In regards to its technology, the notebook is steps ahead of the netbook. The specifications of a notebook are similar to those of a desktop PC. A notebook in the class of Alienware can be used to play top-notch games and it has an Intel Core 2 processor with 2.26 Ghz frequency, 3GB memory, a 7,200 rpm hard disk with 160GB capacity. It also has a HDMI port, FireWire, eSata, and four USB 2.0 that pampers its users. It all sounds fantastic and powerful, but not everyone needs all these sophisticated features.
The netbook is turning into the product of choice for many people for a simple reason. Smart phones are too small for office use, such as for typing, while notebooks hamper the movements of dynamic users. This is where the netbook has won the hearts of many. Of course, it is not for those needing a graphic ATI Mobility Radeon HD card. Still it does not mean the death of notebooks as there are many areas of technology to explore.
One feature that will be the strong point of notebooks in the near future is the non-stylus touch-screen technology. Touch-screen technology has been used in mobiles phones, for example in the Apple iPhone, which has no stylus or keyboard. The only feature left is the direct touch. So, perhaps this will be for the future notebook.
Many people are waiting for notebooks to adopt this technology perfectly. There are actually already such products on the market, for example Dell Latitude XT and HP TouchSmart Tx2z.
However, the market is skeptical about them. It is indeed difficult to expect such notebooks to enjoy a booming market like the iPhone, because the demand for such notebooks does not exist yet.
However, one should watch how Jeff Han did the presentation at TED, which is a prestigious forum for inventors. Perceptive Pixel, the touch-screen technology he created, looked so impressive and was featured in the movie Minority Report. By using Perceptive Pixel, a menu can be moved, zoomed in or out and turned around with just the touch of one’s hand. This means that a mouse, keyboard and stylus are not needed. This is a larger and a more sophisticated version of an iPhone. CNN even used it in its coverage of the US elections last year.
Although Dell XT Latitude and HP TouchSmart TX2z have touch screen features, users still do not feel as comfortable using it as presented by Jeff Han at TED. Dell XT Latitude and HP TouchSmart TX2z have not become the mini versions of Perceptive Pixel.
Dell XT Latitude and HP TouchSmart TX2z have a number of weaknesses, such as slow response and minimum features. HP TouchSmart TX2z is slightly superior to the Dell XT Latitude, however the user interface is not animated enough so it is not that fun to try.
Let’s take a look at the early days when iPhone grabbed the market. Apple spurred application providers to make interesting applications, so today the success of the iPhone is also due to the introduction of many new and interesting applications and games.
For notebooks to succeed they need to imitate Apple’s strategy for the iPhone. New supporting applications are indeed required. So, touchsmart should not only be able to scroll on Windows or move icons. It is not very attractive to users. So, it would be best to upgrade the appearance and provide a more animated user interface. Just imagine if the user interface ala Ubuntu with a 3D desktop could be moved with the touch of one’s finger. That would be an amazing product indeed.
Dell XT Latitude and HP TouchSmart TX2z are not too special because the operation system, Windows Vista, does not support much. Microsoft is not a name or brand that can attract independent and more creative developers to jointly produce attractive applications.
For Apple or even Linux it is easier to attract independent creators. So, it would be ironic if the first successful non-stylus touch-screen notebook came from Macbook, while the first to launch was a Windows-based notebook. It will take a lot to create a touch-screen notebook of the future. If the Windows system is to be used then Microsoft needs to make a special operation system. If Microsoft could make Windows Mobile, why couldn’t it produce Windows Touch, for example? Using the current Windows Vista, which is too rigid, does not offer a solution.
While the market is skeptical about touch-screen notebooks, there is still hope in the near future. Rick Seger, the president director of N-trig, the company that produces XT, is optimistic.
In his opinion, in two years most users will demand touch-screen notebooks that are super intuitive. So, in the near future don’t be surprised if you find people moving their fingers in front of a notebook screen like a magician. (Mikael Dewabrata)
The Jakarta Post, May 11, 2009