For some time now, I have been resisting this trend, but events lately have finally convinced me to cave in. Having a laptop to tote around work can actually be productive, especially when you are outside your office, inside a lab complex, and need to stay in touch with status as you try to debug various breaking issues.

I cannot count the number of times I made the trek to the remote lab complex to look at some setup-related issue (no networking is available at that point of Windows setup), and I needed to either fetch a file or email from my machine, or send an email/IM... and I had no machine to do this with. I would try to batch issues up such that I would walk back to my office, touch base, and then trek back to lab again, but ugh, what a timesink.

Now, the main reason that I resist having a laptop at work is because most of the time I see them in use, it is used to distract the laptop user from the task at hand. For example, when eight people get together for a meeting and six laptop screens are open, weird things happen. To me, I would just not bother showing up to the meeting if most of my time is spent checking email during the meeting... but I have seen it happen frequently enough. Also, I question whether that meeting needs to happen at all if most of its participants are not engaged nor parrticipating. Yet more questions...

Just some random rant of mine... ;-)

Anyways, I am looking at laptops now. Out of all the form factors, I have to say that ultraportables make the most sense for me. I do not want a luggable, nor do I want a tiny hand-held. And since mobility, connectivity, and access are key, I thought the choice is clear. Plus the ultraportables just fit the profile of what I consider to be a "laptop" - something lightweight yet functional, and definitely not too big. 3D graphics for games, CDRW burners, and high resolution LCDs are not really necessary - it is the business task at hand.

A couple of review websites seem to put the Dell X1, IBM X41, and Toshiba R200 in the same category for comparison, so I have been looking at them. I have not found a clear winner, though. For example:

  • None of the laptops have easy provisions far a Smartcard. They come with a TPM that few applications are using (how many of you are using just fingerprint to login?), yet they do not come with a smartcard readers (I see that as more deployable). This bugs me because I need to use a smartcard and attaching a reader is just another accessory to lose.
  • The IBM/Lenovo website is absolutely bizarre for finding information and comparing. There are so many little SKU variations that you do not know what to believe, especially when some combination seems too good to be true. The website seems to only work if you have already been sold on what to buy, so you are only placing an order online.
  • The same goes for Toshiba's and Dell's website, which presumes you know their product line and model number and hide the specs away from top-level view

Now, I did wonder onto on a random whim, and I have to say that those guys know marketing because they made the run-of-the-mill iBook components sound amazing. A+ for marketing, B for components/value. Not having too many choices and emotional sound bites can be effective... but I am not an impulse buyer nor do advertisements "convince" me of anything. I look for the raw facts and make my own decisions, darn it. :-)

So I guess I am that picky customer...