No ultraportable yet

No, I haven’t bought a little computer yet. Given that my biggest need for it (note-taking on the move) is all but gone in the summer, I’m content to watch the news and see what happens next. Two articles caught my eye last week. Eric Taub, writing in the New York Times, doesn’t seem to acknowledge that ultras have a market, and neither do his “experts.” Here’s a few of his quotes:

  • “This is for people who would have bought a desktop, but buy this to save money,” said Leslie Fiering, a vice president at the research firm Gartner.
  • “Why would you want a PC with stripped-down features that make it harder to do your work?” said Benjamin A. Reitzes, a computer industry analyst at Lehman Brothers.
  • “This is the world’s first disposable notebook,” said Bob O’Donnell, a vice president at IDC, a computer industry research firm. “This has a value as a kids’ computer,” he added. “At $299, it’s a toy.”

What planet are these folks on? Dear Leslie, it’s not about money. Period. It’s about not having to carry a five pound laptop and a spare battery in a case padded enough to project a $2,500 investment. Benjamin, please show me what’s stripped down about the Eee or other ultras? The Eee uses the same software as my desktop. “It has to be big to be good”–please. And Bob, nice left-handed compliment. Funny, I saw folks writing code on these “toys” at my last conference. Classic system-centered thinking that makes me all the more glad Asus isn’t listening to these numbskulls, but is making and selling a lot of computers.

On the other hand, Mike Elgan documents what folks are actually doing with ultraportables, instead of whining about the small keyboards. Makes sense–just like a mobile phone, get a “free” computer by signing up for a two year contract for mobile broadband, banking, whatever. Where do I sign?

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4 Responses to No ultraportable yet

  1. matt davis says:

    Check the usability/productivity studies that show how much more work people can get done on a big screen. And don’t give me that “oh, I can just switch to tty1, 2, etc. and who could need more than that” crap.

    Big screens make it easier to splay your work out in front of you. Like having a large…what’s the word? Oh yeah — desktop.

  2. cbd says:

    Heh, I logged in at the console a few weeks ago just for fun. I’ll admit that I don’t do that often.

    Sure, I know the studies &c. about big monitors, and I agree that an ultraportable by itself isn’t a viable desktop replacement (hence my objection to the first quote). But add an external monitor and keyboard, and there’s nothing stripped down about it. That’s what I plan to do. In fact, I’m thinking about getting a 19″ widescreen and giving my 24″ to Erin for her Mac so she can have more desktop.

  3. erich says:

    The funny thing about screen real estate is that often it’s just squandered. In the “scholar’s lab” at U-Va’s Alderman library we have workstations with big-ass (probably 30″) monitors. Nine times out of ten, if I glance at someone else’s screen, they’ve got a web browser open, maximized to fill the whole screen. Then they’ll switch to a maximized MS Word window, and so on. I wonder how big a screen would have to be for these users to realize that you can get more done with multiple windows.

  4. cbd says:

    I think user interfaces are much to blame there. They haven’t caught up to large screen sizes or multiple screens; minimize, maximize, and similar controls are very primitive and don’t pay attention to window contents very well. For example, I’ll bet some of those folks with a 30″ wide browser window have an 800 pixel band of content in the center and large margins on the right and left. The best “new” tool I’ve seen lately is the Expose thingee in Mac OS, particularly the “show all windows” move. And I like to automatically tile or spread out windows, as Windows and some Linux environments do. It would be nice to see a single interface combine these functionalities with some enhancements to fundamental controls.

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