Instead of a new workstation, Smartisan should have made a KTV machine

Some birds come to the world for fulfilling their duties rather than just dodging bullets. —Luo Yonghao, founder of Smartisan

From Bullog—Luo Yonghao’s blog started in 2006—to Luo And His Friends Education and Technology Co., Ltd (老罗和他的朋友们有限公司… what a name), I have always harbored great respect for Master Luo. Although Smartisan only managed to occupy limited market share after being released, its idealism and design have brought some changes to this fickle and impetuous industry. Like what Master Luo said above, I have been looking forward to his disruptive moves and his leading the next wave like Steve Jobs. This has motivated me to tolerate his constant boasting on microblog without unfollowing him. However, my patience could only last until their recent announcement.

Along with their their new phone, the Nut R1, Smartisan also released the TNT workstation, which Master Luo called a revolutionary product that enables a 300% efficiency increase for major tools on mainstream computing platforms.

Offering great interactive experience yet limited functions, this workstation includes a big-screen and aims to enhance efficiency for the traditional desktop system, through hand gestures and voice input, Office software based on Smartisan OS, instant messaging tool “bullet message”, individualized meta search at whole-network & global level, and the seamless handover between screen and mobile phones.

The workstation itself, however, is a mere display screen for projection. Only operable with the most expensive model of R1 (RMB 8848), this is some cross-breed of Remix and Surface. Through a series of (voice) interactive functions, the TNT workstation with its ten virtual buttons claims to improve users’ work efficiency and methods only to a mild degree, but what else? It’s only a display screen with no other features. You can’t even play PC games on it! It can only run games on Android optimized for bigger screens. But then again, why wouldn’t gamers buy a real machine with this money?

Low sales are inevitable with such a high price, which says one thing—Smartisan has switched their target from individual consumers to the blue ocean of business efficiency. No matter how useless TNT is or whether people are actually using it, the concept may just be able to hook investors (their target customers). But what are the odds?

We might try to sum it up:

Quiet! It’s too noisy for my TNT!

Real workstations on the market enable designers to edit pictures, video makers to make clips and edit, and programmers to code, yet TNT is a piece of hardware dependent on ARM structure with its system based on Android. Unless Adobe launches high-performance software compatible with Android one day, TNT is limited to just editing documents and browsing the web. Besides, there’s hardly a possibility for wide application of the voice control function at an office—unless you’re the boss with a quiet office. Then again, most of the bosses have been employing voice function for years, 10 times nimbler and more functional than TNT:

“Hey, make me a powerpoint!”

“Hey, put this into an excel!”

“Hey, compile the file!”

“Hey, I need you to develop an app!”

I’m afraid, Master Luo, your plan to change the world is shattered again by your obsession with an imagined niche market. The ability to lecture might make you a success but not a good business leader.

Some have said the TNT is more like a KTV machine than a workstation. Come to think of it, it’s not that unreasonable a comparison: KTV machines are slow and have a clunky UI, don’t support multitouch, and are super slow. With its built-in semantic analysis, AI noise reduction (especially useful in a noisy KTV room), ten-sensor multiple touch support, and 4K IPS screen, KTV investors are lining up already!

Sorry, Master Luo. You’re no Steve Jobs.

What should a future workstation look like then? Surface Hub 2 recently launched by Microsoft might be a good example.

Surface Hub 2 is a giant touchscreen operating Windows 10 and compatible with the Surface Pen. Compared to previous products, the bezels have been greatly reduced, making it look more like a modern TV with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

In addition, users can hang it up on the wall or place it on a mobile stand, or even create a screen wall with several units. Fingerprint recognition allows different users to access their corresponding accounts with private files and contacts. Although Surface Hub 2 hasn’t been officially priced, compared with the RMB 10k TNT that demands an extra RMB 8k, which one would you choose?

—Translation by Maggie Li