Toshiba's Libretto W100: Interesting concept but questions abound

Toshiba has resurrected the UMPC (remember those?) as an answer to Apple's iPad and perhaps signaling the evolution of the netbook. Toshiba is promising something more than a netbook, slate or smartphone. What is that extra something?

Toshiba has resurrected the UMPC (remember those?) as an answer to Apple

's iPad and perhaps signaling the evolution of the netbook. The other possibility: Toshiba is promising something more, but falls into the PC industry's common belief that more features you may not need trumps good design and simplicity.

Simply put, Toshiba has brought back the UMPC (ultra mobile PC) concept with two multi-touch 7-inch displays. This pup, coming on the 25th anniversary of Toshiba's entry to the laptop market, has some interesting features and generated some initial buzz. Toshiba bills calls the device the Libretto W100 and says it ”goes beyond slates, netbooks and smartphones to deliver something more.”

Gallery: Toshiba's Portege R700 and libretto W100

The common story line is that the Libretto W100 is Toshiba's answer to the iPad. The big questions: What exactly is that something more and do you want it? Is it better for content creation like a laptop? Is it a better e-reader? Will these features trump the iPad? What about the ecosystem?

The PC's industry answer to the iPad seems to revolve around that something more concept. More functions. More features. More stuff you may not necessarily want or need. It's almost as if another screen, port or some other feature can replace the simplicity that makes the iPad work.

As Rachel King notes, the device is rather unique and lacks a price tag. The good news: This Libretto will allow folks to figure out if a virtual keyboard can replace the real thing over time. It remains to be seen what else we learn from it. The device reminds me of a few cool---yet probably futile---attempts to push the PC design curve at CES.

For now, Toshiba's latest Portege, the R700 ultra-portable laptop, is probably more my speed.

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