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Compaq's Laptop/Desktop Concepts 93

g8oz writes "Compaq is trying to 'visioneer' its way to the future. Cringe-worthy buzzword, yes, but check out how they've combined the notebook/desktop computer into one. Lick your lips here." Some of the ultra-thin laptop designs look interesting to me, but as to the others, there's no accounting for taste, I guess;)
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Compaq's Laptop/Desktop Concepts

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  • I just bought a Toshiba Satellite 2805-S402. It has a GeForce 2 GPU, along with a DVD/CD-RW, firewire, built in ethernet, 15" display, 850MHz P3, and the VGA out port can display a completely seperate image than the LCD. All this for $2299. And with the GeForce 2 I can play games and not be hindered like my older laptops. I looked at your powerbooks, but I thought $3499 was just a bit too high. For much less I got this laptop, an 802.11b wireless AP, a wireless card for this thing, and a nice case.
    True, the PowerBook is more expensive. But it does come in at 5.3lbs rather than 7.5lbs, and it's 1" thick rather than 1.6". The display is 1152x768 rather than 1024x768, you start with 256Mb/30Gb rather than 128Mb/20Gb, and the 802.11 card/aerial are hidden away under the keyboard (I assume your wireless card takes up a PC card slot and has a little aerial stub that pokes out the side).

    The Toshiba looks like a nice machine though - having a CD-RW drive would be nice, and it does have 16Mb VRAM vs 8Mb.

    The main thing that swung the TiBook for me was that it'll take up to 1Gb of memory (the Toshiba maxes out at 384Mb). Particularly if you're thinking of a desktop replacement, extra memory seems like one of the best ways to extend the useful life.

  • I have both a laptop and a desktop. I use my desktop probably 80-90% of the time. The desktop is more configurable, more powerful, and much more comfortable to use.
    Interesting - I'm exactly the opposite. I probably spend 10% of the time on the desktop machine, and 90% of the time on the laptop. When I'm not on the move it has an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse plugged in so it's no different from sitting at the desktop.
    I'd like to see laptops with VGA-in ports. It might be kind of cool to use a laptop as an LCD screen (this could be particularly useful as a second monitor).
    This is exactly why I use the laptop more. It's a PowerBook [], so can drive both the LCD and an external monitor out of the box.
    It might also be interesting if you could hook up a laptop to a desktop so that the desktop sees the laptop as removeable storage
    Hold down the T key when you restart, and the PowerBook goes into "FireWire Target Disk Mode". Run a FireWire cable between the PowerBook and a desktop (or another PowerBook), and the PowerBook disk appears as a regular FireWire drive on the other machine. It's also got an auto-sensing ethernet port, so you can plug it directly into the ethernet port of another machine without a cross-over cable.

    At $3,499 [] it's not cheap, but I've found it's definitely a desktop replacement. In fact the only reason I keep the desktop machine around is for the odd game - laptop 3D hardware is still lagging behind a bit.

  • It appears that none of the designs of these "laptops of the future" offer ergonomic keyboards []. Go figure.

    Alex Bischoff
  • They're still around. Go to []; they've got Ultrasparc-based ones now.

    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • If this is their business plan, it's time to get your money out of Compact and into Kenmore, Sylvania, and Pioneer.
  • Interestingly enough, these designs bear a striking similarity to Apple's 'Pomona' prototypes from 1993.

    Pomona saw the light of day as the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh [], but the prototypes [] are where the real similarity lies.

  • very few people here like that idea, but then most of the people here are concerned with cost above all, regardless of form. i think you'll find most people with a fair amount of disposable income will go with these new Compaq boxes, for better or for worse

    Exactly. What many in the /. audience fail to realize is that these toys are designed for people with more money than brains.

  • Disney has used the term "Visioneer" for a number of years (for theme park designers). Most likely predating the scanner company.
  • Imagineers - you are correct.
  • "brand name" manufacturers are looking for ways of differentiating themselves from mom&pop computer store-style computers as they can't compete on the very thin margins of PCs (well under 5%). they need to make something sufficiently different from the do-it-yourself computer world so they can extract higher margins for their computers

    I am not an economist, but I would have to think that there's nothing guarenteed about that 5% profit margin, and it has in fact been dropping over the years. In a slow-growth market where you have an infinate number of suppliers with identical products, my guess is that the both the profit margin and the quality will go radically down over time.

    To argue with the AC below, "open" hardware might be a good thing in the short term due to lower prices, but in the long term, you might not necessarily like the resulting product. Having your favorite vendors delve into a pricewar when you want a stable server is not necessarily a good thing.

    Name brand makes like Compaq and Dell used to be able to demand a premium based on the fact they were better engineered (more stable, more compatible, etc). However, this hasn't been especially true for many years. In fact, Compaq doesn't even really make (personal) computers anymore -- that's Intel and AMD's job, and Compaq functions as what used to be called an "integrator" -- someone who installs the OS and various add-on boards and makes sure that it ships on time. In short, nothing but a well capitalized salesman for Intel and Microsoft's warez.

    But, none of this is rocket-science, which is why the automobile industry doesn't have the same Soviet-style organization as the computer industry. Oh, what? It turns out style sells just as it sells cars? I guess I've committed Slashdot heresy and will go to the corner and administer myself lashes. Meanwhile, here's to your Turbo buttons.
  • Now this is exactly why my friends and I often become fed up with reading /.

    Having put in more than my share of hours in the trenches, I have finally found my niche in the economy and can now afford some of those really cool toys I saw at product shows, but never thought of purchasing. Now is there some proof I am unaware of which shows there is an inverse proportion of brains to the amount of money one makes?

    To me it just seems like some sort of weird socio-economic (previous term inserted to make the coffeeshop intellectuals read this post) discrimination.

    I'm sure I'll prolly be flamed like a cheesy old hotrod for this post, but really, if you work hard and don't hurt others in doing so, what is so wrong with making money? Sheesh.
  • Ok I didn't like it when computers went from the el-cheapo not so expandable console style computer (Commodore 64) to the bulky expandable not so cheap computer (PC)

    I came to like it becouse it's easy to expand. The price is good etc.

    Today most users aren't so worryed about price.
    They don't often expand. For them upgrade is toss old computer buy new.
    Dear god no.. yes that may be where we are going.

    But I don't see us compleatly abandoning the upgrades. No off the shelf will satify the gamers and the gammers drive a huge wave of sales. They blow up computers overclocking them and buy new systems to overclock again. They DO upgrade and do so fanaticly. They buy the midrange low end and high end depending on where they are in life. But none are satisfyed with the off the shelf.
    So expect upgrades to remain. Cheap upgrades.

    I expect the wearable plug board standard 401 or 104? I forget.. Those things will become the foundation. This compaq case design will also.

    But expect more inovation...
    The keyboard mouse monitor and CPU will be standard eventually. Don't like the touch mouse? Buy an expensive trackball. Don't like the keyboard? Buy the new happy hacker for squish tops.
    (Why Squish top? Lets cram all the PC into a laptop... SQUISH.. ewww)

    Until everything is plugable standard and you are not trapped onto one vender don't expect this to fly byond CEOs, CFOs and other business executives. But business executives are the target market for laptops. For now they'll tolerate this for the cost savings of not needing a full PC at the office and the added benifits of a not quite full PC where ever they go.

    Some will eventually carry a happy hacker or a trackball and other hardware to compleate the experence. They don't need the ultra neat added hardware. But some do and so the desktop remains.

    Upgrading becomes an issue. Once video board upgrades become standard the lan gammer will want them.

    But the upgrades won't be as cheap as we'd like.

    PCs will surive. upgrades are cheaper on PCs and it's easyer to build cutting edge systems on PCs.
    So expect the hacker/geek to keep his PC style case while the "avrage user" slips to the "cheaper" squish tops.

    Cheaper not becouse they are easyer to make. But becouse they are made at sevral levels BELOW the PC. We get the Intel Quadomatic 25e chip while they get Intel Celeron 5.. the gammers will grab the side market Quadomatic 24e upgrade module.

    Us first, gammers second, CEOs next then avrage users. Thats how the technology will trickle down.

    The side effect of this...
    Linux drivers...
    This becouse the old PC desktop will become the exclusive domain of Linux.
    Windows will move on to the squish tops.
    (Linux will run on those also)

    The basics of Squish tops will also find there way into full service PDAs and wearables.
    But wearables will be used by gamers, collage students, sysadm and government agentcys. (Usually police).

    Anywho.. Thies will go to CEOs.. future generations will be in your kid sisters hands.
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @01:07AM (#194006) Homepage

    Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first) , but shouldn't we really be spending our time on thinking up new designs instead of re-hashing old ones? I mean, everyone and their mom thinks of computers the same way -- three piece units -- A monitor , a keyboard, and a beige box. There's really nothing wrong with the traditional three-piece idea, but if you really want to be unique, think up something different.

    How's this: Stackable cube computers. You start with one cube. The cubes are build to be interconnectable in a cluster environment, something that is easilly do-able with low end parts right now. Put high-speed IR transcievers on the sides, and make the side panels of the cube out of translucent plastic, like the same plastic that sits infront of the emitter on a remote control. Put two of the cubes near eachother and they establish a connection, and become a node on the cluster. You could stack and arrange these cubes in any sort of shape or fashion, so long as at least one side faces a side of another cube. You could build rings of them, walls of them, or giant 3x3x3 Rubik's Cube clusters out of them.

    Better still, how about modular computers that are meant to physically connect? Have a standard where everything you build has to fit within a 4x4x1" brick. You could multiply the computing power of your cluster just by going out, buying more bricks, and stacking them up. The topology of your stacking would depend upon the type of computing being done -- A linear 1D stack of bricks would be good for horsepower, but a 2D stack would be more efficient at message-passing.

    Lots of things to think about instead of "Duh, here's another 3-piece. Its shiny!!"...God gave us brains, and Autodesk gave us CAD. Get to work.

  • With technologies such as IEEE 1394 (aka Firewire) many of these solutions can be moved out of the box. In fact you will probably find your average mom and pop user choosing to buy stuff that they don't need to open the computer to use. These out-of-the-box solutions are probably a bit more expensive, but then again frying your computer because you don't know what you are doing inside it is probably a lot more expensive. At the end of the day these solutions are aimed at the same sort of person who buys an all in one Hi-Fi.

    Of course if you are a techie, then you will opt to put the stuff inside the box where you know you are going to get the most performance.

  • by Zinho ( 17895 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @12:36AM (#194008) Journal
    Considering that my need for a desktop comes from an overriding desire for expandability using cheap parts, I would never buy one of these. From the JPEGs on the site it looks like they think the big win for desktops is the higher elevation of the monitor/bigger angle between monitor and keyboard. Never mind that it's still not a full sized keyboard - it's just the same keyboard detached from the laptop and placed on the desk. And it's still using that horrific touchpad as a mouse. Don't get me started.

    So let's see... I keep all of the disadvantages of a laptop - proprietary design, expensive parts, and lack of expandabilty - and add several new opportunities for mechanical failure? I don't think so. I'll reccommend it to my CEO - his friends might be impressed.

  • While some of the design ideas presented by compaq's "visioneering" (ugh.) are definately visually interesting (if not exactly pleasing), I see ONE serious flaw behind the entire concept.

    Notebook computers traditionally trade a certain amount of performance and expandability for portability. Which is fine, when you get a notebook, you expect upgrades to be expensive but you know you're gaining mobility.

    Desktops usually are easily upgraded, and fairly modular. You can just take the box out and pop in a new one, leaving the monitor/keyboard/mouse/speakers intact.

    I think making a hybrid is an inherently flaky concept. It's a bit like Microsoft wanting to merge the server and the client into a single OS - the two modules are simply SPECIALIZED and are best at their particular environments. Trying to "homogenize" is a bad idea. When the system doesn't need to move, desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade. This won't change.

    It's not all bad though. There's a great idea hidden in there too - having a notebook where could could keep your monitor and keyboard during upgrades (just buy the "back" of the book for a new system) is TERRIFIC! It could be the answer to cheaper notebook upgrades, provided it doesn't fall apart too easily!

  • But the real question is if it has a small square on it that you can rub to determine if it is a Autobot or a Decepticon. -tduffy
  • OK, so it's a laptop with a built-in monitor riser. Is that really revolutionary? Ooh! Wait! I forgot... the keyboard detaches too!

    I picked up an Apple Powerbook Ti [] when they first came out, and it has become both my portable & my desktop. Sure, when I sit down to do some serious work at a desk I have to go through all the horror of plugging in 4 wires every time (power, second monitor, USB, network), but somehow I can manage that within 20 seconds.

    To me, the best thing about the Ti (and all Apple powerbooks for the last few years) is the built-in virtual desktop support (i.e. the second monitor doesn't have to be a mirror of the laptop's screen, it can be an extension), and the sheer computing power they have. Poor Compaq will be stuck using some power-hungry Intel chip in there that has to throw millions of transistors (and the related extra wattage) at a chip to make it run fast. Those aren't very good concepts for a portable....

    Hmm... this turned out to be more of an evangalical post that I originally thought it would.... Oh well. Compaq may have some pretty pictures and a few decent ideas, but I've got a working consumer model right here....

    -- Mid

  • by dutky ( 20510 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @01:09AM (#194012) Homepage Journal

    <TROLL MODE="apple zealot">
    this would only be cool if Apple did it using tranlucent plastics!

    <TROLL MODE="linux zealot">
    this would only be cool if the pointing device had three buttons!

    <TROLL MODE="windows luser" LEVEL="clueless">
    these are going to rock so hard they'll wipe those Apple losers and those Linux geeks right off the planet! Dude!

    Seriously, Compaq has been making some good looking hardware for some time now (the old 3050 series desktops with the integrated LCD and cordless mouse were works of art, though a bit pricey for the day) but, as an Apple zealot, I can't get too enthused about PC hardware, even when it looks this cool. As a Linux geek, however, I'll have to give one of these babies serious consideration as my next Linux box. It'd be nice to get some of the desk space back, and get a portable machine in the bargain as well.

  • Yeah, stackable / expandable computers are a neat idea. But since the added power your would get would be quite small for consumer applications I'd doubt it's something we'll see any time soon.

    Even when you have SMP and the processors are close to each other and share memory you don't get much more than what, 40% boost average. (Not talking about programs designed for SMP, but more those that have been "ported" to it.)

    Naturally with something like Linux NOW it could change the picture. But normal OS's and applications are not able to use this. (No, beowulf clusters are not "normal" ;-)
  • [jesus, what is this with /. that one cannot simply express support for an opinion without redundantly repeating the argument. a supportive yes! is neither trolling nor unimportant]
  • the toshiba is quite impressive. but i would go for the powerbook anyways. as has been pointed out, it makes up for the missing features with others that the toshiba doesn't have - working location management for instance, firewire target disk mode, etc... but, most importantly, it looks way, way cool. irresistible, in fact. i would get the smaller version for $2349 - almost the same price as the toshiba.
    granted, it plays Quake3 like crap, but for everything else it's a lot better ;-)
    i _assume_ that the tiBook is still so expensive because it's flying off the shelves, and apple is milking it for all it's worth. they have a huge margin on that thing.


    "The reason i came back to Apple is that i didn't want to have to use Windows for the rest of my life." - Steve Jobs
  • The point? The point is aesthetics. Design.

    The difference is someone who has un-framed posters and "genuine oil" paintings on the wall and someone who has lithographs and fine art on his or her walls. The difference is K-Mart computer desk, and Herman Miller [].

    Ideally you want a blend of form and function. Certainly you don't want a pretty box with a hamster powered abacus inside, but why does your super-computer-by-1960s-standards have to be in one of those fugly generic cases.

    Especially these days, when the computer is becoming the focus of entertainment. Computers are becoming ubiquitous, people don't want those bland beige boxes in their living rooms.

    I would love to see more computer manufacturers take the design of their cases seriously. Frankly, I've seen better looking servers than home computers, and that seems ironic.

    Let's face it, you have a special relationship with your computer. It's a tool, yes, but something you face for many hours out of the day. Should it give you a thrill to look at it? I'll save the girlfriend/wife analogy for later.
  • One of the nice things about laptops is their portability. (Duh, I guess.) If Compaq can come out with a desktop that's got nearly the portability/small form factor of a laptop as well as most of the power of a desktop (and a full keyboard) then really, what's not to like?

  • Well, this is purely subjective; I've been using a laptop as my main PC for >2 yrs now. And yes, I am a programmer and yes I spend >>8 hrs in front of a PC. The reason? I spend >>8 hrs in front of a PC: which means, I would like to be in control of my environment during that time, not the PC. I can work on my laptop at work, at home, on the road in an airplane, out in the balcony in this awesome weather we've been having, on my couch, etc, etc.

    Yes, laptops are more cramped (I have a MS Natural Keyboard hooked up to mine right now), but they are not necessarily slower than a desktop if they're beefy enough (RAM is important as the minute they hit a slow-ass 2.5" HD they slow down a lot) and an LCD screen is easier on the eyes for long periods of time, than even a kick ass CRT.

    However, you're right, I too would like a VGA-in port. I have a coupla small boxes doing server work (NAT, etc) and having those ugly old CRTs around cramps my style :-)...
  • Compaq should just close up their design shop and take their lead from Apple, the real creative force in PC design.

    Love 'em or hate 'em, Apple has driven the market in this area... at least since Steve Job's return.

    Yeah, for a long while those Apples were plain-old butt-ugly beige boxes. Or some slightly different color. But since the iMac and the new notebooks, Apple has really driven design of the PC market.

    Apple makes a significant effort in this area, and I don't think it's bad: make your products look good and look different. Otherwise, they're all the same!

    Lots of PC manufacturers never figured that out, to their peril. Who can name more than 5 formerly-popular PC manufacturers who are now all but gone? It's easy, isn't it! And do you know what? They all made beige boxes that were hard to tell apart!

    Then again, I'd never buy a Compaq for myself, no matter what its styling.
  • Their laptops are intentionally damaged during the design phase; I have a Compaq Presario something or another that has its bios more or less wired to work only with Compaq's version on Win98. Installing Win2k, Linux, QNX, or anything else on it may result in the hard drive being overwritten by the "hibernate" feature, which is impossible to disable in the BIOS. Apparently if it doesn't find its special file in its special place, it just starts writing somewhere on the disk. I called Compaq Tech Support and spoke with them at length, and they finally just admitted that this model was designed to work only with '98 as supplied on their Recovery CD. "So you took this hardware and froze it in time?" I asked. "Yes," tech support said. "I'll not be buying a Compaq laptop again," I said. "That's probably a good idea, but you didn't hear me say it," tech support said.

    Plus, the battery doesn't work well, and the (internal) charger quit working after a few months.

    Don't buy a compaq, no matter how cool the blurry PR photos from that VP look.

    - - - - -
  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @12:26AM (#194021) Homepage Journal

    Well it certainly looks nice, but nice looks does not make for a good laptop. I've had crappy experiences with their server line (Proliant's) which would make me think 3 times before personally buying anything for myself from Compaq. I do however wonder how this will stand up to CEO types who like the VAIO, certainly this is a better looking laptop than Sony.

    Damnit I wish they'd bring back the good old Tadpoles to whip some ass on the market. It's a shame they were so expensive =[ I've used one for a few months as a job requirement some while back and feel in love with it.

  • When all of us unfortunate enough to have to deal with their corporate client machines (desktops, laptops) know that all of their laptops are designed (exclusively) for and built for Compaq by some of the same no-name-brand cheapo asian manufacturers that bring you those "anonymous brand" laptops you see advertised in the backs of computer magazines. No saavy geek would buy one of those mystery machines, yet corporations buy they compaq-branded ones. You'll find that compaq laptops are some of the worst quality laptops on the corporate market, with failure rates several times higher than their competitors. My previous (work-assigned) Compaq laptop (4130t) had to have 3 new keyboards, one new display, one hew HDD, one new system board, and was also TOTALLY replaced one other time during its life with me. My current one (3500) has caused all sorts of consternation with those people involved with developing the OS images for our machines due to their quirks and hardware bugs, and is on its second display in 4 months (this one is shot now too).

    So if you want to congratulate a company for Visioneering a new Compaq portable, look no further than some of the "cheapest bid" Chinese and Taiwanese companies that anonymously supply them.

    On the bright side, Compaq lays a thick warranty on the things. If they sell a laptop for $3000 I'm convincec it could cost them no more than $1300 to make. Else the economics of having to replace so many parts on so many in warranty-covered repairs just would make no sense.
  • Have a peek-e-poops at SGIs NUMA technolgy - it's basically what your describing, but not in cubes.

    All SGI has to do now is read this post..... :-)

    ccNUMA []

    Thing is, one of things that lets the commodity hardware market evolve so fast is just that - it's commodity hardware. Standard sizings/interconnects mean the cost handed down to you and me is massively reduced. Thats why SGI charge so much for their o-so-sexy hardware.


  • Looking at these remind me of the unbuilt Apple designs around the time of the 20th Anniversary Mac, when the company didn't have the guts to actually ship anything that cool at a sensible price.
    Nowadays Apple keeps the designs under wraps until they are ready to ship, as they are beautiful, functional and cheap, and woudl get cloned up the wazoo if they showed them off in advance like this.
  • But, none of this is rocket-science, which is why the automobile industry doesn't have the same Soviet-style organization as the computer industry. Oh, what? It turns out style sells just as it sells cars? I guess I've committed Slashdot heresy and will go to the corner and administer myself lashes. Meanwhile, here's to your Turbo buttons.

    sure, it's all pretty obvious that the computer market will eventually be like the automotive market and these compaq designs are just the first step in that direction. i also believe that computers are going to move away from the quantitative component model to a solution-style sell. people will buy x "computer" that lets them do a, b & c. Mhz, processor, RAM and everything else will be nothing more than a footnote at the end of the user's manual.

    Apple has already started along this path with their recent move into retail [], and i don't think they'll be alone for long. the slashdot crew is going to have to get used to the fact that computers are not going to be like they are now for much longer, and the idea of the beige box under the desk and "built it yourself" computers will be a very antiquated idea for only old people (us) (kinda like the way we look at old mainframes today).

    all in all i think it's for the best, but it's funny to watch all the long-time computer geeks fight it as much as possible. i wonder if a similar thing happened with automotive "gear heads" back many years ago? "bah, who's going to buy a car for that much when it only has x horsepower? leather seats? fancy colours? nobody's going to buy that!" ;)

    - j

  • by iso ( 87585 ) <`ofni.orezpraw' `ta' `hsals'> on Monday May 28, 2001 @03:23AM (#194026) Homepage

    i believe that a lot of these PC manufacturers are going to move to designs such as this. the PC market has become a commodity of "cheap parts" that can be slapped together easily. "brand name" manufacturers are looking for ways of differentiating themselves from mom&pop computer store-style computers as they can't compete on the very thin margins of PCs (well under 5%). they need to make something sufficiently different from the do-it-yourself computer world so they can extract higher margins for their computers.

    Apple has 5% of the desktop market for personal computers yet they make more money than PC manufacturers with double that marketshare. this is because they've differentiated themselves enough to extract up to a 25% margin on their personal computers. in a market slowdown like we're seeing, Compaq and the likes can't help but be jealous with their measly margins. they like their server or laptop business where they too extract margins around 20% (note how even Apple can be very price competitive in the laptop market).

    as long as the computer companies can sufficiently differentiate their product they'll be able to charge higher margins, period. that's why you'll see a lot more of these non-upgradeable proprietary computers. very few people here like that idea, but then most of the people here are concerned with cost above all, regardless of form. i think you'll find most people with a fair amount of disposable income will go with these new Compaq boxes, for better or for worse. i like them personally, but then i'm a Mac user too ;).

    - j

  • I've never been a fan of Compaq although I have had good experience with the Proliant servers. My biggest complaint is the fact that all of their components are quite expensive considering the servers are x86 based.

    Now, though, a lot of companies are building some nice x86 servers so my buying decision would not be quite so quick on Compaq.

    I would not under any circumstances touch one of their consumer products (Desktops / Notebooks) with a 10 foot pole. There is not a definative return on investment. I say that as the hardware only seems to have a working life of about 18 months in a corporate environment without a major failure. When buying systems for a typical business application, I like to see them last several years.

    I do like these new designs. I would be more inclined to purchase if they came from another company. I figure if Compaq launches these designs, in about 6 months there will be enough copies to go around. So all in all, this is good.
  • Sounds like a very sound idea. Perhaps a slogan of "More than meets the iPaq"... :)

    "And the beast shall be made legion. Its numbers shall be increased a thousand thousand fold."
  • What, no wide screen []?

    How old school :-)

  • Whether it's for the sake of more "real estate" on the desktop, or to watch a movie during a long flight, it does have its uses.

  • Good point about Compaq... I owned a Presario 1850, and it didn't make me a fan, esp. the fact that you couldn't upgrade the HD beyond 8 gig.

    Oh, you'd get access to the first 8G, but nothing beyond that. Firmware was not upgradeable. Talk about planned obsolescence...

    Meantime my old G3/266MT still handles whatever I put into it. I could upgrade it to a G4 if it were worth the expense for me. There's two different visions of computing for you!

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @12:52AM (#194032) Journal
    I don't see the impressive-ness. Why would I want a laptop/desktop when I can just plug in my laptop and set it on my desk? The reason desktops are around is because of cost of components is a fraction of their laptop bretherin, this whole project just eliminates this benefit and gives people a laptop with stilts to set on their desk.


  • really what I need is a laptop thats easier to use... IN BED.
  • Like many folks, I spend hours a day on a laptop. The big problem is posture--because the screen should be higher. I think that this is great.
  • I seem to be the only one here that thinks different when it comes to looks. I'm sorry, but to me, looks are TOO important.

    Sure, I still do some coding now and then. Sure I write all my own business plans and financial reports and analisys, and sure it's important for my PC to function properly, but that's not hard to do anymore. I can use pretty much any computer and fix whatever problems I have on them on the fly, and as long as I have enough RAM and HDD, i don't care about the rest (not even the CPU as long as it's at least a PII or more). I don't even care if it runs windows or linux, as long as I can get the job done, and I usually can.

    The huge difference I see is that to me, looks are VERY VERY important. I want my computer to look cool, my cars to look impressive and my women to be pretty (and to me my wife is). Why? i don't know. I'm not insecure at all. I don't have a problem with my penis size, I'm not a show off and I'm usually a very idealistic guy (instead of materialistic), but there's nothing like a good design. To me, it's inspirational. If I love the way my computer looks, it makes me want to spend more time on it, and probably I'll feel more motivated. It's like a house. I don't just want four walls, a place to sit and a net jack every few feet, I want a good looking house, with pilars, a patio, good lighting, cool plants, lots of maps and that sort of excentric stuff.

    Maybe it's because I really do love art, or maybe it's because i'm just human. Even the software my company develops has to be pretty, even if we still have to iron out some bugs. And i know this would make a lot of people unconfortable, but a system that looks good sells easily, because it looks polished, even if it's a piece of crap on the inside (and no, we don't develop pieces of crap, really!), but a system that does EVERYTHING, but looks like one of those casio electronic agendas of the 80's is less likely to succeed. That's just how humans work. It's all about perception, no matter how hard we try here to make everyone believe that function is more important. And if I have to mention our holy war just to connect (i'm reading too much katz, sorry), that's why linux is not very popular as a desktop OS for the masses, and windows with all it's bugs and BSOD's is.

    Heck, in our experience, if the software looks good, people are more likely to use and enjoy it and less likely to complain about any faults, even if it's a fault in the system (which creates a different set of problems, especially related to feedback)

    so if this line of computers offers nothing new in terms of functionality or practicality, but look cool as hell, when I get the cash I'll buy one of those, an Audi TT convertible and go watch The Matrix with my wife again in a brand new Plasma screen. Trust me, I'll be inspired. Maybe that day i'll finish my novel....
  • This looks a lot like stuff that Apple prototyped years ago under the codename "Juggernaut." It was a cool idea, but they never really went anywhere with it.
  • Personally, I dissagree with you. The result of an aesthetic computer will undoutably be it's increase in price. I'd rather spend that extra money throwing in some more RAM or a new video card. I supose there will always be the people who want the pretty "I-Fruit" computer, but give me a powerhouse over that any day.
  • Why don't do like IBM and let you twist the screen on a normal portable another 120 degrees. It could be done on any design and the notebook keyboard is much better stowed away on the back whenever you've got the space to fold out a real one. Compaq's solution sucks.
  • think 3 times before personally buying anything for myself from Compaq.

    Tell me about it. I bought my first laptop last year from Compaq, a Presario 1200. While that is their lowest end model, I bought it because I wasn't certain how much I'd end up using a laptop, having never had one before. Didn't want to dump 2 grand into something that I'd only use on vacations. Turned out I love the damn thing; took me about a month to decide to use it as my primary system. With support for dual monitors I get to keep my 17" CRT and I don't have to sync files.

    OTOH, I will not buy from Compaq again. I wanted to put Win2k on the laptop and was having some problems with video drivers. It turns out, according to an email from Compaq support, that they are not licensed to support win2k on that model. Apparently Bill Gates is now dictating to hardware companies what equipment they are allowed to write drivers for.

    Next time I'll go for a higher end system that says IBM on the label.

  • Speaking of Apple... Anyone else think that some of the notebooks on the link look suspiciously like the older PowerBooks?

  • It really has to do with the usability factor. A laptop is still hard to use comfortably as a desktop replacement. Now if they would only do something about the slow-ass hard drives! I would never rely solely on a laptop until that is solved.
  • I can remember a situation with someone I know where a number of different programmers at different companies were in a race to develop widget X. What this guy did was to have it announced that they had already figured out how to do widget X. Of course, the competition said, "well they got it developed" and scaled back their own efforts.

    Now Compaq has some nice designs, some of them almost Applesque.

    But some of their marketing strikes me as being similar to the above, sort of trying intimidate the competition. This will probably work to some degree, although most folks here probably won't fall for it.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • Really, you don't need expansion slots anymore. Virtually everything you need can be done through FireWire or USB.

    Just what I need extra boxes and cables on my desk. If I want add say a new drive (of any kind) it should go in the box not on my desk. Sorry there is still a need for expansion slots and drive bays, if only to stop the clutter.
  • And when was the last time Compaq did anything original?

    iPaq sounds suspiciously like iMac and came out shortly after the iMacs release.... and didn't it come in cool colors also? Innovative!

    And let's just face it. This thing is susupiciously like the TiBook or the ultra-thin Vaio.

    One way to keep your R&D costs down is to copy someone else's.
  • Now, if they could make that removable 'touchpad' you see in a couple of there designs a PDA... Id be first in line. When removed; flip a switch its an RF mouse for the Laptop. Put it in the dock and it runs as your laptop's touchpad && a seperate host (ssh/xwindows the PDA). Remove it from the laptop and its a PDA...

    That would be terrific - thanks. Im sure the 'visioneers' could manage that eh?

  • I know a few people who like it because you can work on two documents side-by-side in a more streamlined fashion. Minor detail maybe, but the details are what apple has often excelled at.

    It's be nice if they fixed that DVD playback detail though...

  • I don't see any point in having wide screen monitors for computers. I know I wouldn't like it.
  • Are they kidding? That won't get hit more than 20 times an hour. If these two designs aren't Apple Titanium and iBook1 with a few hinges (and the Spartacus removable trackpad thrown in for good measure)... Visioneering? Try hindsighteering.
  • "I'd like to see laptops with VGA-in ports. " I second that...

    Or a pcmcia card that only has a vga in and shuts down the rest of the laptop automatically to save power etc. Then i would have space for more computers... hee hee...
  • The link is seriously lacking in information. I'd like to see some technical specs before drawing any conclusions. It looks good, but does it deliver in other areas (battery life, performance, quality, etc.). At the moment this looks like pure hype.
  • You may get a chuckle out of this...

    We have a special name for some of Compaq's products at my shop. Instead of the "Presario", we call it "Pretty-Sorry-O." :)

  • Why not use it's CPU as well. Dock your laptop with your desktop and you've got a 2 processor system.
  • The biggest potential problem I see with this design is that it seems to take away most of the good connector real estate. Since the back end gets folded up under the display, its not reasonable to use the back for plugging anything into the machine. Similarly, since the half the machine is off the desk in each design, that part of the side cannot be used either. This just leaves only half of each side and the front (which is not normally used for cables because it can interfere with typing) for not only every single connector (power, USB, firewire, parallel, serial, ethernet, modem, etc.), but also the CD-ROM and floppy drives (if it has any).

    You can see evidence of the use of "bad" connector real estate in the Design 1 and Design 2 images: headphone/microphone plugs are in the front, possibly compromising the laptop format ergonomics.

    They could always leave off the CD-ROM/floppy or some of those unreasonably wide connections, but then, it wouldn't be much of a desktop if I couldn't hook up my printer, now would it?

  • i think youre right that computermakers are trying to differentiate themselves in this commodity market. but only the successful differentiations will win. apple succeeds because the ibook is so much more than a cute shape

    otoh, the compaq devices appear to combine the worst of a desktop and laptop. as has been pointed out, they lack the main reason for a desktop, expandability. i use a mac not because it looks cool or comes in colors, but because of the extreme usability, something compaq does not yet understand
  • Activision also calls its external alpha-testers the "Visioneers", and it looks to have been in use by them since the Mechwarrior 2 days. :) Are the Disney folks "Visioneers" or "Imagineers"? I thought it was the latter.

    -- Sinistar

  • I bought a Tadpole Sparcbook 3 a few months ago. It's nice enough, but the $8,000+ price tag (when it was new) ensures that only people who require one for their job get one. The metal exterior is nice...when it's in the closed position, it's an armored fortress. I mean, nothing can hurt it.

    I agree with regard to the Compaq reliability issues...I would never recommend buying one for serious business use...and I'm from Houston. These new laptop things look rather flimsy.

  • Why not design a laptop that lets you fold back (all the way back, like a newspaper) the keyboard when not in use? A keyboard can just get in the way when all you're doing is reading and using a touch-screen.
  • sure have it in for us consumernauts, sign me up for a gross! I simply cannot resist such precision wordsmithing.
  • by not-quite-rite ( 232445 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @01:24AM (#194060) Homepage Journal
    I don't know, BUT compaq could be onto something.
    Computers that transform. I mean we have all seen trucks that transform(optimus prime), planes that transform(starscream), or even dinosaurs(grimlock).

    Though I wonder if they would make that cool noise when they transform.

  • I'd like to see laptops with VGA-in ports.

    I like that idea. If the new Powerbook had a VGA-in port, I might very well get one and use that as my only screen :)

  • While I agree with you that we need some good alternatives to the plain old beige cases, I don't see what that has to do with this.

    You're saying the point of those Compaq designs are to be visually pleasing, but it seems fairly obvious that their main goal is in the portability department. The word you may be looking for is "novelty", not "design". Compaq is trying to be unique, and they've probably succeeded (at least for now), but unique in itself is pointless.

    If you want interesting designs, look to Apple. I'm seriously considering getting a G4 Cube; with those looks, that size, and the virtually silent operation, it'll make a perfect 24-hour Linux box for my room. But now we're getting off topic [].. :)

  • by OblongPlatypus ( 233746 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @02:20AM (#194063)

    At the moment this looks like pure hype.

    ..I think that's more or less the definiton of "Visioneering".

  • by OblongPlatypus ( 233746 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @12:41AM (#194064)
    I don't see the point of the two first designs on that page at all. I mean, fine, the screen elevates a bit, and the keyboard comes loose, but looking like a desktop doesn't make it a desktop. It'll still have all the problems normally associated with laptops; low performance, cramped keyboard, and a low-contrast low-brightness screen. The added mechanics of those designs will just add to the price and complexity of the product.

    One thing that may be of use is what looks like a detachable mouse; I for one don't like having the mouse or equivalent centered in front of me. But the result looks like a tiny little thing which wouldn't be any better. If that's the alternative, I don't mind having to carry around an extra mouse with my laptop at all.
  • I can't wait to see if Visioneer sues Compaq for this. How funny is it that even when the PC makers try to be different, their name for the process of being different is already the name of another company! Apparently the Compaq R&D guy who stumbled across a site with photos of Apple prototypes should have gone that extra mile and tried [] before naming their Apple-copying effort.

  • Havent toshiba done this a while ago, with their Toshiba Equium series ? was the best link i could find atm.
  • Like it or not, I think this kind of product is the future of home computing. Microsoft has started giving PC makers suggestions [] on what their computers should look like, and they look a lot like this. Ultra small form factor, flat panel display, and everything hooking up through USB or Firewire. This particular design might be a bit fanciful for a laptop, but this is probably similar to what desktops will look like in a few years.

    Personally, I won't mind. The spec sounds a lot like the Apple G4 Cube [], which is what I'm using quite happily right now. Small and quiet == good. What about expansion? Really, you don't need expansion slots anymore. Virtually everything you need can be done through FireWire or USB. If this is the future, then it looks pretty good to me.

  • When are laptops finally going to be comfortable to use? My ideal laptop is a large, full-sized, split-key keyboard with a widescreen LCD tacked on. It may be too large for an airplane, but it could still be light.
  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @01:19AM (#194069) Homepage Journal
    In fact many startups buy laptops+replicator/docking station [] to replace normal desktops, to faciliate high mobility and save space.

    It also make it easier for them to pack their stuffs when their company go under. :)
  • There are some trade offs to be sure. But now? How much are you really trading? Sure you can't really get Athlon laptops yet, but you can get a fair amount of power in your laptop. 1GHz P III, with 256 MB expandable to 512 with a 20 GB HD and 16 MB laptop 3d grafics card for about 3 grand (15.1 XGA/UXGA screen too). All this is only about 7 lbs. That's some pretty respectable power. Sure, PC's do offer more power, certainly for a fair amount less. No one can really argue that. But a high end laptop is about as powerful as a mid range desktop, maybe mid-high. And really the only programs out there that would tax them are games with all the effects enabled. But at that point the comfort issue is probably more significant.

    The really sick thing is, with out a killer app to drive hardware demand forward, laptops will only look better, and get cheaper. As more people go with small, and often pretty laptops (Compaq 1700 series, some Viao's, new Powerbook) they might demand some of that modular design people take for granted in desktops. (It's not like desktops were created with everything super convienent to install.) So with more, and more varied, people looking for laptops, we might get a little more in the way of choice. Nothing says profit margin like add on sales. That's cool by me, I'll pay a little more for something that fits just right. As for me, I'd really be hard pressed to find a use for all the power available off the shelf in a laptop 99% of the time. Christ my favorite games on the PC are still Stars! and Bandit Kings of Ancient China (how sad is that). But when you look at what is just a year away for laptops, it's nuts.

    Of course no one is debating that you do make some trade-offs. Laptops cost more, about a grand, they're not as comfortable, and they don't have as much power as a desk top. Those first two, totally subjective judgement call. But that last one, are you really using that extra power? I might be so bold as to suggest that VERY few people are. If a really big shift in how people do their computing IS comming, then this move to experimentation by Compaq is pretty prescient. So when is IBM (pdf file) [] comming out with a 70GB [] Travelstar [] HD?

    As far as homogenious or hetrogenious, well you can make a case for each. By in large part I suppose it's whether you see the concept in terms of building what you want with legos, or giving form to formless clay. But provided you could have the best of all worlds you were interested in would you want it? I would. I'm sure there are a few others too. Quite frankly I've got a little more in the way of consumer electronics than I'd really like to have. At some point its really nice to be able to kill a few birds with one stone. I hear you can't be all things to all people, and in some circumstances I even believe it. But with hardware and software to various degrees you can. What's wrong with giving it a shot? :)

  • ... having them work better together?

    I have both a laptop and a desktop. I use my desktop probably 80-90% of the time. The desktop is more configurable, more powerful, and much more comfortable to use. Replacing it with a laptop would be ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, my laptop sits around collecting dust, unless I'm travelling or need to transport files to/from work.

    Looking at some of those Compaq photos that separated the screen from the keyboard gave me an idea:

    I'd like to see laptops with VGA-in ports. It might be kind of cool to use a laptop as an LCD screen (this could be particularly useful as a second monitor). After all, if you spend $2000 on a laptop--a good portion of which covers the cost of the LCD--wouldn't it be nice to get as much use out of its screen as possible?

    It might also be interesting if you could hook up a laptop to a desktop so that the desktop sees the laptop as removeable storage, a PCMCIA drive, etc.

  • The trend seems to be to move toward miniature computers. While it is difficult to argue that they are eye-catching, well... a train wreck is eye-catching, too.

    My point is this: as everyone moves toward the smallest design possible, they are showing a disturbing trend. What happens when I want to add another hard drive? I need an external one. What about my PCI TV tuner? Do I need to rig something up so I can have that lying on my desk, too? Everyone is neglecting the need for expansion. My computer is in a very small case; I intend on building my next computer by hand, in a file server enclosure, because I'm already out of space, and don't have half the peripherals I want yet.

  • Lack of cheap upgradeability is one major thing not to like.
  • It might look good (for a WinTel), but Compaq's are junk as business PCs. (Their servers are ok)

    In my office, we used Compaqs for a while, but they failed so often we eventually just switched to IBMs.
  • It may look good, but I seriously doubt you could bring the durability up to spec. First of all, all those detachable parts (particularly the touchpad) are just begging to be lost, and since they are proprietary designs you won't be able to replace them easily.

    More importantly, the way the monitor/base part of the unit is designed looks inherently fragile. There are way too many opportunities and ways to break those two sets of hinges -

    1) If they break on their own due to heavy use. Since the hinges flex in opposite directions, it would be too easy to push them the wrong direction.
    2) If you push down on top of the screen while it's in desktop mode, you'll put way too much stress on the hinges. Of course, gravity will be doing this all the time.
    4) It looks like all it would take is a very small push near the top to knock this expensive piece of hardware over (forwards or backwards), which would be bad enough except that the three parts then have plenty of opportunity to bang against each other. And since the screen, electronics, and drives are all in that unit they could be easily damaged.

    Take it from me, broken hinges suck. They shouldn't push their luck.

  • At first glance, I was reminded of several "alpha []" designs at IBM []. (Interesting that this comes right after the Ergonomics article)
  • "brand name" manufacturers are looking for ways of differentiating themselves from mom&pop computer store-style computers as they can't compete on the very thin margins of PCs (well under 5%). they need to make something sufficiently different from the do-it-yourself computer world so they can extract higher margins for their computers

    But, closing their interfaces in a such traditional open market (since 198x? I don't know, I am not such a historiatroid :) would cut down their market share. Not to say it would go against modern tendences (open, open, open, say it in software or hardware - or economy ;)

    I don't share your point with Apple. First of all, cause they don't address to the same market, and second because I see it more of a matter of position (powerful computer with easy and visual software against, well, mainly Windows, you know) and historical clients that feel fear to leave a closed arquitecture that already know.

  • OK, I have to admit this is an improvement. They seem to have solved some of the laptop ergonomics issues by providing the separating keyboard and "stand-up" display. So now I'm less likely to suffer from carpel tunnel and back problems from leaning over my display. But I think what we really need is better expandability, and cheaper parts. I was a major opponent of laptops for a long long time -- refusing to own one because they were so limited in their expandability. Since then, I started working for a company that gave me a laptop as my standard computer, but included a monster 22" monitor and separate keyboard. Since then, I've enjoyed using my laptop because when I take it with me, I have all of the same features that I do in the office -- minus the monster display.

    What we really need next is: better reliability, better performance, more than the seemingly standard two PCMCIA slots, and less expensive hardware addons. Also, more available hardware would be nice. Manage this while dropping the weight, and you've got a killer machine. I marvel at some of the incredible power management technology that is now available, but when I plug my laptop into an AC outlet, I want full unbridled performance. I think the reliability factor would improve if manufacturers would use less proprietary components and settle on more standards. And give me at least four slots. Cut the prices of cards in half, and give me most of the same choices I have with PCI. After that, then you can worry about proping my display up and making my keyboard detachable.


  • i just got done spending 3 hours trying to hook my sister's Armada into my cable modem. It's a celeron that she uses mostly to type papers...anyhow, she wanted to stop by my place to use iMesh to download her anime movies or whatever she likes so much.

    Well, three hours later, I have nothing good to say about Compaq. The CD-ROM wouldn't work (and the cable modem driver CD got stuck) I tried copying the drivers onto a floppy; the floppy didn't work either. Plus, for a Celeron-400 w 96 MB RAM it's about the least responsive computer I've ever seen. Stay away from Compaq!

    Her school forces them to buy Compaq (we live in houston-and guess what-a rich compaq exec is on the school board!).

  • Did the Transformers theme song pop into anyone else's head while checking out those pics? If only they could add an automated, voice-command aspect for switching from laptop to desktop mode....
  • Compaq is going to make a PC in the shape of a Teletubby with an LCD screen in its stomach. This should merge the worlds of children's toys and the previously-merged laptop/desktop worlds.

    That's some visioneering!
  • by factor-C ( 448252 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @12:22AM (#194082)
    Now secret government agencies can start losing their desktop boxen too
  • This is what I hate/love about Compaq. They come up with these interesting, innovative designs (Ipaq desktop, their laptops, etc) and then load them down with proprietary hardware. I have a Deskpro with Pentium II, and it has so much wacky proprietary stuff it isn't funny. The "BIOS" is stored in part on a hard drive partition, for the love of Pete! And yet, it has one of the easiest-to-open, nicest NLX cases I've ever seen.

    What's this have to do with the new designs? Well, I am certain that they will be very nice, useful, and cool as heck, but no one will understand the stuff in them! Even where standards exist that Compaq could use, they will use their own proprietary, undocumented hardware. That means that any sort of tweaking/Linux distribs/etc. will much harder than it has to be. Why can't we all just use standards?

  • With gigabit interconnects (optical Firewire, Ethernet), there is less and less reason for the traditional "big box with slots". At those speeds, you can even run graphics cards and video capture. So, I think we can have it all: expandability, cheap off-the-shelf parts, convenience, looks, and compact designs.
  • consider: if these take off, and become really popular, they'll bring the prices of proper laptops down.

    whati've always wanted, and haven't been able to find, is a laptop with a fold out keyboard -- you know those folding keyboards for PDAs? something like that. the only negative point i can think of would be fragility/breakability, but those have traditionally been laptop's weaknesses (along with price/expandability...and it's much harder to forget your desktop box in a car/office/hotel.)

    a friend and i have a not-so-secret plan to hook up a desktop box to one of those aluminum hiking pack frames. i supposed you'd need a second person(w/ pack, natch,)to carry the monitor. and of course, always hike in forests with electrical outlets.


    "If you're really evil, let's see you EAT THIS KITTEN!"
  • I had to laugh when I looked at Compaq's site. Designs for "transformable" & modular PC systems have been floating around for at least 20 years. Check out these designs at the Atari Historical Society site, ncepts.html. The Modular designs link isn't working, unfortunately, but you can get an idea what they were up to with the Desktop and Laptop designs back then. Of course, none of it ever saw the light of day (from Atari, anyhow), but similar designs were later produced by companies like IBM and Tandy.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.