The UPCs Swiss Army Knife Approach Doesnt Compute

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-04-12 Print this article Print

A new class of portable computers tries to do it all, but doesn't do anything particularly well.

I see Robs fallen for the latest pretty girl to walk down the street. In his column about the UPC, a new class of tiny yet powerful Windows-based portable computers, he waxes enthusiastic. According to Rob, these tiny and cramped devices are poised to steal market share, and ultimate market leadership, away from notebooks and PDAs. I disagree. To start with, these UPCs are still halfway between usability and portability. Yes, they are small enough that you can carry them in a purse or briefcase more easily than todays wonderbrick notebooks from Dell and IBM. But they still dont deliver the ultimate of portability, where you stick it in your pocket and forget about it.
Rob thinks a high-resolution, 5-inch screen is good enough for reading long e-mails and documents. But on airplanes and trains, where many of these will be used, overhead lights and windows can turn a pretty screen into a faded dowager pretty quickly.
And Rob must have perfect vision, which is great for him. For the rest of us with glasses, contact lenses and astigmatisms, were looking for bigger, crisper screens, not smaller ones. Rob also envisions a world where the UPC will replace both the handheld/PDA and the notebook. He points to stalled PDA sales as a reason why those devices are not living up to their promises. But even if you adopt a UPC, you still arent getting rid of every other portable computing device. Look at that thing hanging out of your ear. Its connected to a computing device thats almost as powerful as a PDA, and is starting to replicate PDA-style organization functions. Its called a phone. And smart phones, or even the merely capable phones, are why PDA sales have stalled. When it comes to unconscious portability, the phone wins out every time. My phone (much to my chagrin at times) is with me 100 percent of the time. The UPC is still too big to fit in my pocket, and still too expensive and fragile for me to tote around everywhere. Next page: The whole concept is wrong.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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