Customizable Touchbook: Acer Iconia’s Dual Screen Magic


In our striptease reveal of the the Motion CL900 ye Editor implied that dockable tablets get no respect; but lets amend that to dockable tablets running Windows 7 get no respect
. So what is Acer doing with one of the most innovative tablet/laptops seen on the market in the last 3-5 years? The Acer Iconia has many tablet-like features – 2 big 14″ multi-touchscreens using durable Gorilla Glass, no keyboard, no mouse, relatively thin size. But three critical factors, 1)the Iconia’s weight at 6.1 lbs, 2)battery life of 3 hours or less  and 3)bloated Windows 7 OS – all 3 clearly disqualify the Iconia from being classified as  a tablet.

But despite these liabilities, look what the Acer Iconia does – it ups the PC innovation ante with a second screen that can become a highly configurable icon-driven keyboard  [see screenshot above];

Acer Iconia in dual screen landscape mode
Or a second connected screen that can be read/used in landscape or portrait mode Or two different pages can be loaded onto each screen. Or the two screens can be used in special controler modes as seen below.


Or use the scecond screen as panel  for controlling social media software [see screenshot immediately above]. Acer provides the  SocialJogger software to control  the machine in social mode.

Or use the Acer Ring software that provides for semi-transparent guidance on the second screen panel for controling the upper screen. The Acer Ring  provides a visual reminder of how to navigate in multi-touch mode while using the Iconia . But it is also customizable so that you can configure the Ring for your own tasks.

Or use the Gesture Editor to configure your own gestures to control navigation on the Iconia. Software developers are going to love this capability coupled with the Acer’s controller API. And  dual screen control can be done on the web as well. An HTML or Flash driven controller page on the lower screen could drive the action on the upper screen for sophisticated Web portal applications- now this  is innovation!

True Toshiba with its recently departed dual 7″ screen Libretto and MSI with its CES2011 debuted dual screen  machines are just   two of several  PC vendors that have also explored the PC dual screen idea as well. But none as thoroughly as Acer has done with its many added  software innovations and savvy hardware  additions to the top-end machine:
14″ 1366×768 Gorilla Glass screens
Intel Core i5 580M at 2.67 to 3.33GHz CPU
4GB of DRAM with 128MB Intel HD GPU
750GB 7200rpm SataII Hard Drive
VGA, HDMI, Microphone and S/PIDF ports
2 USB 2 and 1 SuperSpeed USB3 ports
802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0+HS, integrated 3G WWAN, gigabit Ethernet
Like the Gorilla Glass these are hefty specs for a laptop/touch book with perhaps4GB of  memory being the only middle of the road hardware property. 128MB Intel HD GPU plus  SataII 7200 RPM hard drives coupled with a SuperSpeed USB3 port make this a media man-handling machine. The price in Europe is 1500Euros or 1500Pounds – a US price has yet to be set. So  given that the Acer Iconia  won the CES2011 LastGadgetStanding competition as best of show, there is certainly a good deal of buzz and  well-deserved  interest in the Acer Iconia.

Summary

As already seen in the Dockable Tablets from HP and Motion,   Microsoft Windows 7  has lucked out getting a  very strong position in an emerging PC  category that Apple has effectively abandoned in favor of its smartphones and iPads. There is no Mac multi-touch screens or Mac tablets as dockable screen-based systems. Likewise in the Customizable Touchbook market with dual multi-purpose screens, again there is no sign of Apple macs or iDevices with dual-screen capabilities. Rather, Windows 7 again stands alone with this most innovative Acer Iconia [with MSI and others adding depth]. Watch for software vendors to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a highly customizable, full screen  control panel with HTML5 Canvas+CSS3 icon generation+jQuery widgets on the Webside and a raft of C/C++, Java,  .NET and Flash GUI goodies on the desktop side. Dual screen PCs are going to unleash a new wave of PC software creativity. And Acer’s Iconia has a big first entrant advantage over not just Apple but also Dell, HP, and Lenovo among other big PC players.