Tablet dumping starts ahead of Centrino shift
When you cut the price of a nice Tablet from £1500 to £600 (to dealers) it's a pretty good sign that you're clearing the shelves of old stock. That's what Northamber, leading UK distributor, has just done with the Fujitsu Siemens Stylistic Tablet.
Sales of the Tablet, especially in Europe, have been disappointing. Battery life has been a major issue. There is a solution: Intel's Centrino package - faster Pentium M processor, chipset and Wi-Fi - but the market could get very confused in the changeover from Pentium III to Centrino, if more distributors start dumping the old models.
The launch of the Motion Computing Centrino-0based tablet PC last week, triggered the panic, and first signs of an attempt to clear the decks of old stock came yesterday, when Northamber faxed its dealers with the special offer.
The Stylistic is one of the few Tablets with a "transflective" display, making it suitable for use out of doors. Unfortunately, the company wasn't sure how many it could sell, and conservatively, decided to launch with a Pentium III processor, rather than a Pentium M (the Centrino processor). The idea was to have a system that was compatible with existing PIII notebooks.
The market has, apparently, made it clear that battery life is more important than compatibility with old notebooks.
It was probably an incorrect decision, because the Tablet operating system is a special version of Windows XP, and most corporate notebooks are on Windows 2000 or even Windows 9x. Even those with Windows XP are not compatible with Tablet Edition.
Few Tablet makers have officially announced their Centrino product. But unofficially, they are all talking about them. HP will switch from the Crusoe chip to Intel Centrino in the next month, and most other suppliers will have to follow suit.
Their main problem is keeping to Intel's NDA, because Intel is enhancing Centrino to use 54Mbps 802.11g wireless (the current version uses the much slower 802.11b at 11Mbps) but hasn't released the full version of this yet.
That leaves distributors with a heavy problem; sales in Europe have been especially disappointing, even by comparison with the US (which hasn't been good) and they have old inventory.
Northamber's price cut from £1500 to £600 will almost certainly shift the old PIII machines, but it will also frighten the market. Distributors who got caught this time, will be pretty wary of stocking up on the new range, and even quite good prices will look high compared to the old discounted ones. ®
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