Live Wire: All I want for Xmas is a 3G tab

PHUKET: Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my series about where the computer industry is headed (click here to see related articles).

With the Christmas season just around the corner many people are thinking about buying new electronics – computer, tablet, phone, maybe even a TV. This column will help you stay on top of developments between now and Christmas.

In Part 1 of the series, I talked about Windows 8 and how I don’t expect it to do particularly well. I also talked about Windows RT, which is a horse of a completely different color.

Microsoft’s going to get into the hardware manufacturing business, and the combination of Windows RT and a Microsoft Surface tablet may – just may – be enough to put a small dent in the iPad juggernaut.

Microsoft has to push out some killer apps, and bring the price down, but if they can do both, I expect we’ll see a few Windows RT tablets in Christmas stockings around the island.

In Part 2 of the series, I talked about Apple. There’s a good reason why it’s the largest public company (in terms of market capitalization) in the history of the world. They make great products, and the future for Apple is bright.

In Part 3 of the series, I talked about Android phones and tablets, and Kindles and Nooks (which are, in fact, Android tablets, although you wouldn’t know it to look at them). They’re doing well in the market place, and every indication is that they’ll do even better later this year. Unless Apple makes a small iPad and rolls right over the Kindle and Nook.

In this, the final part of the series, I want to talk about how the market’s likely to evolve in Thailand, and what you should be looking for, specifically, before you shell out baht for electronics this Christmas.

In Thailand, we can watch these new gizmos rolling out in the rest of the world, but availability here is never simple. Chances are good that some of the tablets, computers and phones I mentioned in the earlier parts of this series will meet with huge demand.

If that happens, we won’t see those particular products here in Thailand until months after they appear elsewhere. And when they do arrive, they’ll trickle in very slowly. If you don’t yet know a specific clerk at one of the Apple shops, now might be a good time to introduce yourself.

On the positive side, though, most of the online services – iTunes, Windows Store, Amazon, Google Play, and the like – are finally losing their infuriating bias about customers in Thailand.

It’s about time the Apples and Amazons of the world learn that there’s a baht or two to be made out here.

If you’re thinking about picking up a Windows PC this year, my best advice is to wait until we have a clearer picture of where Windows 8 sales are headed.

No doubt you’ll want to buy the PC with a valid copy of Windows 7. But we’re going to see a huge influx of touch-sensitive tablets, and my guess is that touch-less computers of all types are going to move to fire sale prices rather quickly. Touch is the next big thing. If you don’t want touch, wait and watch for the bin bargains.

There’s a general trend here that I think will turn into an outright stampede over the next year or two.

People who need big desktop computers and hunkering monitors will probably be able to get by with the hardware they already have: once you’re running Win7 on a reasonably fast computer, as long as you don’t bog your system down with a lot of junk, you have very little impetus to upgrade – unless your old machine completely dies.

At the same time, more and more people are finding good uses for tablets. In many cases, that new iPad fills the gap that would’ve been occupied by a laptop computer just a year ago.

In my case, I have no reason to buy a new desktop PC – the three-year-old HP I have works just fine – and my laptops are basically gathering dust. If I need to take a computer with me, I grab the iPad.

There are exceptions: I’m currently on a three-week vacation, and I borrowed a light Asus Eee laptop to go along. If I had the courage of my convictions, I would’ve toughed out the whole trip with nothing but an iPad and a keyboard, and I bet it would’ve worked just fine.

In general, I expect desktop and laptop sales to continue to decline and I expect tablet sales to continue to jump in leaps and bounds. The one exception: MacBook Air still seems to have a lot of life left in the brand.

That isn’t good news for Microsoft, unless they can get the Windows RT Surface to really engage Apple. But it’s good news for you, if you’re looking for a Windows computer. Expect prices to continue to fall – perhaps precipitously. And watch as “older” non-touch-enabled hardware gets dumped while computer manufacturers chase the touch-enabled brass ring.

Most of all, for those of us in Phuket, everything I mentioned in all four installments of this series relies on the Internet.

Every single piece of electronic equipment you’re going to buy in the near future will likely need a reliable internet connection. Spending the time (and if need be, the money) to get a good internet connection may be the most important decision you make this holiday season.

Getting the latest, flashiest hardware and software means nothing if you can’t get your bits up and down the data pipes.

Want to give somebody a great Christmas present? Get them a fast ground line, or a decent 3G package. In the long run, that’s going to be far more important than getting the latest version of Windows, or the fanciest tablet.

Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes hold computer sessions under the tutelage of Seth Bareiss every other Wednesday afternoon, from 1 to 3pm. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, drop by one of Seth’s free afternoon sessions. Details in the Phuket Gazette Events Calendar.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things Internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter, @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at, and now Google+, or send him mail at

— Woody Leonhard

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