It’s a new device, and still finding its feet in the market, Toshiba product marketing manager, Justin White, said, but it’s one that could well turn into a corporate play.
“We’re seeing interest from that space,” he said. “They want to have a smaller, lighter device they can still sync with their primary computer, but then if they need to they can still access an manipulate all their data on it.”
That same trend has caused the vendor to release the A100 netbook – essentially a thin client device designed to operate within a corporate’s cloud environment.
As White notes, the devices might be in a period of transition, but corporate buying behaviour hasn’t.
“As far as the purchases are going they haven’t change significantly,” he said. “Corporate enterprises want to go for a device that is managed and they can run the major apps across the entire fleet, which you can do right now with slates.”
An inevitable trend?
Last year, Lenovo was awarded a major netbook provisioning contract with the NSW DET.
With Victorian schools making great publicity from iPad trials, it would seem that Lenovo’s netbook education business is under threat, and indeed the vendor is expecting a slow down in that market segment.
“I think there’s been a slow down in the netbook market and the introduction of the iPad will have an impact there – some of that market may move to the slate devices,” Lenovo product business manager, Lindsay Tobin, said.
Lenovo is persisting with Netbook releases – it has the IdeaPad S10-3T, a netbook multitouch device with the convertible form factor that Tobin claims many prefer.
But Lenovo, like Toshiba, is looking at a way to present the ‘coolness’ of the slate device in a new way and grab a share of that market.
At CES, the vendor showed off the IdeaPad U1 – a product designed to cross between notebook and slate.
“It’s a device that looks like a traditional notebook, but the screen can be detached and when it is, that screen operates like a slate device,” Tobin said. “It’s quite similar to the iPad, but using the Android OS.”
Without making specific predictions, Tobin said that overall, the iPad and slate technology had become something of a buzz word, and the vendor saw that as an opportunity for everyone.
“Some of our partners have said their customers are coming to them talking about iPads, and they want an opportunity,” he said.
“So that’s an opportunity for us to working with systems integrators and other partners to provide an alternative to fit that niche – products that have a similar type of form factor and advantages and are lower costs but good enough to fit into existing virtual desktop or Citrix environments, and we’re certainly seeing interest in that. It’s still relatively early in the point of change in the market you could say.”
So, niche as it might be at the moment, every indication is that the iPad and the slate form factor will be anything but niche in the future.
Although nobody is anticipating the death of the notebook, no vendor is ignoring the slate potential, rather they’re looking for points of differentiation, and some of the innovations that are hitting the market right now make the humble notebook look decidedly boring – both as a consumer and corporate product.