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Mobile Computer Performance ? Impact to Business and Mobile Work Forces Using Tablet PCs, NetBooks, and NetTops

Recently my company attended the Computex 2008 trade show in Taipei, Taiwan in early June.  It was my fifth straight Computex and we had three people attending for a week.  We have been doing extensive benchmark testing on various Tablet PC related devices in our labs.  Somehow, my colleague found Performance Test 6.1 benchmark testing software loaded on one of the latest and very popular ultra-portables – the Eee PC 901, with Windows XP and Intel 1.6GHz Atom processor (1GB RAM) on display in a booth at Computex.  So we decided to take the few minutes to run the test and record the results. (Never mind that two of us had to block and tackle the booth personnel from seeing what my colleague was doing.)

The overall score was 159. Not surprisingly, the Eee PC 901 model has a performance benchmark score nearly equivalent to the xTablet T8400 Tablet PC, a Pentium III M 933MHz (640MB RAM) Tablet PC my company used to sell two generations ago which has a score of 146.

What does this mean?

Ultra Portables with Intel Atom processors will be a success in many consumer markets for the masses.  They will also be seen by the business world as an attractively priced alternative to more expensive notebooks.  However, these models will not have the performance necessary to run many of today’s line of business applications critical to field workforces. The systems providers that sell to vertical markets – such as MobileDemand and many others – will have a job to do to convey the message that these new Ultra Portables will not provide the necessary horsepower for their needs – and in many cases the durability for them to survive even a few weeks or months.

A case in point on the horsepower:  My company has sold thousands of our rugged Tablet PCs to field beverage sales markets (beer sales).  Their selling software used to run effectively back in 2005 on the xTablet T8400 model with the performance benchmark score of 146.  We are hearing reports that the their latest selling software will no longer run effectively on this hardware model that had been deployed 3-4 years ago.  It simply runs too slowly to be of use. Lucky for us that the xTablet T8400 model is two generations old.  Our current xTablet T8700 has an Intel Core Duo architecture, a performance benchmark score of 296, and will run the selling software very well.  It’s time for these customers to upgrade to the latest hardware architecture and the software is pushing this.  It’s not because the hardware is failing, it’s because the software has grown in complexity and features that necessitate MORE system performance.

Secondly, you may have also heard that Microsoft is progressing to move their OEM device manufacturers to pre-loading ONLY Windows Vista on computer systems.  A major date on this is just a few days away – June 30th is the last date to receive computer systems with Windows XP without the need to meet certain criteria:  Customer must supply documented intent to buy 25 or more systems in a 12 month period (and have a custom Windows XP image ONLY), or the hardware device is classified as a NetBook / NetTop – which is usually a lower price point device with processor performance so poor it really can’t run Vista anyway.  Also note that the NetBooks and NetTop devices may only have Windows XP Home Edition – which means you WILL NOT get Windows XP Professional that includes domain connections among other things important to businesses.

Of course, businesses usually test any given system before they purchase – and it would be HIGHLY recommended they do so extensively before considering buying these attractively priced Ultra Portables.  Businesses looking to install NetTops and NetBooks will likely quickly find out they would be boxing themselves in if they go that route:

  1. System performance is poor – may be unable to run today’s  software yet alone tomorrow’s.
  2. Again, system performance is poor – will not run Microsoft’s latest OS – Windows Vista, which has made great strides with Service Pack 1 and is stable and gaining market share.
  3. Current, low cost devices are flimsy at best.  (believe me, I’ve reviewed them and they will not hold up it the field for businesses at large)
  4. They lack domain connectivity – frequently required for businesses.

Look for more details from MobileDemand in the next few posts.

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