Thumb-boards: is there really a need on UMPCs?

Vulcan_flipstart_thumbboardOn the way home from my business travel last night, I chatted breifly with James; I hadn’t had a chance to to see his Vulcan FlipStart demo, nor had I really seen the Samsung Q2 with a thumboard. I’ve seen both now, but in our conversation last night we hit upon people’s desire to have a keyboard integrated with a UMPC. Our discussion is worth a mention, considering the new device announcements.

James said something that bears repeating and commentary; I mentioned that the thumb-board in the Q2 isn’t a compelling feature for me. The 1024 x 600 native res sure is, but a thumb-board; not for me personally. James mentioned that the FlipStart thumb-board is usable, mainly for brief bits of text input. There’s the key right there: brief text input. He said for a a few sentences, a smallish keypad is fine but, (and here’s the kicker) for a few sentences, you can likely ink them just as fast, assuming you’re relatively proficient at writing. So where’s the real need for a small, integrated keyboard on a UMPC? I’m not sure there is one. For short bits of text, I can ink them nearly as fast as I can tap them on a small thumb-board. For longer bits of text, I’d want a full size keyboard; integrating such a beast would eliminate other mobility advantages of the UMPC class, so I don’t want to see that either. Thoughts?

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