The Line Between Laptops And PDAs Gets Fuzzier - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
8/14/2007
12:44 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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The Line Between Laptops And PDAs Gets Fuzzier

Fujitsu is announcing two new devices today -- an ultramobile PC with a 5.6-inch display, and an ultralight tablet/laptop PC with a 12.1-inch WXGA screen. They are nifty devices that underscore the movement in not just one market, but two, because they come just days after IDC reported that the PDA market has dropped 42% since last year.

Fujitsu is announcing two new devices today -- an ultramobile PC with a 5.6-inch display, and an ultralight tablet/laptop PC with a 12.1-inch WXGA screen. They are nifty devices that underscore the movement in not just one market, but two, because they come just days after IDC reported that the PDA market has dropped 42% since last year.The handwriting has been on the wall for a while. Dell dropped development of its Axim line of Pocket PC devices in April. When I looked at the Palm Web site yesterday I noted with sadness that the LifeDrive has disappeared. (Was I the only person anywhere who bought one?)

What's happened is obvious. PDAs are being squeezed into extinction by smartphones from one side, and UMPCs from the other. The smartphones do most of what a PDA does (if arguably not very well), and the UMPCs do something a PDA arguably can't -- they can browse the Web.

The reasons are obvious: it's survival of the fittest. All you have to do is hold the Fujitsu Lifebook U810 in your hand for two minutes to want one forever. I got that chance a couple of weeks ago, after having seen it behind glass at Microsoft's WinHEC conference in April.




Fujitsu's new U810 is a tiny 1-1/2 pounds, with a 5.6-inch diagonal screen. But it behaves like a tablet PC, with a swiveling screen, and the full keyboard makes it easier to use than competing devices.
Click to Enlarge

It looks like a conventional clamshell notebook, but it's tiny -- it weighs just over 1-1/2 pounds. The screen flips up and the keyboard sits flat on a desktop, but that's not the way you'll use it. The keyboard is too small for touch-typing. But when you pick it up and lay the screen back parallel to the keyboard, it handles like the popular slider smartphones, only better: the full QWERTY keyboard is large enough to make thumb-typing a pleasant experience.

The screen diagonal is only 5.6 inches (smaller than other UMPCs' 7-inch screens, like the Samsung Q1 Ultra's, but it's bright and readable, and the fact that you can swivel the touchscreen and lay it flat against the keyboard in tablet-PC mode makes for a smaller, more easily handled package. Battery life is rated at 5 hours -- not impressive, but typical for devices this small.

If you need a full-sized screen and/or keyboard, the other new Fujitsu model, LifeBook T2010 convertible notebook, may be the answer. This "single-spindle" PC (meaning it has only a hard drive, no CD/DVD drive built in) weighs about 3-1/2 pounds and comes standard with an extended battery rated at 11 hours.

("Convertible" means the screen can be rotated in either direction -- a handy feature when you're using the machine to do a presentation or working with another person. And the battery is located along the front edge of the PC, so that when the screen is rotated into tablet mode it balances better in your arm, a nice bit of attention to detail.)

The LifeBook U810 will be available in September, and is priced starting at $999 -- good, but not terribly aggressive compared with the Samsung Q1 Ultra. The LifeBook T2010 notebook, priced starting at $1,599 is available now. More details are available in a press release.

With Web browsing becoming the primary function of any device with a display screen -- because software-as-a-service increasingly means you can do anything you want to in a browser -- it's easy to understand why PDAs look, paradoxically, like dinosaurs, while larger devices like these look like the future, with screens big enough to read, and keyboards big enough to use, but overall size, weight, and battery life that makes them easy to take with you.

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