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The present and the future of Fujitsu’s Tablet PCs: an interview to Meinolf Althaus

Scritto da Giacomo Fumagalli. Pubblicato in Fujitsu Channel

As a member of the Fujitsu Lifebook4Life project, I had the opportunity to interview Meinolf Althaus relatively the new Tablet PC Fujitsu Stylistic Q702, Lifebook T902 and, in general, the Fujitsu’s projects for late 2012 and early 2013.

Meinolf Althaus is the Fujitsu Europe responsible for the mobile product strategy and segment development for mobile solutions. Recent highlights of his work are the award-winning LIFEBOOK Q2010 (2006), designing the world’s first embedded 3G notebook (2007) and Fujitsu’s Advanced Theft Protection (2009). He is a member and coach in Fujitsu’s innovation and a senior analyst spokesperson. Meinolf Althaus joined Fujitsu in 1999 and previously held several national and international management positions in sales, marketing and business development after finishing his studies as engineer with Toshiba, CE Infosys, Hutchison Mobilfunk, Zenith Data Systems, Bull and Packard Bell/NEC. Althaus and his 3 daughters live in a small village in Rhine-Hessia. He is an avid reader with a wide range of interests, he loves motorcycling and working on his collection of old motorcycles and is a hobby metalworker with a well-equipped shop.

GDF: Stylistic ST4xx0, ST5xx0, ST6xx0, Q550, Lifebook T1xx0, T2xx0, T3xx0, T4xx0, T5xx0, T73x, T90x, T580, TH70x, P15xx, P16xx, … In the last ten years Fujitsu builds dozens of Tablet PC and some of the best Tablet PC ever made. Last year Fujitsu offered four different Tablet PC at the same time: Q550, T580, T901, T731 – different size, different power, different digitizer. Without any doubt, Fujitsu is a leader in Tablet PC market and recently it entered the Tablet Computer market with a couple of professional-oriented Android-based devices. With Microsoft Windows 8 the Tablet PC market will be re-invented and there will be a lot of competition: can you tell something about the near-future plans?

MA: During the last 12 months the tablet and convertible market has developed a completely new (vs historical segmentation) structure. On the one hand the Android volume market is being developed by products whose purpose is to serve as delivery vehicle for business models of Amazon, Google and others. Many of them would not be considered as great standalone products, but they serve well for the intended purpose. On the other hand there is a growing demand for non-iOS based products fuelled by the rapid increase in business apps for Android.

Win tablets will emerge at a fast pace, but their success will be bound to the availability of Win8 apps. Standard Win applications will continue to be non-optimal for tablets, both from a usage and performance perspective. Cross-over products like the Q702 will be the bridge spanning Win tablets and convertibles and notebooks.

Look forward to Fujitsu continuing to engineer breath-taking touch devices for its target audience and enhancing the usage across all walks of life (private and business use) along the lines of Consumerization and BYOD.

GDF: We know about the Stylistic Q702 and the Lifebook T902. How many other Windows 8-based Tablet PC will arrive from Fujitsu in late 2012 and early 2013? There will be a Lifebook T732 or a smaller-than-T902 convertible?

MA: Sorry, I can´t comment on future products or announcements.

GDF: From many point of view Windows 8 can be considered a consumer-oriented OS and the double UI can be found confusing by some professional who looks for a real Desktop-based PC. In the next years will Windows 7 be supported by Fujitsu with drivers and downgrade?

MA: Yes, within the boundaries of new technology being compatible to Windows 7.

GDF: In the last 20 years “Fujitsu Tablet PC” means “Windows and pen”. Will be the future Windows-based Fujitsu Tablet PC all with pen and active digitizer?

MA: Not necessarily. Fujitsu will continue its approach of offering the technologies best fitting to the requirement and usage cases of our customers. Many of these are using touchscreen devices in vertical applications, for which more and more Touch-enabled Apps and Applications are being developed. In many cases finger touch (passive digitizer) will provide the best user experience and be most efficient.

GDF: Windows 8 is a touch-oriented OS, with limited ink support compared to Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. One of the main problem in Windows 8 is the impossibility to temporarily disable the touchscreen – it is a very useful option when you have to be sure about your input, and it is widely used in some particular location like hospitals or when using some particular software like Photoshop. Will Fujitsu provide someway a “touch disable option” for Windows 8 pen-and-touch Tablet PCs?

MA: Fujitsu is researching into this, but we can’t make announcements at this time.

GDF: In the last weeks Samsung and Microsoft show several Slate PCs with dockable/detachable designs that offer Wacom digitizers, 1080p and i5 with HD4000 – all in a light-and-thin package. Faced with these competitors which, unlike the Q702, will be easily purchased at any store, the attractiveness of the new Stylistic seems resized. What are the strengths of the Stylistic Q702 compared to the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro or the Microsoft Surface Pro?

MA: Without doubt competitors do have excellent products. Fujitsu, due to its long history in designing and manufacturing convertibles and tablets, has a wealth of experience in making products that live up to the requirements of daily business. Both in regards to sturdiness and in providing the features, such as vPro, TPM, 3G/4G connectivity and the like. Fujitsu is also unique in that it can provide the framework of services (maintenance, delivery, lifecycle management,) which are imperative to its local and global customers.

GDF: The Q702 keyboard offered a secondary battery and more ports, but the user cannot use the Q702 as a tablet with the keyboard attached, since the hinge cannot rotate under the screen. Do not you think that the current Q702 configuration is limiting the mobility of the device? Will be possible to see, in the future, hybrid tablets that may increase the connectivity and autonomy while remaining tablet? In 2002, the first hybrid Tablet PC, the Compaq tc1000, has a rotating hinge, and it was a great form factor – it is strange that no one seems remember it, preferring a Asus Transformer-like keyboard.

MA: The core concepts of a tablet and a notebook are very different. Convertibles combine both, but are not ideal tablets, if only because of the height. The Q702 strives to provide both core concepts without compromising on either. In tablet mode it is a powerful and highly mobile device, which adapts perfectly to the requirements of content creation when docked to the keyboard.

GDF: Because of the large screen, the Fujitsu Lifebook T5000/T900 series has always been one of the most popular Tablet PC between artists, designers and teachers. In the United States the Lifebook T901 is available with a dedicated GPU (it was the only professional-oriented Tablet PC with a dedicated GPU) but the T902 no longer has the option of choosing the GPU. For a large-screen Wacom-based Core i7 Tablet PC, a dedicated GPU is the perfect companion. Why no dedicated GPU in Fujitsu Tablet PCs? In order to fight against consumer tablets, Q702 and T902 need to have something extra and a dedicated GPU seems like the obvious choice.

MA: Our customers have expressed a clear direction in preferring integrated graphics instead of a dedicated GPU.

GDF: Do Fujitsu has any plans to use AMD’s APUs in future tablets?

MA: Fujitsu will always use technologies best suited to the positioning and intended usage of a device.

GDF: Will Fujitsu ever consider to make a bigger-than-T900 Tablet PC?

MA: Bigger touch screens in mobile products are under constant observation. The point here is that bigger touch screens than 13” are a challenge in regards to avoiding compromising mobility and ergonomics.

GDF: Would Fujitsu ever consider creating a Tablet PC directly aimed at the creative/artist consumer market?

MA: Fujitsu already does serve the consumer market in as much that the products are available in its own web store and those of partners. A model specifically for creatives and artists is not
on the roadmap.

GDF: Many of the new Tablet PCs at IFA 2012 are using a new Wacom digitizer capable of 1024 pressure levels. Will the T902 be equipped with the new digitizer? If no, would Fujitsu ever consider creating a Tablet PC that has the more advanced Wacom features?

MA: Fujitsu will continue to expand the frontiers of mobile and touch computing. New advances in touch technology will be integrated once they have become mature enough and applications to support new technologies are available.

GDF: This means that the Lifebook T902 is equipped with the same Wacom digitizer Penabled installed on Lifebook T901, sensitive to 256 levels of pressure?

MA: Yes, the T902 digitizer also has 256 pressure levels.

GDF: Will the Lifebook T902 be compatible with the Fujitsu Modular Bay Projector?

MA: Unfortunately the mechanical design of the T902 does not allow this.

GDF: N-Trig on the Lifebbok T580, N-Trig on the Stylistic Q550, N-Trig on the Stylistic Q702. Why Fujitsu has never added Wacom Digitizer on smaller Tablet PCs?

MA: The answer here is that Fujitsu considers the fit between technology and usage. Each form factor has different requirements which are best met by different components.

GDF: In Windows 8 some applications allow you to write but not to delete if not through the pen’s eraser. The current-generation N-Trig pen is eraserless, because of the AAAA battery. With Lifebook T580 and Stylistic Q550 Fujitsu offered the standard one-button N-Trig stylus; will the Stylistic Q702 have a 2-button pen with a eraser-dedicated button?

MA: No, this is not planned.

[Edit: as seen during SMAU 2012 in Milano and Fujitsu Forum 2012 in Munich, the Q702 and Q572 will have 2-buttons N-Trig styluses]

GDF: 16:9 screen: it is the worst for a Tablet PC, since the portrait use is limited by small size. Windows 8 required a 1366×768 resolution or higher to work with full functions, but why use 1366×768 (Stylistic Q702) or 1600×900 (Lifebook T902) instead of 1280×1024, 1400×1050 or 1600×1200? Some months ago I used for a couple of hours a Lifebook T3000 with a 4:3 screen and it is way better than the current T731 16:10 screen. Why the 4:3 screens are gone? The screen is the very great thing of the iPad but no one seems interested to copy it.

MA: Two aspects to this one. First, 4:3 displays as standard items have almost disappeared (from a supplier side). Secondly, Apple has sufficient volume (and the need to sustain app scaling compatibility) to still have a supply for 4:3. However, they are changing as well.

GDF: The Q720 is HD, the T902 is HD+. No Full HD on current-generation Fujitsu Tablet PCs. What are Fujitsu’s plans for screen resolution in future devices?

MA: Sorry, I can´t comment on future products or announcements.

GDF: Will Fujitsu consider using OLED screens?

MA: Once they are in a shape (cost, maturity, stability) ready for mass use, yes.

GDF: Despite being aimed at business users, ExpressCard has been often removed. Do Fujitsu see ExpressCard as obsolete, or was it removed for space considerations?

MA: Both lack of demand and space considerations. It’s really about making the right compromises. Express card is not suitable for these form factors and not desired by our customers.

GDF: Fujitsu Lifebook U772 and UH572 are great Ultrabooks – light, thin, gorgeous… but a few months before Windows 8, an operating system with a strong touch-based UI, why not make them convertible? A Ultrabook with a rotating screen as the T902 would be something unique.

MA: Notebooks are notebook, convertibles are convertibles. A lot of the Ultrabook appeal would be lost if convertability (hinges, added, weight, height) was added. Add the cost of miniaturization and you have the formula for lose/lose.

GDF: Why is the distribution of Fujitsu notebooks is so different between the single European countries? Many EU countries have an online store to buy from Fujitsu directly, but not in the UK or Italy. In these countries there are also no online configurators.

MA: This is a reflection of our country organizations. However, we will continue to roll out more country online stores.

GDF: The Stylistic Q702 is the first Stylistic Tablet PC without a docking station – it have a keyboard-dock but nothing that allows a rapid transition to a multi-monitor configuration. Even the Q550 have a limited dock. Why are no longer produced fully functional docking station like the ST-series dock? A docking station like the ST-series one would also be very interesting for the T902 – it should allow a better management of space on the desk, transforming the docked Tablet PC in an AIO.

MA: We found that a docking station would have required too many compromises, resulting in a design which would have lost a lot of its appeal und uniqueness.

Article by Tablet PC Street
Originally published on il Tablet PC Italico


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Giacomo Fumagalli

Giacomo Fumagalli

Italian psychologist from Milan, since 2007 Giacomo uses only Windows-based Tablet PCs (current devices: HP EliteBook 2760p, Fujitsu Stylistic Q704 Waterproof and HP Stream 7). Creator of the newsblog "il Tablet PC Italico", in 2010 he became the Content Manager of "Tablet PC Italia", and later the owner. He lives with psychology, Tablet PCs and many other things; he loves to cook, cats and curly girls.

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