February 21, 2011

Before netbooks came on the scene, it was very rare to see an ultraportable laptop make its way to the States from Japan, and those that did could easily cost more than $1,500. There are still a good number of these Japanese-exclusive designs that can be perused and purchased at Dynamism, but the disparity isn’t nearly what it once was. The U.S. even gets to partake in such unusual designs as Sony’s Vaio P, an sleek but pricey reinvention of the traackpadless, low-profile clamshell Sony pursued with the originally Transmeta-based PictureBook.

However, much of the Vaio P’s form factor appeal has been captured by NEC’s LifeTouch Note, which uses a Tegra 2 and Android on a 7” display (slightly smaller than the Vaio P’s). For now, it’s being made available only across the Pacific in NEC’s home market. However, there are a few reasons I’d like to see it come stateside sporting Android or perhaps webOS under the HP brand.

  • It’s even smaller and weighs less than the average netbook
  • Unlike tablets, it could have a usable touch-typable keyboard
  • It boasts nine hours of battery life, which represents great longevity for something so thin.
  • Its low profile is less obtrusive when taking notes in meetings, and is a dream on an airline tray in a cramped coach seat
  • The form factor is differentiated from those of Windows netbooks.
  • It’s affordable as a second PC, residing in the high-end netbook/midrange tablet price range at $500
  • At least for HP, it would be a nice update to the market that was once served by the Jornada line of Windows CE clamshells..

I particularly like the BlackBerry-style finger trackpad below the keyboard, but it might not be necessary depending on the operating system. Also, there doesn’t appear to be any buttons that flank it, although that could be added.

Alas, the LifeTouch Note has a resistive touchscreen; I’d see stylus input – and perhaps even touch itself– as less important for this form factor. Still, with the right apps, it could be a dream machine for light productivity on the go, filling a niche between tablet and notebook.

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