April 15, 2006
In laptops, small is beautifulPosted 2795 days ago on April 15, 2006
Writing about the "Origami" ultra-mobile PC in Personal Computer World, Clive Akass acknowledges immaturity of the early devices, but remarks that "...when I first looked at an Origami at Cebit, I got the same shiver down my spine that I felt when I first loaded Mosaic".
I've not yet played with a UMPC, but I'm keen on both convergence and small form factors. Back in 2003 I replaced my old 14" screen laptop with an Acer Tablet PC which has a 10.4" screen. Although it is now two and a half years old, it still draws admiring comments because of its size, rather than for its Tablet capabilities. I will never go back to a larger device, but would happily go even smaller.
What's curious is that most laptops sold today still have 14" or 15" screens. The main reason I suspect is price. Looking at Dabs.com as a random example of a laptop vendor, I can get a 15" Toshiba Satellite Pro L20 for under £400.00. There are very few on offer with small displays. The only one with a 10.x" screen is the Fujitsu Siemens P7120 PM at nearly £1500. Yes, the spec is a bit better than the cheap Toshiba, but even so there is apparently a huge premium to pay if you want a more portable laptop.
Can a UMPC really replace a laptop? Done right, I don't see why not. My existing Tablet comes with external floppy and DVD attachments, but I always leave them behind and don't miss them. I do need a keyboard, but some sort of fold-out affair will be fine. Even a 7" screen will be OK for typing on-the-go.
Battery life is an issue, but let's note that power sockets are sprouting everywhere these days - my train to London has one at every seat. And you can always carry a spare battery.
In a few years time I suspect that today's big laptops will seem as quaint and impractical as those brick-like early mobile phones.
Small is beautiful.
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