Jun 28, 2010

The Netbook of the Future

The netbook of the future is getting closer and closer. It's going to be interesting. I currently own a Lenovo S10-3T and the iPad, and in the future the HP TM2T. All of those devices are good systems but they are still not the future device that everyone is looking for. What's interesting is that the technologies are almost here and whoever puts it together will get at least one purchase from me.

I'm a big fan of netbooks.  Before netbooks even existed I used to browse the internet for small computers.  I came across a lot of UMPC devices from Japan with english keys and always found them to be interesting.  I couldn't afford any of them but I always followed them. When Asus started releasing Eee PC netbooks I absolutely wanted one, but I knew there was going to be something better. A little later the MSI Wind showed up and I almost got one if it wasn't for the cheaper Acer Aspire One.

I decided to go for the Acer Aspire One and since I have owned four of them. The first one I modified the internals and got it to be a touch screen with a kit, I also added an internal hub for my Logitech mouse, and man that was sweet.  The problem is that I broke it right before deploying to Iraq in 2009 and therefore needed another one.  When I was in Iraq I needed a netbook to create a server for my Platoon.  I ordered another netbook.  It was great stuff.  The fourth one was for my sister.  Iraq really showed me how much portability is a must, I mean with all that military gear you need portability and I'm sorry for those guys with big giant laptops that were heavy and bulky.  A lot of my Marines also got netbooks.

Now I have a Lenovo S10-3T which is phenomenal and has been great all these months.  I have learned lots and have posted content at http://www.lenovos103t.com   Then came the iPad which was supposed to change everything and in a way it kind of did.  It's a great device too but I can't do everything that I can with my main computer or my netbooks.  However it does have elements that I want in the "future netbook".

These are the pieces that can make the future netbook:
1. Power
2. Convertible style
3. Form Factor
4. E-Paper
5. Touch Features
6. No booting up
7. Long Battery Life
8. Wireless Docking
9. Operating System and Software
10.  Price

1.  Power
Usually netbooks are associated with underpowered components that create a very limited experience compared to a full on desktop. This is changing. The Alienware M11X is a very good example of a small and powerful system at a small size. It can be considered a netbook but they are still calling a laptop.  Another really good system that can be considered a netbook is the HP TM2T.

Alienware M11X Review

2.  Convertible Style
The classic laptops are limited, and the slate tablets are limited. Classic laptops don't allow creative people to make things on the fly like you can with a touch screen, so the future netbook must convert to a tablet for some situations. Slates like the iPad are limited too because when you are done touching the screen and need to type you have to use the virtual keyboard or pair it with a bluetooth keyboard. You don't want to separate keyboard and screen and the convertible style is the way to go.

3.  Form Factor
Powerful systems are usually chunky and not easy to carry around. The iPad's is very easy to carry around but it's not a convertible. The system that has impressed me the most on this subject is the Viliv S10. The form factor of this device is the way the future netbook will be. It's slim and a convertible.

4.  E-Paper
The problem with lot's of laptops and iPad is that they are useless devices in intense light conditions. Glossy screens are the enemy of the sun too. Now wouldn't you want a screen like the Kindle for that? yes but then you only have black/white/gray color and refresh rate is slow. So what is the solution? Pixel QI is what the solution is. They have a great screen that works well in bright lighting and it includes color! It's something that will be out at the end of 2010.

5.  Touch Features
If you have been using a touch device for a while like the S10-3T or any tablet then you know how easy it is to begin always wanting to touch the screen. So yes the future netbook must have touch capacitive screens so you can do things with your fingers. But then you run into the problem of poor precision with graphic editing, this of course is fixed by a stylus. Then you run into another problem, when you write with your stylus usually you rest your palm on the screen which might throw off precision. Good thing is that all of these technologies are present already and only need to be implemented.  The trackpad/touchpad is a bit of a joke and it's an old technology that should be eliminated.  Everything should be touch on the screen.

Palm Rejection

HP TM2T Sketching and Coloring (mute the audio if you can't stand it)

6.  No Booting Up
There is one feature on the iPad that I love and every device should have and that is the ability to wake up and be able to work without booting up. This feature is a must on every new device.

7.  Long Battery Life
If you have a laptop then you know how much battery life you can get out of it, which sometimes isn't much. A lot of them you have to constantly be plugging in because the battery doesn't last that long. In a way they are portable desktops more than an actual "laptop" and that's why I love netbooks, they can give you lots of hours of battery life. One of the reasons I bought my S10-3T was because of the awesome battery life (with the 8 cell version)  It gives me plenty of hours to do things without plugging the system to a wall outlet. But there are even better systems out there such as the MSI Wind U115 and the ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1005PE.

MSI Wind U115 Hybrid (17 hours battery life)

The MSI U115 got banned by Microsoft because of hybrid storage SSD stuff and XP.

8.  Wireless Docking to Everything
Why are we still using cables? USB for your phone, firewire for your camera, VGA for your projector, HDMI for your tv, 3.5mm for your headphones, power cables. This is all retarded.  There are ways to do all of these things wirelessly today.

Bluetooth can do wireless keyboard and mouse, headphones, stereo systems and file transfers.

Wireless video transmission systems exists from Warpia, IOGear, and Intel. Intel has some laptops able to wirelessly connect to your TV and stream 720p content without a problem.

Wireless power can be done via something like Powermat. Maybe in the future we'll put the netbook on the powermat and that turns "dock mode on" enabling "desktop mode" so you can connect to monitor, tv, or projectors and automatically connect to your wireless keyboard and mouse and stereo system.

Another thing that I would like to see is connection from PC to PC ad-hoc style so you can share files or play games (you can do this on Windows computers but it disables connection to your wireless router)  I used this system to set up a server from my Acer Aspire One to share files in Iraq (no need for a router). One little example:
So you made that killer power point presentation and after the presentation someone else wants a copy.  You both don't have a usb thumb drive and you don't have a wireless router or 3G, how do you share that file? well use Ad-Hoc and you send the files to each other in an instant no matter what the device is. Netbook to netbook, netbook to cell phone, netbook to iPad, PSP, or any device. (bluetooth can do this too but it's slow)

Wireless VGA + Bluetooth Stereo

Intel Wireless Display

Some laptops with wireless display include: Dell Studio 15z, Sony Vaio S Series, Toshiba Satellite E205.

Wireless Charging

File Sharing with Zunes (Equivalent to Ad-Hoc with laptops/netbooks)

Infinitec Dual Networking (basically wifi + ability to transfer to another pc)

9.  Operating System and Software
XP is not finger touch friendly.  Win 7 is a lot more finger touch friendly.  Maybe Windows 8 can do it.  Lots of the programs that have been developed to cover Windows and make the interface more "touch friendly" are slow and horribly unoptimized.  They need to look at what Apple has been doing and add some of the touch features.  Explorer offers the users a neat way to organize files how they want them via Folders, it makes sense.  Navigating through things is very easy with Win 7 but there are certain functions like copy, paste, delete, and undo should be somewhere in Explorer like they had in XP.  Flicks are a neat way of doing things and I use them to do some of the functions I mentioned.  I don't want to do those features with flicks.  The virtual keyboard also sucks on Windows, the iPad's is better.

Web Browsing - smooth huh?

Flicks for easy navigation on Windows 7

10.  Price
Most Tablet PCs are overpriced and offer low specs.  The TM2 has a mobility graphics card but offers a slower Core i5, the Lenovo X201 doesn't have a good mobility graphics card but it offers up to Core i7 processing power.  Obviously options will add to the price and so far the TM2 is the closest to a reasonable $1000 tablet.  The iPad is very well priced and it enables more people to have it, and therefore it creates a bigger buzz on the internet via community and "social media" sites.

Almost all the elements exist for the "netbook of the future" but they just need to combine those elements.  Other things like TV Tuners, FM receivers/transmitters and 3G/4G wimax are nice but not needed.  For my Marines netbooks provided tons of entertainment for our down time in OIF 2009. To demonstrate how popular netbooks are becoming this is the breakdown of the 4 hooches we had in Iraq.

Hooch 1 - 1 Netbook, 3 laptops (element leaders, Sgts)
Hooch 2 - 5 Netbooks, 5 laptops (vehicle commanders, Cpls)
Hooch 3 - 4 Netbooks, 3 laptops, 1 Macbook (WTF)  (drivers, gunners, gibs, LCpl and below)
Hooch 4 - 8 Netbooks, 2 laptops (drivers, gunners, gibs, LCpl and below)

Totals: 18 Netbooks, 13 Laptops, 1 Macbook

I really believe in portable devices and prefer the netbook size compared to the chunkiness of laptops.  I bet they will have something that combines all of these elements by next year (2011).  We got some exciting stuff happening in the world of technology.  It's going to be good!  When that device arrives I will be the first one to put cash down.  Enjoy!

Jesse B Andersen
Technology Enthusiast


Fred said...

Great information here. I was just checking our my google alerts for 'mouse and man' are your site got triggered. I hope to get a little netbook soon. Thanks for the information.

Jesse B Andersen said...

That's funny that you found my site using 'mouse and man'. I never would have thought that as keywords for this post. Glad you found some useful info in here. :-)

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