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Cheap Linux Tablets, And (Maybe) An Apple Tablet 351

penguinrenegade writes "Element Computer has come out with the first sub-$1000 Tablet, and it doesn't come with Windows. It's not running a stripped OS like Windows CE, but a full-fledged copy of Lycoris Desktop/LX. This company seems to really have it in for Microsoft, with a 'No Windows' policy. Good to see someone finally standing up against paying the Microsoft tax. Maybe now we'll start seeing Linux only OEMs and resellers." Also on the tablet computer front, SeanAhern points out Cringely's latest Robert X. Cringely column, in which Cringley makes the case that Apple is readying a tablet computer for market, and "suggests that 'until next year, the parts won't have been there to make tablet PCs successful. What's missing has been the killer app, and what kept a killer app from appearing was a lack of hardware support, which I believe will be over soon,'" writing "He's got some interesting ideas about where Jobs might go with his Digital Hub idea." (This is an Antaur-based machine, not the Toshiba tablet mentioned in October.)
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Cheap Linux Tablets, And (Maybe) An Apple Tablet

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  • Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Atragon ( 711454 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:25PM (#7605061)
    Depending on the software availability angle, this could be a major breakthrough for Linux, being the primary OS for a vendor.
  • by Amiga Lover ( 708890 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:31PM (#7605112)
    But a tablet mac sounds like the furthest device from possibility to me. I'm just going on gut feeling admittedly.

    Apple tend to innovate in solid areas. There's the odd revolution (the original mac, the original powerbooks) and then there's refining what already exists and people want, such as iPods

    a Mac tablet would be refining a current idea that few people want.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:31PM (#7605115)
    "Maybe now we'll start seeing Linux only OEMs and resellers."

    That was never a problem in the first place. It is that Microsoft has threatened to revoke the ability of retailers to carry computers with Windows alongside with other OSes (i.e. stop selling Linux, or you can't sell Windows). Most retailers balked, since most of their business is Windows, they'd rather not have to worry about losing a large portion of their customers for the sake of those that want Linux.
  • Inkwell == Rosetta (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:38PM (#7605166)
    Inkwell is the Newton's handwriting recognition engine ported to OS X.

    For certain uses, tablets are great. I loved the Newton - it was a great computing solution for people who have to stand up. (Like walking around doing inventory control, or doing data entry while inspecting a highway, doctors, etc.)

    If Apple could also market it so that it competes with something like the Wacom Cintiq tablets, but also could have a keyboard plugged in and be like a full blown Mac, I could see it filling a niche.
  • by veddermatic ( 143964 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:39PM (#7605168) Homepage
    And will no doubt be the only Tablet that people actually want, and that does what people need a Tablet to do.

    Then, three years later, the x86 crowd will rip it off and Mac bashers will once again jump back on the "HUR HUR MACS COST MONEY HUR HUR" bandwagon.
  • by Azghoul ( 25786 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:41PM (#7605194) Homepage
    This is going to seem like your average flaming /. question (hmm, that didn't quite come out right), but I'm genuinely curious as to the problem that the tablet PC solves. What's it good for?

    I honestly don't see the use in it, and instead I really see another try by engines of industry to create demand for a product noone really needs...

    Hopefully someone can explain it to me, and this isn't just me turning 30...
  • by Radi-0-head ( 261712 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:45PM (#7605214)
    Granted, yes, it was a single mistake...

    BUT A *REALLY* FUCKING STUPID ONE! The kind that tend to destroy your reputation instantly.

    Does anyone not agree?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:45PM (#7605216)
    The article talks about the "killer app" for the tablet being home theater (basically). Then it goes to add that the hardware to make that possible - UWB wireless - is just coming out in January.

    To me though none of these pieces add up. I can possibly see HD video feeds between components and even PC's being of some use - but to a tablet? HD resolution is going to be wasted on a tablet screen (at least at current DPI for LCD's).

    Then once the video gets to the table - what then? A really large glorified remote control? Why would Apple have any interest in that?

    In the article he even mentioned the quote from Jobs that I agree with 100% - computers need keyboards. I have zero desire to see a tablet from Apple, partly because I feel it would be a drain on them but also partly because I just can't see how such a device fits into anyones world other than sketch artists. I beta tested some kind of tablet PC long ago, and the device worked OK - but I was hard pressed to find good reasons to own one, and now I have a laptop which I find much handier.

    Would an Apple tablet be cool? Possibly, but not in the same way the iPod or OSX is cool...
  • by vruba ( 652537 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:52PM (#7605261) Homepage

    Paper and pen(cil) are very good for taking sketch-like notes. If you'd just convert raster sketch-notes taken on a tablet to MathML (e.g.) anyway, you might as well do the same thing working from paper. In other words, there's no extra convenience in recording notes digitally if you're going to do a computationally difficult/impossible transform on them before it matters whether they're digital.

    I think any tablet would have to have an extremely good equation-recognition system before most people would find it useful for taking notes. Even then it would be competing with pen and paper for speed and flexibility of interface. I wouldn't consider paying for something that just gave me what I'd get if I scanned my analog notes.

    Tablets might be a good idea someday, but I don't think even Apple can do it with (what little I know of) current natural-graphics-recognition technology. Wake me up when they're twice as good as pen and paper and cost less than three times as much.

  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:11PM (#7605387) Journal
    give me a fucking break. He's not a historian, he's not an analyst, he's a journalist. He can throw together a summary of what he's read elsewhere, add in some predictions, and spell check it.

    Now you know why he fits in at slashdot.

  • Mac Tablet PC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NtroP ( 649992 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:13PM (#7605397)
    You know, I can't remember how many times I've been away from my computer (in my house or at work) and wanted to just "pop in" and do a quick check on a running process, check for the latest /. story, browse CNNs page, check the TV or Movie guide for my area, read my email or some other, predominantly point-and-click, activity.

    I think most manufacturers are having problems with table PCs because they are trying to make them keyboardless laptops. It will never happen. Why? I hate to write. So do many others and true handwriting technology is so processor intensive you can't currently pack it into a handheld. I'd rather type. I can type much faster that I can write and, well, you see where I'm going with this.

    If I were going to deliver a "tablet" PC, I'd make one like this:

    • Thin, light, solid state - no moving parts and pretty much sealed.
    • Built-in wireless (802.11g?) and a (maybe some sort of universal) card-reader slot for SD cards, microdrives, memory sticks, etc.
    • Low power processor and graphics cards - c'mon kids, we aren't playing Doom on this thing.
    • An inductive charger or some sort of "usefull" (as in - it's a slideshow pictureframe while idle/recharging) charging cradle
    Basically, it would simply be a touch-sensitive dumb terminal for a "central server" or master machine on my desk or in my closet. I'd want to be able to "VNC" to my desktop or open one of several "published" X-window apps with a finger tap. Give me a browser, email client (could be a browser), basic word processing (all running off my central server) and perhaps a small collection of rdp and terminal service clients - perhaps also running off my desktop. With a simple GUI to configure a connection to one (or more?) parent hosts and little or no built-in brains, this could be made dirt cheap (all the processing is handled by the server) - you are paying mostly for the touchscreen - which doesn't have to be very big. I'd pay a couple hundred bucks a piece or so to have one sitting on my coffee table or in my bedroom.

    Remember, this isn't supposed to be a PC in it's own right. It's supposed to be an extension of my main PC. 90% of what I want to do with a "tablet" is monitor something or do a quick browse without having to run into the other room. If you try to make it be a computer in-and-of-itself, it will be prohibitively expensive, heavy, hot and large.

    If I could take my Palm(tm), add low-power, built-in wireless networking, stretch the screen to about 10"x6" and add an Xwindows/VNC client, I'd be getting pretty close to having what I, personally, want in a tablet.

    Just my opinion, but this comes from many time when I've caught myself wishing I could just have my monitor follow me from room to room.

  • by Crazy Eight ( 673088 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:16PM (#7605412)
    Of course there's always pencil and paper. It's pretty cheap too.
  • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:20PM (#7605429) Journal
    What I want is a cheap pad that I can read eBooks on. Websurfing, word processing, drawing, etc. are nice add-ons, but the killer app is being able to have a couple of these slates lying around, with a very long battery life, able to hook into the household wifi network, and deliver any of the ebooks in my library at a moment's notice.

    Right now, the market is oriented toward overpriced, notebook replacement devices, with hi-res screens, bright backlighting, extra bulk for the fold-under keyboard, and *shudder* Windows as the OS. I recently got a Sony Clie NX60 off of eBay. It works ok for what I want (need to buy a wifi adapter card though), but ideally it would have a 640x480 screen, the size of a writing tablet (roughly 6"x8".) I would have gotten one of those RCA REB1200 ebooks, but the proprietary OS and lack of programs/wireless was a big downer
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#7605529)
    Apple's bound to make a tablet eventually. If the market demands it, it'll definitely happen, and the current tablets on the market suck.

    You say that as if those two sentences had anything in common. IIRC, there was virtually no real demand for the iPod when it was introduced (a 5GB digital music player? and $300 to boot??), but it was so whiz-bang and easy to use that it literally created its own market. For what it's worth, the original Apple greenscreen PCs did pretty much the same thing. (The main reason the Newton failed is because it wasn't as easy to use as it needed to be; it fell to Palm to reach that goal.)

    Right now, there's no demand from the market for tablet PCs whatsoever. The demand is from Microsoft, and from those hardware companies they've sold on the idea. But if/when Apple introduces one, it will need to be the most intuitive, uncomplicated, and convenient thing that anyone has ever made. Anything less, especially with Apple's market share, will be a flop and Jobs knows it.
  • by tfreport ( 458641 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:45PM (#7605596)
    I think the need is there for this type of things. Just think for a minute in all the ways that you could use a Tablet PC (one that is cheaper, better designed, and smaller - i.e. the ones that will be coming out in the next couple of years). If you are not that creative I will give you a couple ways I see them being used.

    Companies that need to do inventory but do not have the funds or know-how to invest in barcode wireless scanners. They could use to a Tablet PC to instantly change inventory and update it to the database.

    Hospitals can use the Tablet PC to look at patient's medical records. The doctor would have more information at his fingertip and potentially be in a better position to make the correct diagnosis with further burdening paperwork.

    At my college's admission office, we make phone calls to perspective students. The counselors need the information as to how the calls go (and this is of course done on a database). However, we do not want the perspective students to hear us typing on a computer, so we have to write all the notes out on paper and then someone later has to type these notes in. How much faster would it be with a couple tablets?

    These are just a couple that I came up with in five minutes off the top of my head. There have to be literally millions of other uses (not including simply being used as an ebook reader, since these things seem to be poised to be skinnier than a normal labtop). I have to believe that if Tablet PCs were done correctly and the price is lowered, the demand would be there. I know that from what I have seen with those around me, I want one if I could simply afford it.
  • choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mixmasta ( 36673 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:46PM (#7605605) Homepage Journal
    I don't want a linux-only-oem. I just want one to give me a choice...

    windows, linux, or blank hard disk.
  • by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) * <oculus DOT habent AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:57PM (#7605696) Journal
    It doesn't need a keyboard plugged in. Apple has Bluetooth keyboards these days. I wrote a JE [] on why I thought Apple could make a great tablet a while ago. Interesting to see Cringley's entirely different direction.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:29PM (#7605909) Homepage Journal
    It's not bandwidth. It's SQL connections. One has nothing to do with the other.
  • by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <{layotl} {at} {}> on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:36PM (#7605953) Homepage
    Well, I don't agree. It shows careless research, in failing to realize that XP is a descendant of NT. But lots of people think Windows 95/98 runs DOS underneath because it launches from DOS. But Windows actually takes over the machine except to run DOS-only programs at that point. (IIRC, this actually started with Windows for Workgroups 3.11.) Should everyone who doesn't know that be dismissed solely on those grounds? More to the point, Cringely tends to be more of a "big picture" kind of columnist. You may think he's full of hot air, you may not, but--unless he's screwing up facts consistently, which I don't think people have accused him of--that shouldn't be based on whether you can call him on the occasional fact screwup. This is like deciding Steven Spielberg is a terrible filmmaker because of the infamous "I know this, this is Unix!" scene in Jurassic Park. The scene may well have been stupid, but it's a stretch to abstract from that to "Spielberg is a terrible director"--or even just to "Spielberg's terrible with technology," a point that could certainly be vigorously debated. You may have other perfectly defensible reasons for dismissing Cringely (just like someone might for Spielberg), but focusing too much on this particular screwup really does strike me as a "missing the forest for the trees" thing.
  • by gribbly ( 39555 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @02:10AM (#7606826)
    Right, and if you just put a digital voice recorder in your seat, you don't even have to be there! Great!

    My point being that taking notes is crucial to the learning process. Taking a photo of a diagram or formula is not the same as copying it manually. The two are similar in that at the end of both processes you have a copy of the diagram, but if you just took a photo you didn't force your brain to process the information, you didn't train yourself to draw the symbols, and so on.

  • by patniemeyer ( 444913 ) * <> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:36AM (#7608906) Homepage
    The Newton failed because Apple refused to let anyone write software for it. I recall back in the day as a student having to get together with several of my friends to pony up $1000 to get the development kit for the priviledge of writing software for my Newton.

    Look at Palm ten years later - it's a toy by comparison, but it has a world of software. It's also cheaper at the low end, but not that much.
    Apple could have backed the Newton until it had a footing and created a new market by getting on board with the open source bandwagon earlier than they have.

    I applaud them for everything they are doing now and love my Powerbook, but they really screwed the Newton.

    Pat Niemeyer

I've got a bad feeling about this.