The recent announcements of the OQO and Flipstart ultra compact PCs saw the beginning of an entirely new market for fully functional PCs with PDA form factors.
Both have been sighted at major trade shows, and Gizmo’s Dave Weinstein has even visited OQO, but neither machine has yet been sold across the counter.
Then Sony quietly gazumped both of them by releasing an equally small, equally capable handheld onto the Japanese market, then putting functioning versions in the hands of the technology press during the global Vaio roadshow which has taken in every major IT-purchasing nation on the planet.
Sony never gives a whiff of vapourware and the entry of such a major player into this market must surely give it some serious momentum. The U machines certainly wowed the assembled press, most of whom had never seen the concept in the flesh before and discussion quickly turned to the prospect of running all your regular windows programs on a handheld, and the mood was positive and optimistic for the prospects of the Sony and palmtop PC market in general.
The Vaio U50 and U70 are currently only available over the counter on the Japanese market, but can be purchased via some of the United States grey import houses, where the VGN-U50 (which comes equipped with a 900MHz Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM, 20 GB HDD and Windows XP Home OS) sells for US$2200 and the VGN-U70 (Pentium M 1GHz, 512MB, RAM, 20GB HDD and Windows XP OS) sells for US$2700. The U50 and U70 are pen-based ultra-portable laptops measuring 16.7 x 11 x 2.5 cm and weighing 550g.
Both models are powerful enough to run most Windows applications on the 800 x 600 transflective touchscreen TFT and the design encourages on-the-move usage as the screen can be read outdoors and in bright light, and the machine can be operated in the hands, with the ability to zoom screen resolution and rotate the orientation from landscape to portrait mode.
Be sure to check out Dave Weinstein’s overview of the OQO, and our coverage of the Flipstart if you are considering one of these miniscule fully-functional PCs.