When is a Tablet PC not a Tablet? The case of Gigabyte’s M912

Gigabytem912Did you see the new Gigabyte M912 convertible style Tablet PC yet? We should hear more about it at this week’s Computex show and I’ll be looking for answers to a few questions because at first glance, this looks like a nice Tablet PC. But is it a Tablet?I’m thinking it’s not, at least not in the strictest sense, and that’s a shame because it sounds like it will be affordable. But if I recall, Microsoft is only going to license Windows XP Home Edition on ULCPC’s or Ultra Low-Cost Personal Computers later this year. I’m not sure how official the guidelines are for what makes a ULCPC, but the M912 might have three strikes against it right out of the gate…

  • Gigabyte is making the swivel-screen touch-capable, meaning the device won’t qualify for an XP license as a ULCPC.
  • ULCPCs are meant to have meager storage requirements: 80 GB or less. The M912 product page shows three hard drive options: 120-, 160-, and 250 GB.
  • Windows XP Home Edition doesn’t include the Tablet PC functions that the Tablet Edition does. I haven’t seen any sign of Microsoft offering the XP Tablet Edition when XP essentially goes away.

Unfortunately, it already looks like the M912 is caught in “no-man’s land” when it comes to the OS as a Tablet device. Gigabyte says you can get XP or Linux on it, but XP Tablet isn’t likely and native tablet support in Linux is lacking. But the M912 can’t exactly step up to Windows Vista very effectively either: it supports a maximum of one gigabyte of RAM, and our experience shows that 2GB or more is optimal for a positive Vista experience. Combine that issue with an Intel Atom CPU meant to drive lower-powered mobile devices and Vista just might not make sense. Granted, the product page doesn’t specify an Atom processor, it simply says an Intel CPU @ 1.6 GHz. Perhaps the Diamondville flavor of Atom will work better with Vista-powered units. Too early to say just yet, but I fell badly for the M912. Through no fault of its own, it’s a “tweener” device if I ever saw one at this point. Hopefully, news out of Computex brightens my spirits for the device because I love the form-factor.

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