The Costs Can Add

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-05-12 Print this article Print

Up for Tablet PC"> "Nurses do like a larger display," said Sumit Agnihotry, product manager for all of Acer America Inc.s notebook products in San Jose. The company has several deployments of its 3.2-pound TMC110 model in hospitals. "They can get back to their desk, turn it around, do e-mails," he said. Right in the middle of the two notebook vendors sits HP with its Tc1100 notebook, which allows the keyboard to be undocked entirely, creating an even-more mobile PC. Ken Cotter, a product manager for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, said HPs tablet works best in varied physical environments, such as a doctors office or airplane. "One of the reasons this design was chosen was for flexibility," he said.
Microsofts Dixon expected both the slate and convertible tablet form factor to be successful. However, cost alone could inhibit widespread acceptance of pen-centric functionality.
Integrating tablet functionality to a notebook design will add cost to the platform, Walker warned. For example, adding a tablet digitizer will add about $40 to the manufacturing cost. Meanwhile, Microsoft charges about $30 more for the Windows XP Tablet Edition than the base version of Windows XP, he said. After a protective glass is added to the display and the backlight upgraded, the street cost of the convertible notebook can go up by $300. "The average user can buy a notebook from Gateway or whomever for about $1,300, while a tablet could run up to $2,000—those figures arent exact, but you get my drift," Walker said. "Is it worth the extra $700? The answer is no." Corporate buyers have had a difficult time justifying the extra expense of a tablet, added Sam Bhavnani, a senior analyst with Current Analysis in La Jolla, Calif. So have consumers: "The OneNote [annotation] concept is awesome, but the consumer price delta is way too high," he said. Walker said he estimates that slate PCs will still remain viable, but represent only between 10 percent to 15 percent of all tablets sold. Meanwhile, notebooks will take on more tabletlike attributes, helped out by tablet-optimized LCDs. "Within five years most notebooks will incorporate pen [input] in some fashion," Walker said. "That does not mean they will be convertible. The screen may fold down 180 degrees, to lie flat with the table. … You use it on your lap to draw on all the time; why cant you lay the tablet flat on the desk?" But if the Tablet PC is going to survive in any incarnation, Microsoft needs to provide a compelling usage scenario to justify its existence, Bhavnani argued. Microsoft began to do that at WinHEC, when it began to position the Tablet as a remote display, he said. "Wi-Fis great. I can check my e-mail at the kitchen table, work in bed, do whatever I want wherever I want, or so the argument goes. With a [rewritable] optical drive I can make my own videos. But what do I do with a Tablet [PC]?" Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis. Be sure to add our Windows news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:  


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