Lenovo has launched the latest and most power packed graphics notebook this August – go to DPReview.com for all the details. What is notable is that this machine acknowledges that graphics processing is now driving PC development.
Look at all the graphics goodies – 17″ Hi-resolution, high gamut WUXA screen, NVidia 3700 with 1GB of memory, Intel Quad Core processor, Bluray DVI-link with 8GB of memory, two 200GB 7200RPM RAID capable disk drives, built-in color calibration unit and 6×4″ Wacom Digitizing tablet among others. Now admittedly many of these features are computer-game inspired – but not the disk drives, color calibration and digitizing tablet. These are pure graphic designer features. Graphics demand much from PCs and the suppliers are responding.
But the unit weighs a ton – 3.3kg weight; and costs a ton – $3300. And both are just starting values as this unit has close to a dozen optional features. However, even given these optional features , I would like to raise three serious game changing problems.
First, the disk drives are undersized and not maximum speed. Flash-based memory or SSD-Solid State Disk drives offer just as much disk space, and soon, even more at much faster speeds. Second, the Wacom digitizing tablet should be a Wacom digitizing screen like the Cintiq so that graphic artists can do touch screen operations directly on the images or deigns they are working with. Third, the operating system is Vista – the weakest link in this package. Not just that Vistas Media Center PC is tinkertoy media software but Vista itself stands in the way of making this a great machine. Working with the myriad specialized hardware and software in thegraphics field will prove very tasking because of “it doesnt run in Vista”. Also Vista eats up huge chunks of valuable 32bit memory. Sure users can go to 64bit Vista – but then even more software and hardware falls by the wayside.
Now Microsoft will argue that WPF is the graphics software frmaework of the future. But knowing people in the graphics world will counter that ZUL, OpenGL, Gecko, Flash and other libraries are the already existing and substantially Open Source options that are slowly but surely gaining credence and usage against the everything runs in Windows receding tide.
But perhaps the biggest drawback to Vista as the graphics OS of choice is that there is still no full screen point-and-shoot nor any multi-touch features which the iPhone and Microsoft Surfaces have proved to be very powerful features. I can testify to the substantial productivity boosts possible not just for graphics design but all PC operations when using full touch screen alone. Then add multi-touch and gestures based operations and their will be another “anomalous” economic productivity boost (GVA and other labor effiency measures will increase) in 2-3 years time when screen-based fingertip operations become the norm on PCs.
So the Lenovo is good news in that it starts to cater to a market that is driving PC capabilities, performance and features. But consider it a harbinger of both the graphics/media dominance of computing software and the impact of gestures and finger pointing I/O. Question – how much longer will voice operations have to wait in the wings ? I suspect a lot longer because the technology of voice recognition (I have a cold right now and so I dont sound like myself at all) is so challenging; but even more so would be the clamor of voices talking to their machines in the offices of the world. So watch this emergence of fullscreen fingertip control to be one of the determining factors in PC sales.