or higher premium, I don’t think you need to say it’s because of the rotating screen on convertibles. It’s simply a premium for having the inking capabilities.

    I have to wonder if some of that premium isn’t artificial mark-up myself. Does it really cost 3 times the price just to have that touch screen?

    If it is justified, then it’s a real “Wow!” moment.

    Woadan

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  11. Very interesting topic, and it really hit me when seeing the very positive reviews of this device. Running a 2GB Vista Business computer with a 7200 RPM HD and plenty of port and a high quality screen for under $750? Certainly is a phenomenal deal, and it does make the P1620 seem so expensive in comparison (which it is). What it really makes seem expensive is the Fuji U810. I know, different sized screens and all, but that model has a a price premium for some pretty low performance in comparison (processor excluded).

    If HP decides to make a tablet version of this, then Fuji will really need to make some pricing adjustments.

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  12. James,

    I wonder whether a big part of the reason for the ‘Tablet Premium’ has to do with the fact that at least for now, the tablet are a niche product, which means compared to laptops, they are a much lower volume production item. Therefore, they sell for a much higher price.

    Put another way, I’ll bet that if Fujitsu, Toshiba, HP, ASUS, etc, ramped up production on a tablet PC model, that costs would come way down and there would be much less of a premium.

    Just my 2 cents….

    ;-)

    Mark
    Silicone Valley Digerati
    Fujitsu U810 TPC(personal)
    Fujitsu T4010 TPC (work)
    + Other tablets before….

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  13. Excellent question. It seems that the floor for portability is getting ready to be slammed with this ultra portable form factor. And hopefully some Tablet PC manufacturers and Microsoft will read your post and not so much question if the premium is worth it, but address the issue that the premium as WAY out of line from reality. I’d gladly pay a premium! With how much I use my Q1 and love the tablets bits, it rocks. Now would I have bought my Q1 when it came out if this ultra portable form factor was available AND at that time had NO experience with the Tablet OS? I seriously doubt it. I wanted portability and the Tablet pieces were gravy and I think most of the general public would follow that line. I hope Microsoft do something about this because very soon the Tablets are going to get bumped right off the planet because of the premium difference and the piss poor marketing for Tablets. It’s a death sentence and that would be a shame. IMHO

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  14. borax99 (Alain C.) Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    The price difference is worth every nickel for me! Hanging on to my ST-5020D and P1610 until (a) someone pries them from my cold dead hands or (b) they fry on their own through old age. Furthermore, my next portable device will once again be a tablet, likely with either an active digitizer or a combo. I like the portability and convenience of the P1610, but – despite the ‘special sauce’ Fujitsu put into their touch driver, there is absolutely no substitute for the speed, responsiveness, and pressure sensitivity of an active digitizer !

    Tablet functionality, of all the computer interfaces I have played with since 1980 (there have been a few !) is the closest to the way I work, think and play and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. If that means I’m a “niche” customer and have to pay a premium, that’s unfortunate, but so be it !

    Tablets rule !

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  15. If the mini-note had been available when I decided to purchase my Fuji P1510 2+ years ago, I would have an HP today.

    I love my P1510 but the big price difference would have sealed the deal. I don’t use inking frequently, I do like tablet mode but TPC prices are way out of line today.

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  16. You need to consider the usage scenarios. The Fujitsu is designed for working on your feet and delivering the functionality, reliability, and quality users need for mission critical environments. If all you need is a word processor, then buy a one. Don’t buy a Ferrari in Manhattan and complain that the car won’t go over 30 mph!

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  17. James’ question touches on the importance of understanding user requirements and assessing the value of various design features. When the P1620 was released I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that Fujitsu introduced very few changes.

    It is somewhat misleading, though, to assign all of the differences between the P1620 and HP Mini-Note to one design element. The “Tablet Premium” James describes is due to a variety of features: touch screen, form factor, performance, security, etc. Although some differences may seem minor, the underlying costs can be significant. For example, Fujitsu uses 1.8″ hard disk drives and Micro-DIMM memory to achieve a slightly smaller form factor. These two components alone drive up the price of the P1620 by about $750 for 2GB RAM and 100GB of storage. Another example is the cost difference between the Intel and Via processors.

    Products are designed to meet the needs of specific markets. Consider this statement from the P1620 press release: “The highly reliable LifeBook P1620 convertible notebook meets the needs of mobile and field professionals in healthcare, field and sales force automation, and supply chain management who require the flexibility of a tablet for note-taking or navigating through forms-based applications, along with the traditional keyboard input of a notebook computer.” These users probably place more value on a 0.7 lb weight differential, tablet functionality, data security, and even unrelated features like Fujitsu’s IT consulting services. Personally, though, I’m not planning to do any forms-based applications and I could go without the fingerprint sensor and some of the other features on the P1620. It isn’t a bad product; it just doesn’t meet all my needs. The HP Mini-Note doesn’t meet all my needs either.

    My target price for a 9″-10″ convertible tablet is $1200-$1800. Tablet functionality on its own is probably worth about $300-$400 to me. In reality, though, any individual feature is worthless if the device as a whole does not meet user requirements sufficiently.

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  18. Good topic. The same applies to umpcs. I wonder what Kevin has to say about his Q1UP. Myself and JKK attacked this topic in a recent podcast and the result was that for nearly everyone without a specific and oft-used specialist scenario, there is no argument. The Eee and 2133 win every time pushing tablets and pro-umpcs further away from the consumer market than ever.
    However, dont despair. All netbooks manufacturers will be looking for a USP and to push customers up the product chain so features like touch and swivel screens, smaller, lighter sizes, and more powerful processors could find theit way into the consumer markets via these low cost devices. Netbooks could be the devices that finally seed low cost tablets and umpcs.

    Ever optimistic – Chippy

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  19. Chippy, consumers wants determine the consumer market, not anything else. The mini-laptop genre fits better what most people want, enthusiasts aside. It’s what makes innovation work, meeting demand. :)

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  20. Hi James,

    Regarding your comment to Chippy “consumers wants determine the consumer market”. True but only to a degree. Isn’t the market driven by the marketing? For those of us following the Ultra Mobile whatever market, the drive is what we want. But for the general public, the drive is what is being marketed to them. Isn’t that the big reason why Tablets aren’t as successful as they could/should be. The general public don’t know about them and Microsoft is telling them why Tablets are useful.

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  21. Assuming that marketing determines what consumers consume is underestimating the intelligence of the consumer.

    Tablets haven’t taken off because they’re over priced for what they are. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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  22. No, thats not really true James. Mass market consumers never demanded a $399 linux-based 7″ netbook. Netbooks are selling mostly as 2nd PC’s which is one of those luxury ‘wants’ like the 2nd car, 2nd mobile phone and 2nd/3rd TV markets; At this price level, most customers don’t really know what they want. They just see a bargain make up excuses like ‘kids’, ‘holiday’ , ‘backup’
    As time goes on, manufacturers will want to push customers back up the chain and in fact, we’re already seeing it. Asus touchscreen, 8.9″ and there are many netbooks planned with 3G and touch already. While the entry point will remain low, most OEMs will provide a spread of features in their devices. A car salesman will probably be able to explain it better than i can!

    One possible flaw in the theory is that you’ll end up the quasi-tablets that don’t offer the pro-features that the specialists like yourself require but we must remain optimistic that netbooks could seed a new generation of tablet-aware and mobility aware folks.

    Steve.

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  23. Hi Nate,

    Though I get your point, I’m not sure I believe it 100%. Maybe I didn’t state my case well enough. If the consumer doesn’t know what available to them, then price doesn’t make a difference. It’s still a marketing AND cost matter. George Foreman grills were not selling just because they were low cost. They sell because of low cost AND the consumer being bombarded by advertisement explaining the functionality. If they were poorly displayed in stores in the far left hand corner of the store without ads they wouldn’t sell either and neither do Tablets. IMHO

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  24. When I talk about mainstream market I’m not talking about the enthusiast market or by what my special needs are. I’m talking about what consumers end up buying and right now that is a cheap laptop that will do everything they need. Not the fastest performance or even the best quality design, rather it is cheap enough to make those factors irrelevant. I also think that calling them netbooks tries to overshadow that these mini-laptops can do everything most users are doing with their desktops. It’s the full ability of these cheap devices that are driving those to purchase them who would never have considered them before because they are so cheap.

    Marketing is always important but once these notebooks are in main stream stores people will buy them simply because they know what a laptop is and they see the cheap price. They’ll take a chance on one because they’re not risking very much. That’s why this genre is growing by leaps and bounds and the UMPC market is not by comparison. It’s a risky purchase for the uninitiated.

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  25. I’m not suggesting that marketing doesn’t matter. It, obviously, does. But, the product matters more.

    Marketing for the Eee Pc is nonexistent. They’re selling like hotcakes.

    The marketing for the original Zune was one of the largest marketing campaigns in recent memory. People weren’t fooled.

    If there is demand for a product, and it’s priced right, it will sell. Devices like the Eee Pc sell well because people have always wanted a small computer. They just weren’t willing to pay the entry fee.

    If the cost of entry was reasonable, I have no doubt that people would buy tablets, regardless of the marketing. As it stands, they could market the living daylights out of tablets, and people still wouldn’t buy them.

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  26. main factors that drive up the P1620 costs…

    Tablet functionality, Dual Core CPU, 1.8″ HDD, micro-dimm RAM…. to be fair Fujitsu could have used a 2.5″ HDD & SO-DIMM RAM instead (Flybook does).

    are those 2 components worth nearly 3x the price? maybe to some, but i doubt to most. the HP can already satisfy 99% of the market. very few people will want or need the tablet bits & extra horsepower.

    i think a much more fair comparison is to Fujitsu, Sony, and other laptop makers 10″-11″ line up. they are very similar in size to the HP, use SODIMM RAM, 2.5″ HDD’s, and have no tablet bits. the only cost-worthy difference being the C2D CPU, now is THAT worth 3x the price difference (4x/5x in case of Sony)?

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  27. I disagree, Nate. People go in droves for what’s cheap, especially if it meets their needs. If faced with the difference between $750 and $2200, most consumers will forgo the advanced features for the basics.

    The average consumer base doesn’t need 3G, Bluetooth, inking, and outdoor viewable screens. The ones who want those features are the educated enthusiasts who try to integrate the technology into everything they do.

    Again, it does come down to the requirement the user needs to meet. Every single user is different (dagnabit!) and no one device will completely please everyone. Some hate small screens, others hate 17″ laptops. Some want to write and touch, others don’t.

    I’m glad we don’t settle for whatever and have lots to choose from. When the day comes I need to ink every day, I’ll get a device that takes care of that.

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  28. I understand why the P1620 is so much more expensive but the average Joe won’t. The fact is there is a big premium over these low-cost notebooks coming out now and the average consumer has to do much more soul-searching to decide if they should pay the premium than they used to.

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  29. Pam,

    I’m not sure where you and I are in disagreement.

    My point has been that cost is more important than marketing.

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  30. I touched on this back in the original HP thread. Sub $500 I might be satisfied with a notebook such as the HP Mini (impulse buy and don’t really need to justify it to the missus) but when reaching $750+ I just feel it is encroaching too much into the traditional laptop market. Sure I wouldn’t get the size premium but I’d probably get a better deal and more options.

    What however would swing it for me (and I’ll admit it’s quite personal), is that tablet functionality. I might not need it for inking but other laptop functionalities (list in the other replies) are improved greatly by a touch+swivel screen. I’ll also repeat the usefulness of a tablet in terms of compactness while in use, making it better for reading, browsing or anything that you really don’t need the keyboard for.

    Give me a cross between the U810 and HP-Mini and I’ll happily lay down $750-1000. It’s all been done so I do think the premiums are largely there because they know those who are buying tablets will justify the purchase price because they need the functionality.

    What I hope is that we’ll see perhaps Dell, Fujitsu or anyone looking to break into the UMPC/Notepad ;) area will use tablet features to differenciate themselves. We’re seeing it already with touch and multi-touch. Now they just need to work on a swivel hinge. :)

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  31. Not to derail this but I think the UMPC market is not taking off because it never lived up to being the cheap alternative to a laptop. The designs are largely alien in concept and at best mimic the Smartphones that people can pick up for a few hundred bucks.

    EEE won through because of a common stylish design, cheap price and ZERO competition. It’s going to be interesting to see how Asus compete’s now they’re not the only kid on the block.

    Basically I think a $400-500 U810 would have blown away the EEE. $600-700 U810 (with 8 inch screen and other upgrades) would have sealed a lot of other business. They can certainly do the hardware at that cost so it just a matter of convincing the mfrs to make the devices.

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  32. Jelster,

    I’d agree, except that the u810 doesn’t have a keyboard that you can touch type on.

    One of the really appealing things about the Eee is that the keyboard is about as small as it can get, while remaining usable.

    I’ve considered the u810, but that keyboard is just too small to be usable.

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  33. Convertible Tablet PCs demand a price premium over regular notebooks.

    Slate Tablet PCs demand a price premium over Convertible Tablet PCs.

    Yet, ask a regular notebook user to describe his/her notebook, and you’ll be hearing a fish describe water. Ask a pure Slate Tablet PC owner to describe his/her Slate, and you’ll be hearing a fish describe touching the face of God with his/her little Wacom pen.

    Digital Typewriter: $500-$2000
    Digital Pen and Paper: $2000-$4000
    Touching the face of God with your little Wacom pen: Priceless

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  34. Ok Pam, I love the “dagnabit”! Thanks for the smile that gave me! And great point.

    Nate,
    I think we are close to agreement. Were you say cost is more important than marketing, I believe they both matter in equal weight, but I’m an EX salesperson, so I maybe a tad biased. ;-)

    Ultimately, I think we all agree that “ultra portable laptops”, “UMPC”, “tablets and convertibles” and “conventional laptops”, regards of size are of value in the marketplace (Hmm, remember when a laptop was a laptop was a laptop! Wow how times have changed since 1992 when I worked at CompUSA!).

    The problem I think comes to how they are all being priced and marketed. Or maybe better stated, how they can be priced and marketed better.

    Anyway, excellent conversation all!

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  35. Asus has an entry-level product; HP is going after the education market; Fujitsu is targeting corporate applications. Many of us either don’t fit into these categories or aren’t willing to pay for everything we want. Either way, we live with compromise. But as BJNokav points out, perhaps a better question to ask is, “What price would you pay for a product that exactly meets your needs?” If it isn’t very much, you’ll probably have to live with compromise for a while longer.

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  36. i got my p1610 on ebay for $810 brand new. what’s a hp mini? hahaha

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  37. medah4rick: I did the same and for me that was the best value proposition. The issue is that our P1610s aren’t new — they are discontinued and heavily discounted. What price would a P1610 be if 350,000 more customers wanted to place orders?

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  38. Nate,

    Agreed and it’s a primary reason why I’ve not sunk cash into a U810 but would love to see the design expanded to a larger screen and keyboard.

    However had the U810 released at $400-500 I think the keyboard size issues would have been less important or even perceived as a bonus inclusion. Hell at that price point a $100 BT keyboard with stand for the U810 would have been a great compromise.

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  39. nomo, my p1610 was bought from the fujitsu store on ebay. it’s brand new not a refurbished unit.

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  40. My point is that the P1610 is discontinued and discounted, and therefore not a completely fair comparison — even if it’s the best value. ;-)

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  41. I have thought about the whole idea of tablet and how much had it assist me in my line of work. I work for a mining company and we do sell mining equipment. Where the ink helps tremendously is when I mark up the drawings for approval. I am primarily involved with sales so I don’t do a great deal of inking. However it is still fairly regular and assist me in taking notes everywhere.

    On a personal level, unfortunately I have yet to see the benefits of inking. But it is nice to have flexibility. If I was in a different sector, i.e. not engineering – it may be of little use to me.

    Just to correct Mr. Crash from the first post – I am too from Australia and the P1620 is not $4,000 here. We do not have the flexibility of configuring our own P1620 hardware – so all vendors only sell the top model. They range from AUD 2,400 to 2,950. So we are almost as competitive as the prices in the continental US.

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  42. At work, a great presentation I saw a few years ago demonstrated (PowerPoint slides) what the speaker paid for computers over the years, and their specs. The point: every couple of years he spent a little over $2,000, and easily doubled speeds and memory sizes every 4 or 5 years.

    The point: these ASUS/HP netbooks (would someone tell me what to call these things) are closer competitors to BlackBerrys and iPhones, I’d suggest. No one is taking about them as full computer replacements, merely as extensions of a home PC.

    Tablets are an entirely different animal. You are facing a $1,000 price premium for a touch-capable inking interface. Shop for a Wacom – cheapest pen surface accessory for my PC? $1,000.

    I want to see what Apple aps will roll out for the iPhone. There is a clear call for some kind of doodling or inking ap for the iPhone. But no one is going to consider inking by finger on a 480×320 screen a replacement for pen inking on 1100×800 (or so) pixels worth of 9″ screen.

    Form completion, OneNote taking, drawing: that’s what the tablet premium is for. Web surfing portability has been around for cheap for years. But in work or classroom settings where inking silently on a decent sized surface is needed, the tablet premium of $1,000 makes sense.

    What I’m truly curious to see is: iPhone 3rd party applications allowing finger inking -AND- 3rd party applications and hardware allowing iPhone to use BlueTooth folding full sized keyboards. That comes, and any tablet just got threatened by a more portable (iPhone) $400 device.

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  43. You seem a little eager to throw your premium money away. :)

    Wacom digitizers for the PC run at about $100 on Newegg, $40 for a different name. Not sure on the technicalities of screen vs tablet but it sure isn’t $900 difference.

    The premium, if you take the P1620 vs HP-Mini is (ballpark) 50% component choice and 50% market pricing. Not to be branded a parrot but the U810 does pretty much everything we’d expect from a UMPC/Notepad for $1000, if it had a bigger screen and keyboard, and shaved off a few hundred bucks by utilising the additional space it’d stomp the HP-Mini into the ground.

    None of this is unachievable. Indeed we can see that the 8.9″ screens are not adding a huge cost to the existing systems so it isn’t like we’re reliant on some technology price drop to make it a reality.

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  44. James,
    I agree that TPCs are quite pricy if compared to the Eee PC or the slightly newer HP.
    And to add insult to injury, there are actually comparable devices with a touchscreen (NOT an active digitizer) available in the market at a rather small premium (various Cloudbook variants like the Belinea S-Book for example). Obviously, you are not going to use a passive touchscreen for heavy inking like you are doing and an active digitizer might allow for a slightly higher premium.
    And while I buy into the “lower market volumne” argument somewhat, I also believe manufacturers just view TPCs as premium products that can be sold at a higher margin.

    However, let me voice another opinion on the Eee PC and its very low end / low price brethren:
    Many people just buy them because they are soooo cheap without thinking mich about it (some other posters also mentioned this). I believe that a large bunch of buyers will rather quickly realize that what they bought does not really meet their needs. The excietement about the larger screen (8.9″) models seems to support this. So they will buy larger notebooks (and some models from dell and other manufacturers are available for roundabout $800) and the cheap, low spec devices will end up gathering dust (or potentially really as kids’ toys).

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  45. Very good points. I use a convertible, but use in tablet mode 75% of the time–mainly for notes or research. I have no use for a touch screen (although it is fun to watch my two year old niece write with her finger–and pull her finger back to look at it to see where the ink is coming from:-)).
    While I have paid more, I feel up to $400 premium is a fair price to add tablet functionality.

    In priority of need:
    *long battery life
    *Instant on (I can still dream)
    *Bright display
    *Processor speed is not that important–need to use OneNote, email, web browser, word-processing and IM client.
    Touch screen on a tablet doesn’t even register on my radar. My current tablet has that capability and I turned it off.

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  46. You know its tough to really weigh in whether you can make a bad or a good choice between your Fujitsu or the HP Mini. I’ll tell you the truth the HP Mini really sways me. I use the keyboard more than anything but enjoy tablet functions as well. I own a Fujitsu U810 and a Samsung Q1 Celeron, and the tablet functions are great on both of them, but what really attracts me to them is the size. The serendipitous thing about those 2 devices is that their price was modest, and since tablet/tablet functionality is secondary, it was hard to me to spend more on other units/configurations. Besides, their reviews were very good as well and that made me take the plunge. Size matters to me very much as it does you, and price is not a concern. I do see the price premium you pay for your Fujitsu over the HP Mini, but just like me, price is no concern for a machine that feels good and works good. What you have to think is which machine do you find yourself reaching towards and picking up and using the most? I admit even with my Fuji and Sammy I still revert to my Toshiba Libretto U105, it was and still is the perfect sized mini laptop that was ever made, and it was $2299.99 when I bought it; meaning price was no concern. Now comes the dillemma, the HP Mini is not mini compared to my Toshiba Libretto, but …. now I am looking at the fact that the Libretto is getting old, 1 GB of RAM, can barely run Vista Basic; but its hard to shelve because IT WORKS SO WELL (with XP). Its speedier than the Fujitsu U810 & Samsung Q1 and even my ThinkPad X41 (sad but true). Now against all my instincts, the HP Mini looks good but price … tells me otherwise … the only reason I like it so much is the ExpressCard slot and its size (in that order). I would be willing to pay more for one, that is no issue but I am scared of the VIA processor, and don’t know enough about the Intel Atom. So the answer is that the premium is worth it if it really qualifies itself in the features, workmanship, ergonomics, and usability to take you to the next level of computing/experience you require.

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  47. James wrote: “The fact is there is a big premium over these low-cost notebooks coming out now and the average consumer has to do much more soul-searching to decide if they should pay the premium than they used to.”

    In my opinion an average consumer will have no trouble deciding between a $500-$750 Mini-Note and a $2000+ ultra-portable. There might be some soul searching if a Sony TZ or Fujitsu P7/P8/P16 were available for $1000-$1200, but even then only a portion of the mass market would be interested. I’ve read some comments that the HP Mini is too expensive!

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  48. Analogy: An average consumer buying a small sedan will probably choose a $16k Toyota Corolla over a $40k BMW 335i.

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  49. If it’s a tablet you’re after, then yes, it’s worth the premium – because that’s the price point that it’s selling at and it hasn’t been discontinued / dismissed as a product line.

    I’m a tablet user (tc4400) and often mobile. However, my true mobility writing / notetaking isn’t with my tablet, rather, it’s with my current “mini”… an old MobilePro 900C. I still find a tablet not “mobile enough” for my needs (I want it handy and unobtrusive throughout the day). I’ve been awaiting a successor for light, portable, and usable touch-typing solutions in a small form factor, and the HP mini just might be it (I ordered one yesterday).

    I can’t tell you the number of times people have cooed at my humble MobilePro at use in public (car wash, theater, restaturant, airport, etc.). There’s simply a large number of people desiring something like it for document creation, e-mail, and internet surfing.

    Nevertheless, I long for the “instant on” of my MobilePro and it’s long battery life in newer products. I think the EEEs, Minis, et al will largely crush >any< potential of an embedded OS successor to the CE devices of yesterday. SSDs bridge and may eventually shorten the gap considerably on these fronts (boot time and battery life) between highly mobile solutions and their desktop/laptop counterparts.

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  50. Actually, I am trying to choose between HP Mini and a tablet pc (Fujitsu P1620 or OQO+folding keyboard). Size-wise I don’t want anything bigger than HP Mini. I’ve never used a TPC but I’m tempted, so I’ll appreciate if other people can share their specific usage scenarios.

    1. Taking AD HOC notes like phone numbers, brainstorming etc.

    Do you really prefer taking notes on the computer to jotting on a piece of paper? For now I use pen-and-paper and later, usually at the end of the day, I copy (type in) all the important information from my scrapbook to the computer (spreadsheets, SuperMemo, MindManager, Addressbook, or simply text files). I can start using a normal pen in no time while before starting inking I’d need to make sure the computer is on, resume it if it’s not, start OneNote, open the file, switch to the appropriate page, is it worth it? It often makes me smile when I see people trying to save my phone number in their PDA, going through the menus, using a stylus in the handwriting recognition mode, correcting mistakes – it often takes ages.

    2. RESEARCH notes:

    * speed: is your inking really faster than touch typing? (I can type pretty fast)

    * readability: I assume the handwriting recognition technology is not very useful unless you ink slowly and very carefully. I take quite a lot of research notes on paper and then copy the contents by typing in a wordprocessor. This takes quite a lot of time but ‘copying’ becomes automatically some sort of ‘revising’ the material so in result I memorize/understand it better. My typed notes are also 100% readable which is not always true about my handwritten notes – it takes me sometimes a while to decipher what I wrote a long time ago.

    Several years back I bought C-pen, a portable pen scanner, to scan quotes from books and it worked fine but after using it for a while I realised that each time I scanned a line of text I kept checking on the bult-in lcd whether the text was recongised correctly. It slowed my reading down significantly. And then I needed to transfer files from the scanner to the computer and correct mistakes. I’ve stopped using the scanner although it works as advertised. New technologies are simply not always worth the hassle.

    3. Reading E-BOOKS:

    It is tempting to use a TPC in the slate mode as an ebook reader, especially in a cramped compartment.

    4. MINDMAPS
    I think I might use inking in mind maps although I’m not sure if there’s any real advantage here. I’m afraid the readability of my maps would suffer.

    5. SUPERMEMO
    Memory-aid software. It must be great to use Supermemo in the slate mode for daily repetitions. I could use it anywhere – even while walking, standing in a queue. I can see the advantage of the slate mode here.

    6. WEB browsing
    I don’t think I’d want to surf the web in the slate mode. I copy-and-paste and comment on what I’m reading on the regular basis. I rarely use a mouse when browsing the web, I have tons of keyboard shortcuts.

    7. DRAWING
    I don’t draw much. If I do, I can always scan the drawing. I understand it might be great for architects, designers, artists – but not for me.

    Are there any other usage scenarios that I might adopt?

    Jan

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  51. Jan, I won’t address of all of your scenarios, but a few quick thoughts come to mind. If you’re using the Tablet PC as a tool, you’ll eventually have the tool in an optimal state for use. Meaning: you’ll likely have it on or in Sleep mode when you know you’ll be ready for note-taking. Resuming from Sleep should take five seconds or less.

    One thing you didn’t mention, but I think is a VERY valid use-case is: finding notes you’ve written previously. Using OneNote (as an example), your handwritten notes are indexed and searchable without any action on your part. You don’t need to “convert” your handwriting to text and everything is highly searchable. Not so with paper notes, which you then “convert” to text by re-typing.

    I’m not trying to convince you either way, I’m simply adding more info to your decision making process. I highly recommend spending some time with a Tablet PC; ideally for a few days. I know that ALLTP.com used to offer 2-day demo deals; you have to pay the for the Tablet in advance, but you can return it within 2 days. Just a thought.

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  52. Almost forgot: take a look any of James’s ink posts here on the site. I can barely read ‘em but Windows has no problem interpreting his notes. ;)

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  53. Asus could rewrite the rules for tablet computing too.

    Take the EeePC …

    1) Take the keyboard off where it is now

    2) Put the screen where the keyboard is (make it a touchscreen)

    3) Put keyboard where screen was, make it detachable.

    In other words, the screen sits over the components, unlike other tablet PCs out there.

    It seems horribly backward, but with a keyboard that is simply a screen cover and completely detaches (NO hinge), there’s no real radical engineering being done to turn it into a tablet. No need for a fancy swivel hinge ala the Fujitsu!

    Now that Palm Rejection tech Fuji uses — is that hardware or software? I wonder if Asus could even mimic that to prevent vectoring?

    Asus TPC has a certain ring to it, no?

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