The 2011 Line-Up
Right now, the troubled Entourage Edge and the less-troubled Pocket Edge constitute the sole members of the dual-screen tablet category. 2011 is set to see a small wave of new devices launch. While both Edge tablets are LCD / E-Paper mixes, the next generation of dual-screen slates will be much fancier.
Still unresolved is the question of how to make the dual-screen form-factor commercially viable. Some manufacturers are betting on large displays, while others (like Entourage) are playing the whole field. Most of these devices focus on the education market, but enterprise clients have also been courted.
Here's what we can expect out of 2011 dual-screen slates- and which ones have a chance to survive.
Acer's Iconia: This is the dual-screen wonder that got on everybody's radar. The Iconia has two mighty 14" screens and a total weight of 6.1 pounds. This is definitely not a mobile device. Rather, Acer sees the form factor as an opportunity to redefine the laptop computer.
The Iconia will pack an Intel Core i5 CPU and multitouch capability. It is likely to cost roughly $2000, putting it well outside of the consumer tablet market. That said, the idea of a dual-screen laptop is enticing. As display technology becomes less expensive and more efficient, we may see this form-factor come to dominate laptop computing.
Taiji Electronics has another example of the dual-touchscreen slate. They showed off the T10A at the Elexcon conference. Taiji went for two 10.1" ddisplays and a VIA 1.2 GHz processor, backed up with VX700 graphics and a 32GB SSD. There's a front-facing webcam and Windows 7.
We're looking at the same basic idea here. Replacing a laptop's keyboard with a second display. Taiji just takes things in a different direction from Acer by designing this as a low-power mobile computing solution.
The Toshiba Libretto W100 is proof that customers are interested in the dual-screen notebook form-factor. The manufacturer put a limited run of them up on amazon and the devices sold out in a matter of hours.
MSI's Dual-Screen Tablet: This little demon was introduced to the world at CES. Then it had 7" and 10" form-factors with a 1.6 GHz Atom CPU. It used an SSD and seemed to be right on the mid-line between a truly mobile device and a bulky laptop replacement.
The Iconia will be an extremely expensive dual-display laptop, which gives MSI (or someone else) plenty of room to bring out a lower-cost dual-screen solution more suited for mobile computing. Such a device could prove exciting to students looking at something like the Kno and finding the price a bit high.
The Kno: will actually have single AND dual-screen versions. The dual will cost $899, which puts it firmly in the mid-line of the devices on this list. The nice thing about the Kno is the fact that each screen has its own battery, giving it a rough battery life of around eight hours. It isn't going to be a comfortably portable gadget though. Twin 14.1" displays probably mean a weight in line with the Iconia.
Where Things Will Settle: Large screens will not work on dual-display tablets. They make for too much weight and too much battery drain. I think we'll see an increasing number of large, dual-screen laptops like the Iconia, as well as smaller "netbook" sized models. For tablets, expect successful dual-display devices to stay at around 7" in size. Anything else is just painfully cumbersome.