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Small Laptops for Word Processing only?

by wordtop / August 3, 2006 4:36 PM PDT

I wonder if any company has ever thought of developing small notebooks which are very cheap, to cater for a specific group of computer users - those who use laptops mostly for WORD PROCESSING ONLY.

I know there are small notebooks around, such as Fijitsu's P series, which have screens of roughly 8-10 inches wide. But they are too expensive. They come with all sorts of functionality - DVD drive, sophisticated sound and video display etc.

For many computer users, these features are seldom used, and therefore unnecessary, honestly. People like college students, journalists, lawyers, and those who primarily use their laptops for word processing only would seldom use their laptops for viewing DVD (they can do it on their desktops) or listening to music (they have MP3 for that). But these functionalities add to the costs of the laptops (especially if small laptops) tremendously, making it very expensive to have small size notebooks.

For this group of users, it is too expensive for them to buy a tiny notebook, not least because they dont need most of the expensive features. So, it's simply not worth it to buy an expensive small laptop for word processing alone. (In fact, if you ask me, it's not just about small laptops - ALL laptops are a waste of money for this group of users.)

So, why not develop a kind of tiny notebook just/primarily for word processing (or MS Office + Internet) functionalities only, which will be much cheaper than conventional notebooks but a bit more expensive than pocket PC, and is half the size of a A4 size paper (when folded; full A4 size when unfolded) which would be very convenient and relevant to this group of users?

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by Diirewolf / August 4, 2006 5:19 AM PDT

Well thats where Windows Mobile powered PDAs come into action, some also equipped with a phone. These cost no more than $700, much cheaper than a Laptop. Some have keyboards (such as the Imate JASJAR or HP ipaq hw6915 etc.) and these are powered by windows, so you have programs such as ms word, excel, powerpoint, access etc. and also internet explorer, msn messenger and much more. Some have Wifi capability so you can connect to hotspots or home networks and use the internet there so practically its a laptop but less powerful and much smaller in size. No need to invent a mini-laptop that runs windows XP. check out the imate JASJAR
and the HP ipaq hw6915

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PDAs screen too small, but that's a good example...
by wordtop / August 7, 2006 1:34 PM PDT
In reply to: PDAs

You cant see much in a PDA. It's difficult when you are reading large documents with many pages. Plus, the keyboard is clumsy, you have to fold etc - an open-and-shut laptop would be much more convenient.

But I agree that PDA is the closet thing available: MS Office (plus reading Pdf, and all the word-related programs you need for paper-oriented jobs) + Internet browsing would do for me, and I dont need phone, music or movie functions. I have home desktop (or home DVD Theatre, for some) and portable mp3 player for those.

(That's where my needs are almost completely opposite from Iwantone's, next post. And I actually think that a smaller-than full size keyboard is just nice.)

Actually, if PDA is feasible, why not just enlarge the monitor a bit (into a half-A4 size) plus a complete keyboard?? PDA proves that you can have:
- a small motherboard;
- windows OS and graphic display;
- a size smaller than the 'micro size' laptops;
- not-so-powerful processor and RAM;
- all at a much lower cost than a full-blown laptop!!

I'm sure if someone just buy some fairly out-dated laptop technologies (e.g. barely 1G Hz processor, + 256 RAM would be more than enough for powerful, efficient word-processing) and mix them into a package, and then sell it at the price of a medium range PDA, it sure can create a new niche market.

Perhaps you can add an external CD ROM drive too, solely for reading programs (for repairing OS, MS Office, and installing miscellaneous word-related programs).
- Although, it is not for movie and music (because adding them would blow the costs out of proportion for Word Processing needs; but if you can do either one (like music) for only a tiny increase in costs, why not?)
- and it won't require you to make the motherboard smaller (hence cheaper) to accomodate the CD ROM Drive within the space allocated for the motherboard.

As for storage, a detachable 2GB easy drive would be more than enough for word proccessing purposes. For safe measure, let's have 3-4 USB ports.

I honestly think that a middle-ground product between a (full-function) laptop and a PDA would cater for our specific needs. Any takers?

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Why this will never happen.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 8, 2006 1:45 AM PDT

"Economies of scale" explains this neatly. We already can find laptops for 399 here and there so to go cheaper it's not the cost of parts but the entire system plus OS, software and more.

Those that have little exposure to what drives costs in products may argue that using a smaller hard disk, cheaper CPU or such will result in a lower cost but unless you vastly redesign the basic PC and get away from the PC altogether you will not find any lower price.

There is a solution in PDAs but I see you don't want to give up your plush big screen or much else.

Maybe the 100 dollar laptop for third world countries is what you want? It's battery costs are slashed too and you'll be pulling it's string to charge it up. Here's the link.

Hopefully you'll catch up on why things cost what they do and see that the only way to slash the costs are nicely shown in that effort.

In closing, why must this be a laptop? There are some million PCs headed for landfills each year that meet your requirements.


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'Need-based' Computing, and stop patronising the Consumers
by wordtop / August 8, 2006 6:16 PM PDT

Thanks for the reply.

To answer your points:

- Why not PCs? Because they are not portable, which is the whole starting point of my line of thinking to begin with.

- Why not PDAs? It's not just about "plush big screen or much else." I always use my computers to read 3 word documents/webpages/pdf or more at the same time. You can cut and paste from one to the other, and editing is much easier too. Using PDA is like working with a notepad but using laptop is working on a (bigger) table, you can do more than 1 thing at 1 time.

About costs, I must confess I dont know much about how the costing works, but I always believe that in capitalism, nothing is inevitable or unfeasible. Someone somewhere will soon find a way if there's enough demand for it.

(But honestly, I cant understand why you got so worked up about this - are you saying that idiots like me who have "little exposure to what drives costs in products" should not ask these stupid questions in the first place?? After reading your comments (without any precise or detailed explanations of how it's unfeasible and requires a 'redesigning' of the entire system) Maybe that was a stupid question, but then I would never have known it if I didnt ask.)

I dont know enough to agree or disagree with "unless you vastly redesign the basic PC and get away from the PC altogether" but I would choose to think that it doesnt have to be that way. Outdated technologies which are much cheaper might be available for those who are clever enough to mix and match them together. The the $100 laptop idea is a perfect example.

Maybe it's time the computer manufacturers start revolutionising their approach to design and production: Dont just produce what you think are the best 'package' and expect the consumers to just accept them. Start asking what kind of 'unfulfilled needs' (ok, that's not exactly what I meant...) are there out there and then aim to fulfil them.

Ask not what you think is good for the consumers but what the consumers really need from you. Stop patronising us.

And thanks for your link about the $100 laptop, that's exactly what I'm talking about. Maybe there's food for thought in the following extract from

"How is it possible to get the cost so low?

* First, by dramatically lowering the cost of the display. The first-generation machine will have a novel, dual-mode display that represents improvements to the LCD displays commonly found in inexpensive DVD players. These displays can be used in high-resolution black and white in bright sunlight?all at a cost of approximately $35.

* Second, we will get the fat out of the systems. Today's laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways.

* Third, we will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks."

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As in such forums, 1/2 the time...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 8, 2006 8:52 PM PDT

The message is misread. I'm not worked up about this but simply sharing some basic reasons why you don't find this laptop today. If there was truly a market for it, then it would be there.

The 100 dollar laptop is a fine endeavor but for me it's a dead end.

Sorry to have sent you the feeling I'm worked up about this. My background is in a few commercial electronic and software designs so I can write with some authority.


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Bygones; but, carry on...?
by wordtop / August 9, 2006 10:43 AM PDT

Ok, maybe I've misread your post. I guess it's not easy being someone who feels that he can speak with authority - 1/2 the time you forgot to tone it down AND the reader/listener will over-react. Bygones.

"The 100 dollar laptop is a fine endeavor but for me it's a dead end." Could you elaborate? I'm keen to know what you think about it, in specific details if you so wish.

I guess it's not going to be as lucrative as the 'excessively fat' but increasingly irrelevant laptops for the major manufacturers, but if you count the volume of potential sales (as cheap as a high-end calculator? and low after-sales maintenance?) it might work out just the same?

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The 400 buck laptop.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 9, 2006 11:01 AM PDT

You'll see this unit accepted by today's marketplace. It runs the OS that people are used to and we can install Open Office to save the other 500 bucks we would have to pay out for Microsoft Office.

Hope that comes close.

You seem to still think I have some ax to grind. So here's why the 100 buck laptop is a deadend for me. I can't use it for my clients and therefore it won't create income for me. Hope this explains my statement.

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by wordtop / August 9, 2006 12:30 PM PDT
In reply to: The 400 buck laptop.

$400 laptop: screen's too big, too heavy. but like i said from day 1, it's just an idea i had, i didnt expect to find such a product in the current market.
thanks anyway, and i think we're getting there... Happy

deadend: understood. time to find another forum perhaps? ;P thanks dude!

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Kind og agree but
by Iwantone / August 4, 2006 5:55 AM PDT

I just bought a very expensive Sony TX "micro laptop" as my "travelling" laptop since it is so light. I use some sync software to synch my "My Documents" folders and pst Outlook file. The features of this laptop are perfect for travelling- turn on DVD player and CD music about turning the laptop on. And the screen is absolutely perfect BUT the one thing these "micro laptops" need to do is make the unit just a LITTLE BIT wider and put FULL SIZE KEYS ON THE KEYBOARD- or 95% full size- the Sony is SLIGHTLY better (by parts of a millimeter) than the Fujitsu P series but if they do make them for Word Processors as you say- I think the standard PC functionality is fine, then make the keyboard the right size and feel. Lenovo did this with the X series but the screenis not that good and the optical drive is external NO WAY would I buy that.

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May want to look at the used market
by Evie / August 16, 2006 11:56 PM PDT
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thanks, Evie
by wordtop / August 17, 2006 6:00 PM PDT

yup, overpriced indeed. it's more of a wild idea from me than an expectation to find something.

i just hope that the computer manufacturers will change their mindset, focus on what consumers really need instead of patronising us with fatter and fatter products which most people cant afford...

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Thinkpad X60
by Nooorm / August 18, 2006 1:31 AM PDT

2.7 lbs, 12.1" screen and a FULL SIZE keyboard. I would think the keyboard would be a major factor on a laptop being used "mostly for WORD PROCESSING ONLY."

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Toshiba Libretto
by linkit / August 18, 2006 11:44 AM PDT

From my experience, the smallest standard screen in mass production is 12.1''. Start with those if you want new.

The Toshiba Libretto seemed to fit your size needs, but it was a little thick. One of the problems with the smaller notebooks is that they tend to have comfort issues with slightly less than full-sized keys/keyboards. Not great for heavy word processing.

Today, cheap word processsors are PIII/Celeron notebooks on eBay or refurbished models from places like If no OS, install a Linux distribution and Open Office as mentioned by R. Proffitt.

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'Need-Based' Computing...
by wordtop / August 20, 2006 10:52 AM PDT

hi Nooorm and linkit,

the bigger point is, most laptops nowadays contain 'excessive fat', lots of funcions and features which are near-redundant for word-users. see the first thread of discussion above.

keyboard and screen size - 12" is not that easy to carry around. 10" or half the size of A4 paper is much more convenient, just like a book. i think it's a bit subjective whether 10" keyboard is comfortable or not. i must confess i havent used a 10" laptop for 'heavy word-processing' before, so i cant deny your view there. but i think to a certain extent it depends on the sizes of your palms i guess - and god's creatures come in all sizes...

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Seriously, the Libretto fits your size requirement
by linkit / August 20, 2006 5:10 PM PDT

I'm not kidding about the Toshiba Libretto's size. A 7.2'' screen with outer dimensions of 8.26'' x 6.53'' x 1.17-1.31''. There's your ''half the size of A4.'' Like holding a VHS cassette.

Regarding keyboard size, hand size is only part of the issue; it's also the muscle memory used for touch typing, and that's difficult to change. If you go back through PC Magazine's notebook reviews over the past 10+ years, you will see that there is almost always a comment on what percentage of a full sized keyboard the notebook's keys are. A difference as little as 5% can cause discomfort.

For me, I'll take the heavier 12'' ultraportable with a comfortable keyboard over an 8oz. miracle that has a cramped keyboard.

As to the ''excessive fat,'' the market determines that, or else we would have stripped down Librettos today. The problem is that there really is no population of just Word-users. Essentially all of them are also Web/email/music/picture/video-users (or some combination thereof).

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Many people want a 2nd computer...
by wordtop / August 20, 2006 5:50 PM PDT

i've checked out the Libretto, i agree that width wise, it fits my requirement, although it's thick. but again, it's about the PRICE.

i din just come up with the idea of a 'low fat' laptop only because of the size. it's about the price too. when the laptop needs the technology to combine all those features into 1 tiny motherboard and case, the costs increase tremendously. (for how much or %? i don't know. but common sense tells me it should cost cheaper if you don't need to cramp so much into such a small space. someone should be able to find a way.) Libretto is not cheap.

word-only users: i think you are wrong. there are plenty of us out there. (although, by 'word-only', i don't mean purely word. to be more realistic, what i meant by a 'lean' laptop is more like for ms office + internet only, like i said in my first few posts.)

who are they?
'poor' college or even high school students, (not-so-'poor') journalists, writers, lawyers, business people in general who write a lot and are always on the move.

also take note of my assumption in those posts: that these people ALREADY have a desktop which they could use for their music, movie and entertainment needs (like myself). therefore, this 'low fat' laptop is their SECOND computer, something they use mainly for their business/working needs, ie. NOT for leisure purposes.

it's like buying a 2nd car - you don't need BOTH of them to have suv features.

these days, many people have both a desktop and a laptop - but they are the wealthier ones. with the price of a 'high fat' laptop like Libretto, you should have more than enough money to buy a decent desktop and a cheap 'low fat' laptop. that's the 'computer ownership pattern' i'm talking about.

take a look at the $100 laptop (earlier thread) - i'll be happy to pay $200 for as a 2nd computer with slightly improved display, battery life and so on.


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You've just put forth the reason you want the 100 $ laptop.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 20, 2006 9:36 PM PDT

Need = what you want to do and not that you need to run Windows and Word.


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I think you are right, (you who is on Microsoft's payroll?)
by wordtop / August 21, 2006 10:26 AM PDT

as long as it can fulfill my needs, i dont care if it sticks its middle finger at mr gates.

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You've just put forth the reason why I cannot have it!!
by wordtop / August 21, 2006 10:32 AM PDT

"Need = what you want to do and not that you need to run Windows and Word."

what if i DONT HAVE TO "run (Microsoft's) Windows and Word"??

dude, i think u just solved the mystery (of why market mechanism and consumer preferences fail to have any impact in the computer industry) for me: Microsoft's excessively fat softwares ARE THE REAL PROBLEMS.

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Actually, you are wrong - What about PDA?
by wordtop / August 21, 2006 12:40 PM PDT

PDA shows you can have a tiny motherboard to run 'simplified', 'low fat' version of Windows OS and MS Word, and have less powerful RAM and Hard Disk, etc.

Bob, i think we still disagree because you and i are not talking with the same 'frame of mind'.

i'm talking about ideas and possibilities of what SHOULD be done; forward-looking, day-dreaming.

but u keep telling me my ideas and possibilities are not workable because of the EXISTING production mindset, approaches and technologies. You say, Windows IS like/REQUIRES this, but i say, Windows SHOULD/COULD be otherwise.

i don't believe what i'm 'dreaming' about is really THAT far-fetched or impossible.

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You seem to be thinking I have an issue.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 21, 2006 12:52 PM PDT

It's here and now but why do you think it's not something you and I see daily or even use ourselves?

Sorry to read you think you know what I think and vice versa. I won't if you won't.

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ok, i won't if u wont
by wordtop / August 21, 2006 7:16 PM PDT

Bob, to be frank, your statement about me not being realistic did smell like u got some issues, though it might not sound like that to u. it's subjective, though, so i'll stop biting.

i've seen that machine. it's NOT a computer. u cant edit a document like working with a word doc in Windows, u cant read pdf, n u cant surf the net - AND u cant do all of the above TOGETHER. (u can, with a laptop computer.)

that's why, u n i never 'see daily or use'...

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What? It can't read a PDF is news to me.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 21, 2006 10:01 PM PDT
In reply to: ok, i won't if u wont

I'm an Palm software developer and can read PDFs on Palm devices.

As to the other items I have seen Palms do all that. It's also clear that your initial spec is bigger than a word processor and you want the big metal (or plastic.)

The unit is capable of doing all this but you may have not known it has in fact done this.

A little more research next time please.


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Try to get my main points, and please don't be so petty
by wordtop / August 22, 2006 11:22 AM PDT

dear Bob,

''I'm an Palm software developer and can read PDFs on Palm devices.
As to the other items I have seen Palms do all that.''

i NEVER said Palms could not.

please read my previous posts again, quoted here for your reading convenience:

Subject: PDAs screen too small, but that's a good example...
''You cant see much in a PDA. It's difficult when you are reading large documents with many pages.''

Subject: ok, i won't if u wont (THE POST U'VE JUST REPLIED TO... YES, THAT ONE.)
''AND u cant do all of the above TOGETHER. (u can, with a laptop computer.)''


''It's also clear that your initial spec is bigger than a word processor and you want the big metal (or plastic.)''

true, i agree i've tried to emphasise that it's mainly for words, but i've also said IN MY VERY FIRST POST, IF U HAD CARED TO READ PROPERLY, that:
''So, why not develop a kind of tiny notebook just/primarily for word processing (or MS Office + Internet) functionalities only...''


''The unit is capable of doing all this but you may have not known it has in fact done this."

ya, but it has such a tiny little screen, u cant do as many work at the same time as a laptop. (please read THE POST U'VE JUST REPLIED TO AGAIN... YES, THAT ONE.)


"A little more research next time please.''

sure, i will. but if YOU had read my posts (including the one U'VE JUST REPLIED TO) carefully, u would have realised that wasn't my only or even main point. yet, u chose to pick on them... has this become a court room testimony that i cannot sound incoherent or i'll get arrested??

A little more thorough reading of ALL posts and less petty comments next time please, if u wanna b 'the Moderator', my son.

peace... take a deep breath now, ok??

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I want my Porsche.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 22, 2006 1:02 PM PDT

And it's unfair they cost so much.

Happy hunting for your deal. We'll come close for the 100 dollar laptop but your words sound like someone complaining that Porsche is ripping us off.


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No, I want my Hyundai
by wordtop / August 22, 2006 6:24 PM PDT
In reply to: I want my Porsche.

sadly, u still dont get me.

i'm not complaining about the price of porsche bcos i DONT want/need porsche. i'm only complaining that everybody is selling porsche ONLY (therefore forcing us to buy EITHER porsche OR nothing) and nobody is thinking about making Hyundai.

bcos many of us dont need porsche. we just need a good old, honest machine that does the job. period.

enough said.

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You need to contact the 100 dollar laptop project.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 22, 2006 9:56 PM PDT
In reply to: No, I want my Hyundai

Yes I get it. At 100 bucks the only hit is that 100 dollar laptop. It will come but I'm pretty sure that you will not want it for the same reasons you panned the Dana or similar units you've seen over the years.

They have the only unit that I see will hit your mark. If not, then you need to get on or write to that committee.

You will never see any such unit in the US retail channels. Just writing that so you'll know to stop looking there.


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And You need to understand what a Forum is for
by wordtop / August 23, 2006 12:14 PM PDT

Bob, i'll invite u to join us on the board of the $100 laptop project once i'm on it. we need people with precisely the kind of vision and forward thinking like yours.

if u're telling me that this forum is only for talking about how to find a good deal in the current market, then i apologise for wasting the space n your precious time, bcos that's NOT what i'm doing here.

i'm trying to talk about how things might CHANGE. (n i dont think things i said r that far fetched or 'revolutionary' at all.) n i think that's not forbidden as a way to use this forum, is it?

it's a free country. (well, at least the cyberspace still is, FREE in every sense of the word.)

so if YOU do not agree with the way i'm using this forum, then shut it down, or just quit moderating.

thanks for your time, Bob

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In the current market we have...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 23, 2006 9:58 PM PDT

Let me write about the market as I see it. We have the usual US consumers and what they have come to expect from a PC or Mac laptop. That's one aspect.

We also have our retail system. While it is being revamped as we watch, it still lives and dies by the dollar. At 100 bucks that doesn't create anything at a margin they'll want to carry.

Then we have the real problems of hitting 100 bucks. I hope by now you've read about Negroponte's efforts and challanges to get near the 100 dollar cost. He's not there yet. Even in the 10 to 100 thousand quantity.

Look at the cost of an LCD for example. Do you see any LCD for under 99 bucks? How about laptop batteries? Those are over the 99 buck (retail) price too. It goes on and on that our classic laptop won't hit 100 bucks retail.

Remember that retail chain issue? This means that to the retailer they'll want the unit at 50 to 70 bucks. The outlook for a 100 buck retail laptop is growing dimmer by the second.

I offered the DANA as a possible 99 buck unit but you didn't like it's screen or such. I'm a Palm software developer so I know my stuff in and around Palm based units. That size screen and machine is about what to expect at 100 bucks.

Let's see what the 100 dollar laptop project at yields.


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can retailers survive - n prosper - by seeling PDAs?
by wordtop / August 24, 2006 11:35 AM PDT

(apparently i cant reply to your post "In the current market we have..." so i'll do it here.)

i agree 100 bucks wont interest many retailers. i'm realistic. i've actually revised my price range to $250-$400, similar to the price of average PDAs. if retailers can live with that kind of price for PDAs (n cellphones, n all the expensive electronic gadgets), they should b able to do it with laptops.

with mainly straightforward, simple functionalities n minimal complications (such as movies, audio, games), the retailers would not have to worry so much about after-sale services. common sense tells me that it's more likely to have problems with complex machines like all the overweight PDAs, than this one. (n even then, they only have to worry about after sale service if it's provided for free.)

"Look at the cost of an LCD for example. Do you see any LCD for under 99 bucks? How about laptop batteries? Those are over the 99 buck (retail) price too. It goes on and on that our classic laptop won't hit 100 bucks retail."

i must admit i cant back up my ideas about pricing but what about outdated technologies more than, say, 5 years old?? they should b available at very much cheaper prices now.

the prices u've quoted r current prices for current technologies. but what if i DONT NEED LCD? i can live with older version screens. i dont know how good is the $99 battery but what if i can live with battery life HALF of that?

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