MSI Wind Top offers touch, handwriting recognition for $529

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Want a low-cost, netbook class All-in-one for your home or office? MSI has the answer: The MSI Wind Top. It’s only $529. With an 18.5″ display running either an Atom 230 (1.6GHz) or 330 (1.6GHz dual core), resistive digitizer, webcam and more how can you go wrong?

Now if only they had a CrunchPad sized 10″ version of this I’d go out right now and buy two. But seeing as I already have a two-touch capable HP TouchSmart, I’ll hold off for now–or at least until I have to return the loaner.

For Tablet PC officianados the question may come up: What OS is the Wind Top using since it’s touch based? Well, for entry level machine, we’re talking Windows XP Home. A more expensive version is available with Vista Home. This makes me wonder if MSI isn’t thinking of offering Windows 7 down the road. Of course, if they stick with the XP or even the Start Edition of Windows 7, there’s not going to be handwriting or touch support. This may explain why MSI is packaging in Motorola’s SoftStylus software, which was originally designed to be used with touchpads. That’s right, no Microsoft handwriting recognition here. That’s quite unfortunate because my concern here is that first time buyers of touch-based systems are going to think that Windows really doesn’t offer them much in terms of ink support. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But customers may never know that.

I can’t blame MSI for going on their own when it comes to handwriting recognition. Microsoft continues to insist that this capability is a premium offering and so doesn’t want to offer it on Netbooks and low-cost All-in-one’s like the MSI Wind Top.

MSI isn’t the only one deviating from Microsoft’s model. ASUS is doing the same with their All-in-one and Netbooks (T91 and T101H) too. ASUS has it’s own custom touch and handwriting software.

And Intel is even going on its own with XP and handwriting support in their Tablet Classmate.

One has to wonder if Microsoft is ceding the low end market here. I imagine its intentional. However, trends being what they are in the consumer space, this may be a laggard’s last wish. The market is going to keep pushing and innovating.

In the meantime, Microsoft is going to be focusing on premium experiences with multi-touch-based smooth scrolling in Windows 7, multi-touch itself, unmatched handwriting recognition, and a math input panel.

Looks to me like this is going to be another one of those netbook style battles between customers that either prove out that there is a viable market on the low end and OEMs win or Microsoft marks another notch in their belt with the premium argument.

Given past experience, I’m going to vote that Intel will pick the winner. I don’t know who that’s going to be yet, but I’m watching Intel.

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[…] to add more and more touch and ink features. This is a problem. Why? Because as I blogged about yesterday, the OEMs can just as well add their own ink and touch features to their Netbook platforms. They […]