Computerworld

Tablet PCs start to get Handii

With more open software, businesses will bite the tablet
The Go 10 by Handii: a low-cost device running standard software could shake up the tablet PC market

The Go 10 by Handii: a low-cost device running standard software could shake up the tablet PC market

Earlier this year I wrote a TechWorld blog about Apple’s new iPad and how it may ignite the tablet PC industry. Judging by the number of competing offerings that have popped up since, at the very least we’re in for a lot more tablet choice.

Anyone who has been watching the computer industry for the past decade will say the tablet PC concept is nothing new, and the keener observers will add how they struggled to gain widespread consumer or business market appeal.

Earlier this year market research firm In-Stat predicted the market potential for tablets to be upwards of 50 million by 2014. This is encouraging, but still well below sales of PCs, notebooks and smartphones.

In-Stat believes content delivery and finding the right business model to monetise the device are the key factors if the tablet is to succeed.

Another factor that will boost the relevance of tablet PCs is how many products come to market that leverage commodity components, much like today’s PCs and notebooks.

Incidentally, the number of products that have surfaced since the iPad was announced makes me think consumers will have tablets shoved down their throats whether they find them practical or not.

One such product that caught my attention is the Go tablet PC by local company Handii.

The Handii Go 10 is a 10-inch tablet PC with an Atom processor that runs Windows 7.

It represents the future of non-Apple tablet PCs because, like the wider computer industry, competes on a level playing field with standards-based, low-cost components and runs a commodity operating system.

The commoditisation of the tablet PC is now in full swing. And thanks to Google’s Android (and previously Windows Mobile), the mobile phone isn’t far behind.

What makes the Handii interesting is the components to build small tablet PCs are now readily available to OEMs of all sizes. There’s no need for massive investments to engineer proprietary technology that goes into them.

As for the operating system that will run on the new generation of “whitebox” tablets, there are no prizes for Microsoft will do its best to muscle into this burgeoning market.

This is good for application support – people will use tablets for notebook-centric tasks – but it may not be the best for tablet PC software innovation due to Microsoft’s nasty habit of taking many years to push out new Windows releases.

For all its drawbacks, the iPad software ecosystem is innovative, but it will soon be matched by open source alternatives that can be designed from the ground up with the tablet in mind.

This is why Handii should seriously investigate using Android or MeeGo as an option for its tablet PCs.

And, as Android has shown, with more open software options businesses will have more options for software distribution, without relying on a third-party app store.

A tablet made from commodity components running a commodity operating system may be just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended, but one of the biggest markets for tablets is the medical industry) for getting such devices into people’s hands.

So am I convinced by products like the Go? You bet!

I may not be the world’s biggest tablet PC fan, but I can now say with confidence the market is finally heading in the right direction – they don’t need to be fancy, just functional, open and not cost the Earth. At $895 the Go can also compete in the cheap netbook space.

Forget the old expensive, proprietary, hybrid notebook tablet PCs: there’s a new kid in town and it wants its share of the action.

If you have a story to tell about tablet PCs for business use, feel free to drop me a line: rodney_gedda@idg.com.au