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Portables Hardware

TechCrunch Wants To Create an Open Source Tablet 160

RKo618 writes "TechCrunch announced that they are planning to design their own $200 web tablet device. Quoting: 'The idea is to turn it on, bypass any desktop interface, and go directly to Firefox running in a modified Kiosk mode that effectively turns the browser into the operating system for the device. Add Gears for offline syncing of Google docs, email, etc., and Skype for communication and you have a machine that will be almost as useful as a desktop but cheaper and more portable than any laptop or tablet PC.' The aim is for the tablet to run on modified open source software, which will be released back to the community along with the specifications for the hardware."
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TechCrunch Wants To Create an Open Source Tablet

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  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:23AM (#24287575) Homepage

    They have to compete with the N770 and N800 both that run open source software and both already have a very large installed base of users.

    They have to compete with that, so they really need to get it right. I love my N770 except for battery life. I wish these things could go at least 3 days between charges.

    • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:48AM (#24287817) Journal
      They don't mention screen size, which would determine if this is a Nokia Internet Tablet competitor. It's impossible to get a sense of scale from the mockups. If It's got a 10" screen it's in a different league entirely and just the kind of device I've been waiting for for several years. My 770 is nice, but the screen size is defined by the portable form factor, which means it's too small. I was rather hoping Apple would have made a web tablet by now (the iPod Touch is, again, too small). I want something with a reasonable sized screen for use where a laptop is awkward or unnecessary but I don't need pocketability.
      • well, for $200, i'm not sure how big you can make it.
      • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

        To compete with already running and happily used devices, they need to add something... Insane amount of DPI or e-ink technology comes to mind which e-ink already provides the DPI too.
        I am very sad that Amazon released that unlookable ugly crap which only works in USA/Canada which is like a joke for the idea of "digital download". They love to share half of their money with DHL/UPS it seems.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They also have to compete with the latest "portable media-players" like the Archos Generation 5. I got a 605 Wifi [] for birthday. It comes with a 30GB HD and touchscreen and runs Qtopia Linux (unofficial hack.)

      They sell for 200 Euro here in Germany.

    • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:09AM (#24288017)
      The iPod Touch is also a serious contender. If it were about 4-5x bigger, it would be almost exactly what TechCrunch is asking for.
      • by fabs64 ( 657132 ) <beaufabry+slashdot,org&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:33AM (#24288329)
        Except the open source bit?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zantetsuken ( 935350 )
        Actually as far as real world extensibility, the N800 and kin are far better than the iPod touch, as you can install real applications, such as VNC, Gnumeric spreadsheets, mplayer, and a choice of either a mobile Opera or Gecko 1.9 (Firefox 3) based browsers, Skype, Jabber, etc clients, and Flash in those web-browsers. And to connect all of that to the internet, you can either use WiFi or Bluetooth pairing to a cellphone.

        The only point that the Maemo operating system scores relatively low on right now is
        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          opera was only a option in the 770, and maybe the early N800, firmwares. the more recent ones for N800 and N810 are pure gecko (and a somewhat dated one at that).

          • opera was only a option in the 770, and maybe the early N800, firmwares

            Hmm? Why's that? Why would any firmware prevent Opera from running?

            And regardless of that, one can update the Linux version on the thing, which surely would get around any problem, yes?

            • by hitmark ( 640295 )

              like it or not, opera is proprietary.

              nokia paid opera software for the use of their browser engine.

              maybe the contract ran out, maybe nokia found it to be better for the profits to go with a free as in beer alternative, who really knows but the nokia leadership?

              funny thing is that now nokia is planing to use webkit, that turbo-charged khtml that apple made, for all of its phones.

              and i know that the browser interface of the tablet firmware is quite capable of having the browser engine swapped out.

              so maybe its

              • Interesting, thanks (and thx to anonymous, too). Clearly I've gotten too complacent about assuming I can just recompile anything and everything on a linux system (including porting and bug fixing if absolutely necessary).

                I just picked up an n770, but haven't done much with it yet, so my mind has been buzzing with various possibilities -- obviously including some that may or may not be particularly feasible. ;-)

              • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

                I misunderstood the post and was just about to cancel all my plans to buy Nokia tablet. I understood it like "Opera won't run on N800"

                Webkit? I already have it on my S60 V3 phone and it has costed me $20 Opera 8.65 license. That thing is not designed to run in embedded devices, I am a heavy web user, I can't stand to the idea of "pan/zoom/pan/zoom". It belongs to iPhone.

                Nokia's worst ever mistake (after using .sis(x) for themes) is the adoption of Webkit instead of keeping Opera license. N800 was number one

                • by hitmark ( 640295 )

                  err, you should note that the web rendering engine, and the gui its put into are two quite different things.

                  while the tablet uses gecko, its not some 256MB ram behemoth. the N800 have 128MB ram, and can create a swap file of equal size on whatever SD card is put inside the "internal" slot (its under the back cover).

                  these pan and zoom gui's are created because of the limited space on a phones screen. the N800 do not have such a limitation. with the press of a button the browser can use the whole screen to re

                  • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

                    Opera 8.65 which is 2 years old code does work in my device (Nokia E65) which has 13MB free RAM (while Fring running). On Symbian device class of mine, you don't get any kind of swapping excuse, you get the boot from OS if you dare to use more RAM than it requires to do the job.

                    N800 has 128MB RAM, I don't think it is a problem _unless_ people culturally doesn't understand the idea of coding in a tight way, professionally and putting only, strictly required stuff get in the way.

                    I am way biased because I do h

    • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:15AM (#24288067) Journal
      It also seems like they're trying to sell to a market that's obsessed with customizability with a device that's designed to give you exactly one narrowly-defined way to do any given task.
      • Well, it's working pretty well for the EEE PC so far! You have the option of installing XP or extra applications of course, but a lot of people find they're happy with the built in OS and apps.

    • by kriebz ( 258828 )

      Sorry to be mostly OT, but really? Buy a new battery. Mine lasts 3 days even with wifi on most of the time. It did die after about 4 hours of near continuous wifi searching with bluetooth on too. Instant off that actually works would make battery life that much better and make it really useful, but I don't know how well a non-embedded Linux kernel supports that.

      Also, the 770 is too much device for these guys, actually running apps and all. The author seems to buy in to the web OS phenomenon. And skype

      • What's the problem with Skype? It works well, has a large userbase and interoperates with the traditional phone system at good rates. Are geeks meant to do everything by email, IRC and instant messaging (and perhaps Ventrilo but maybe that isn't geeky enough for you either)? What happens when they want to communicate with a non geek?

        • SIP is a bad protocol, however Skype is a proprietary protocol, implemented by one (1) application that does not interoperate with anything.

          On the other hand, IAX2 is both good (tolerant to latency, passes firewalls without problems) and open. I have WRT54G running both regular NAT router and Asterisk as a proxy between SIP (that my VoIP provider supports) and IAX2 (that my internal Asterisk-based PBX uses), so I don't have to pass SIP through NAT.

          • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

            All my contacts use Skype for P2P voice. Some even have actual Skype devices which works at their home wireless.

            The issue is exactly that. Skype became de-facto standard. I love the Gizmo and Nokia does everything to push it on Symbian but when I launch/install it, "no online contacts". They don't exist! That is why :)

            SIP providers before Skype/Gizmo are to blame. I found myself using actual printed "configuration settings" and filling some 20-30 fields when I first dared to experiment with SIP. I can't ima

            • I use SIP exclusively for VoIP-to-PSTN and PSTN-to-VoIP calls (some of them are VoIP-to-PSTN-to-VoIP). With average prices about a cent a minute it makes more sense than Skype unless I want a really, really long conversation, or call somewhere far away.

              • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

                The issue happens when you want to call a non technical user as P2P. Those people really got themselves locked into Skype (not in malicious way) and while Gizmo provides the complete standard based solution even using XMPP, you find hard time to convince those non technies to switch.

                Of course if I was VOIP-->PSTN only, it would be Gizmo. It is actually sad, in 2008, another "launch 2 apps which does the same thing" situation adds to the already schizophrenic IM situation.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > I love my N770 except for battery life. I wish these things could go at least 3 days between charges

      My N800 can go 6 days without a problem. Maybe they improved the power management on subsequent models? Also, be sure you aren't running background tasks that use the CPU - that will suck down battery life quickly. Even browser javascript stuff can do that.

      If nothing else, you could upgrade - N800's are cheap now that the N810's are out.

  • I don't see how this beats a Linux distro, it's just as cheap, and just as portable. It's also probably going to be a lot more realistic for your average Joe user. Just my humble opinion, though.
  • Kinda like the N800? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:27AM (#24287615) Journal
    I mean, those specs pretty much match a Nokia N800 [] with a pair of 2 GB SD cards and running OS 2008. Heck, they even got the Linux part.

    Okay, you can upgun to an Arm11, put in a bigger battery, and make the touch screen multitouch, but the device proposed is not something entirely new.

    It is, however, something eminently useful on a daily basis.
    • n8x0 has an ARM11, its all packaged inside an OMAP2420 from ti.
      It even looks like we will be using the powervr [] 3d soon as well.

      Multitouch would be nice of course, but I don't hold 2 styluses at the same time.

      • by hitmark ( 640295 )

        one can do quite a bit on the N800 with a finger these days. it even have a full screen keyboard for finger typing.

        • by DingerX ( 847589 )
          yeah, it does. I left my stylus at work yesterday and had to use the fingerboard. Ugh. I'm just glad it's not the preferred entry method, a la iPod touch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by somersault ( 912633 )

        Multitouch would be nice of course, but I don't hold 2 styluses at the same time.

        You mean you're not into chopstick-stylus computing yet? All the cool kids are doing it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drew ( 2081 )

      From the mockup pictures in TFA, it looks to me like the device they are proposing is on the order of 4-5 times the size of the Nokia family. This doesn't appear to be a pocket form factor device, but rather a true tablet.

  • by MichaelCrawford ( 610140 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:33AM (#24287679) Homepage Journal
    They could use Jabber for instant messaging, and Asterix for voice communications.
    • by Mark Trade ( 172948 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:41AM (#24287749)

      Asterix for voice communications.

      I hear Obelix is way better.

      (But other than that I agree. Skype is not open source and a security liability.)

    • Not only is it not open source, it's not an open protocol, and not even a reverse-engineered proprietary protocol. Skype is, in many ways, the absolute antithesis of open source - you can't modify it, you are locked into a single-supplier, interoperability is non-existent, and so on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dk.r*nger ( 460754 )

      ...and Asterix for voice communications

      Asterisk is to internet telephony as Apache is to web browsing..

      As much as I'm a fan of open source, I'm also a very big fan of Just F****ing Works, so I'd include Skype.

      • As much as I'm a fan of open source, I'm also a very big fan of Just F****ing Works, so I'd include Skype.

        Hear, hear here!

    • You can use Nimbuzz [] for voice. Not open source, but uses Jabber/XMPP. They do have a web-client (that does not do voice) and a flash widget for Facebook et al that does do voice. Making a full-featured flash client that does voice should be an obvious next step, since it opens up linux/mac markets.

      Nimbuzz connects to your Skype, MSN/Live, GTalk, Yahoo and AIM, with voice calling supported for the first three networks, and also works for mobile phones (both local dial-up and full VoIP) and PC (Windows only

  • Already have one (Score:5, Informative)

    by yelvington ( 8169 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:35AM (#24287689) Homepage

    Linux kernel ... check.
    Touchscreen interface ... check.
    Firefox ... Gecko-based browser, so check.
    Skype ... check. Also all the other IM protocols.
    Wifi ... check. Also Bluetooth to my EDGE phone.
    Headphones, mike, camera ... check.
    Google Gears ... still waiting. But I have abiword.
    About $100 over the target price, but not bad.,n800 []

    I'd like a bigger touchscreen, but then it wouldn't fit in my pocket.

  • by Deaddy ( 1090107 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:39AM (#24287721)
    Firefox is a great operating system it lacks a good browser, though.
  • I just love the way that people are wanting and buying thin client hardware after years saying they couldn't possibly work without a REAL computer
  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:02AM (#24287951) Homepage Journal

    I think these things would be more useful going the thin-client approach. E.g., just use it to ssh+vnc into a persistent desktop on your home PC. That way you have all your settings preserved, and the performance will likely be much better for anything more complicated than reading.

    I think the opera browser for most smartphones / blackberries use a thin client approach, where they render your web page on their servers and send screenscrapes to your device which you can pan and zoom around in their interface.

    Anyway, I've been looking for something to eventually replace my Palm T|X, and don't really see anything I like too much. The N810 looks nice, but seems like the PIM functionality will be taking a step back from what I have now (granted it wasn't really designed for PIM at all to begin with).

    • You may be someone who hates everything Apple, in which case ignore this, but I'm finding the iPod Touch to be an amazing PDA since the latest firmware update with applications was released.

      There's very little it can't do now, and not only can you run your usual PIM functionality, but it also makes a passable portable games system (graphically, I'd say it's better then my DS, but controls are somewhat lacking).

      And it even comes with an iPod ;)

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        I find Apple products nice, but I've always run into some extremely frustrating limitation... e.g. the iPod Nano I bought for my father-in-law won't display images unless you upload them through iLife's iPhoto. So at least I have some idea what to get him for next year :P

        Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing your workflow with the iPod Touch / iPhone... I think I'd prefer it to any of the WinCE smartphone/PDAs. Right now my main flow is something like:

        Palm T|X
        * sync/backup PIM with PC using jpilot
        * goosync

        • Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing your workflow with the iPod Touch / iPhone... I think I'd prefer it to any of the WinCE smartphone/PDAs. Right now my main flow is something like:

          Palm T|X
          * sync/backup PIM with PC using jpilot
          It's done using iTunes instead, but it's much the same thing, although if you're using Linux as your primary OS, you'll have a harder time. I have little doubt someone will reverse engineer Mobile Me's API at some point though, at which point you should be able to do it over wifi.


    • by Teckla ( 630646 )

      I think these things would be more useful going the thin-client approach. E.g., just use it to ssh+vnc into a persistent desktop on your home PC. That way you have all your settings preserved, and the performance will likely be much better for anything more complicated than reading.

      In the United States, at least, the upload bandwidth broadband customers (cable, DSL) get is pretty anemic. Combine that with VNC, which doesn't perform that well in the first place since it performs screen scraping, and you have a recipe for a really slow, frustrating experience.

      In addition, all that wireless communication will drain your battery fast. It's better to keep as much local as possible.

    • by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:39AM (#24289157) Homepage

      I just replaced my cherished, precious Palm Tungsten T3 this Spring after I received an iPod Touch for Christmas.

      It is absolutely the best PDA ever. I thought that even before I upgraded to the 2.0 firmware. I can now access my work's Exchange server plus all of my personal accounts. The apps are a mixed bag, but OmniFocus is the best Getting Things Done app on any platform, if you're into that.

      A device this size is not the proper tool for remote support. For that I strongly recommend a ThinkPad X-series with a Verizon data card in a messenger bag or briefcase. People who use their handheld device (smartphone, PDA, Nokia Internet tablet, whatever) to do support are out of their minds.

    • The N-series would be absolutely excellent if it had a well-designed PIM suite (and by well-designed, I mean not a poorly-designed, hacked together, proof-of-concept, "oh yes there is a PIM suite" sort of PIM suite).

      As it stands, the only real alternatives are the iPod Touch (which is very nice but can't do Flash and has no camera or mic) or a stodgy Palm device (do they still even make non-phone devices?). Nokia has the superior hardware, but alas the software just isn't nearly as versatile without a quali

  • let me get his right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ionix5891 ( 1228718 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:06AM (#24287983)

    a technology blog wants to create a device?

    yea right seems like linkbait to get more ad impressions (open that site while having firebug open they load so much ad shit)

  • Now it is official: Firefox is the new EMACS.

    If only Firefox had a good web browser.

  • by Tatsh ( 893946 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:11AM (#24288041)

    Read that as 'TechCrunch Wants to Create an Open Source Toilet' and I was like 'Hell...yeah'.

  • Meh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:13AM (#24288049)

    I want a 9" iPod Touch.

    Make a Linux based one with a glass screen and multi-touch that has that level of polish, and that level of simplicity and people will be interested.

    Give them plain ol' Firefox on a lousy LCD with a resistive touch screen and it'll have the same success every other internet tablet has had... ie, it'll end up on TigerDirect at 80% off.

    More power to them, but they need to scrap their list of requirements and put one thing at the very top: usability. If it doesn't have the UX and physical usability of an iPod Touch (where my grandmother could figure it out), its missed the boat. If the software is getting less than 95% of the attention, then they've missed the boat.

    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      also known as a resurrected newton?

  • Pepper tried this (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:21AM (#24288173)

    Pepper Computer [] already tried this, and they failed. It turns out that producing a device that can sell for $200 is quite difficult.

    It also turns out that people aren't willing to spend $N for a limited-functionality device when they're able to get a full-featured laptop for $N, or even $N+100

    I wish TechCrunch luck!

  • Provided you don't want to write anything down (no proper keyboard), connect your digicam or any other device (maybe one USB port, no other ports), play anything but the simplest of simple games (again, no keyboard/ports), no photo editing (not enought horsepower)...

    So, yes, if all you do is to look at facebook and call people up with skype this is "as usefull as a desktop". But if that is all you do, why not get something like a Eee 2G, an Elonex One or a MSI Wind?

    • by DingerX ( 847589 )
      To answer your question:
      You're right. "Almost as useful as a desktop" is an inaccurate way of expressing the utility of this class of devices. I am writing this on my desktop, within arm's reach of a Nokia N800, which meets the specs above (800-pixel-wide touch screen, wifi, 256 MB RAM, 256 MB system memory, 24 GB in two SDHC cards, Linux, Gecko, Skype, Asterisk and Video), and yet I'm writing on a desktop.

      What gives? Why are these things useful? For that matter, why not get an Eee 2G, Elonex One or MSI W
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:22AM (#24288191)
    They haven't specified the screen size. While the designers go into detail for the amount of memory, SSD, number and type of ports - they are too shy to talk about this one attribute that will make or break the design.

    We know PDA-sized screens are no good for web-browsing (especially when the mocked-up picture implies showing print-sized text). So it follows that the screen will have to be at least the size of a paperback and preferably the size of an A4 sheet to get any kind of mass market take-up (with, of course the battery capacity to match). If you plan to do this for $200, you must know something that the rest of the world has missed.

    Even the book readers that appeared last year didn't manage that - and they seem to have sunk without trace. Without this, the project is nothing more than pie in the sky.

    I'll keep an eye out for the end product, but I won't hold my breath waiting for it.

    • by jo7hs2 ( 884069 )
      I strongly suspect that the only reason they are upfront with the memory, ports, and slots information is that so much of that is supported by the processor package.
  • What the article suggests is using the browser as the interface to the computer. Which is just as silly as using the browser for an operating system.

    Why not skip the idea of a separate browser "application" altogether and build web-rendering into something that resembles the "desktop," with some kind of multitouch swipe that brings up an application launcher for stuff like Skype and your favorite porn torrent downloader and video player? Whoa...I feel like Steve Jobs all of a sudden.
    • Why not skip the idea of a separate browser "application" altogether and build web-rendering into something that resembles the "desktop,"

      Microsoft did that in 1997. It was called "Active Desktop" and led to the biggest malware ecosystem ever.

      The iPhone does not make that mistake. The browser is a separate application and the application, not the rendering engine, manages access between the sandbox and the outside world.

  • by illumin8 ( 148082 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:31AM (#24288311) Journal

    I want a dead simple and dirt cheap touch screen web tablet to surf the web. Nothing fancy like the Dell latitude XT, which costs $2,500. Just a Macbook Air-thin touch screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel.

    You want a Macbook-air thin wireless touch screen tablet device for $200? I want world peace, Dick Cheney's head on a pike, and a pony... good luck with that!

    Here's the basic idea: The machine is as thin as possible, runs low end hardware and has a single button for powering it on and off, headphone jacks, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, and a microphone. It will have Wifi, maybe one USB port, a built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM, a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. Data input is primarily through an iPhone-like touch screen keyboard. It runs on linux and Firefox. It would be great to have it be built entirely on open source hardware, but including Skype for VOIP and video calls may be a nice touch, too.

    I'll admit what they are talking about sounds really cool, but the real world limitations of battery technology, thin electronics, and design prowess that only companies like Apple seem to have will make this thing cost $2000-3000 when it's finally done. Sorry, you just can't cram all of that good stuff into a 0.5 inch enclosure for $200.

    • Alternatively, make it 2 inches thick, peel off the Apple logo & sell it to me for £500 (=$1000) on the reassurance that I won't lose any sleep over the fact it doesn't look like a fashion accessory.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      PS. By the way, you need to be modded "Off-topic". The article is talking about OPEN SOURCE tablets, not those that are locked down with a proprietary Apple OS.
  • by deathguppie ( 768263 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:16AM (#24288871)

    I like the Idea. For the simple reason that if it were truly open it could be used for other purposes. Like alternative communications devices for the speech impaired (i.e. autistic, cerebral palsy, kids, with motor speech problems).

    Currently the only thing available to my knowledge is the Prentkey Romich [] tablets at about $6,000 US a pop.

    It would be nice to be able to have the ability to develop an open source low cost alternative. Something with maybe only one button besides the screen. For people that cannot afford these devices for one reason or the other.

  • What this project needs is an on-screen keyboard/text entry method of roughly the same type and quality as the iPhone's keyboard. Until there's something like that in the linux world, using devices like this will be a pretty clunky affair.

  • Fifteen years someone's been trying to get the gadget that would be an online viewing device, tablet, NetPC, whatever. Michael "why won't they let me fly back on the Google Plane" Arrington is just one more arrogant joker, posing as a visionary in a high-profile spot, wanting to crack open the notebook/tablet/ultra-something marketplace. He'll fail, too.

  • go directly to Firefox running in a modified Kiosk mode that effectively turns the browser into the operating system for the device. Add Gears for offline syncing of Google docs, email, etc., and Skype for communication and you have a machine that will be almost as useful as a desktop but cheaper and more portable than any laptop or tablet PC

    What alternative reality are they living in? First, if we have an embeded Firefox in a kiosk mode, wouldn't that keep me from patching and upgrading the browser? Then, you are basically telling me that all I need to do on a computer is browse the web, and online word processing and e-mail, and VoIP? Shoot, the iPhone does more than that, and sells for the same price. And I certainly would not claim its as good as a desktop. Shoot, my desktop has more power than my maxed-out laptop, and I do video editing a

    • The iPhone costs three times as much as this device. If you subsidize it with a phone contract the list price is comparable, but then you have to add well over a thousand dollars per year for the contract.

  • by ( 1238654 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:53AM (#24289361)

    Every time these ideas come around, they simply boil down to lightweight desktop interfaces. Just taking interfaces people are used to elsewhere and dumbing them down is not going to solve any problems. First, determine if the product solves any problems, then make the solution fit those specific needs.

    Windows Mobile demonstrates this pattern exactly, which is one reason the iPhone dominates it. Apple realized that the form factor, the input devices, and usage scenarios are radically different from the desktop. Microsoft used hierarchical menus, scroll bars, and other common metaphors that break-down on handhelds. Apple opted for user interfaces that give powerful visual clues where pixels and real estate are hard to come by. The different is, as millions of people will tell you, striking.

    This “yet another tablet PC” is not going to catch on or provide any value if the designers simply repackage the laptops we already have (never mind other flops like Windows XP Tablet Edition). Figure out what users actually need and develop to those needs. Have they solved handwriting recognition? How are they going to deal with small screens? Will essential functions be quickly accessible? Do they have any concrete use cases? Have they considered that people dislike stylus input? Any ideas for one-handed keyboards perhaps?

    Sorry, but trimming down the web browser and preserving constrained desktop functionality elsewhere is not going to make waves. This strategy has failed many times in the past, and I am surprised that we are still trying it so many years after the QBE.

    • Microsoft's problem in handhelds is Windows. They don't want the Windows Mobile based devices to become laptop replacements, because that would compete with Windows sales, but they want them to be recognizably Windows to both make development easier and to promote the brand.

      Windows Mobile loses because Windows CE is just not reliable and solid enough to serve both the needs of a mobile phone and the needs of a general-purpose handheld. Palm didn't have this problem nearly as badly because PalmOS ran under a

  • I've yet to get Google Gears to actually provide offline access to my files while actually offline. (It works fine while online, but of course what would be the point?)

    Does anybody else have the same experience? All I ever get after logging in is a "file listing" which is blank, as if I didn't even have files stored in Google Docs.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:01PM (#24290285)

    ... is that it's not possible.

    Look at the specs - if you want decent battery life, a decent screen (with decent resolution), decent RAM and storage (specced at 512MB and 4GB), and to all go for $200, it's hard.

    The only thing on the market NOW that's even remotely close is the XO-1, but it only has 256MB of RAM and 1GB storage. And it's BOM costs are quite high already, even with its anemic CPU. If you want to mass-produce it and sell for $200 retail, after taking out everyone's profit and overhead, you're looking at a manufactured unit cost of around $100. Maybe $125, if you can squeeze profit margins from retailers and the like. (Figure in profit/time for doing the software, as asll as distribution costs to get it to retailers - you'll probably want wholesale to cost around $150-160). Of that, the screen, RAM and flash are the big budget items, and a good CPU can be pricey in quantity ($10-ish, nominally for a high-end ARM processor from the big companies - Samsung/Marvell/Freescale).

    It's a tight squeeze, add in the other costs like warranty and support, and you'll find not many people are willing ot take on such a high-risk project with such little returns. You can try to sell it online like the OLPC guys with their "give one get one" thing, which lets you raise the manufactured cost more, but then have to deal with all the issues of distribution to end users.

    It's not that no one wants to do it, it's just that it's really hard to do a good job in very tight constraints. Give it a year, and you'll probably be able to do it with last year's CPUs, last year's RAM, and last year's storage. But if you up the requirements next year, well.

    The original Eee PC had a crappy screen, crappy battery life, OK CPU, as-required RAM and as-required storage, and still cost $400, even though the screen was bulk leftovers from portable DVD players, and the CPU was more or less "hey, I found a box of these things sitting on the shelf".

  • Just add a keyboard with a touchpad (hinged to the display) and I'm there.

  • Oh this is sooo easy to do: [] Ok done. Only problem, it is going to run closer to $500 for all the parts you need. Considering a 4.3" touch screen runs $85 if you're not buying in quantity, and a 4GB micro SD runs about $15, that's $100 right there. And the cheapest retail 15" touchscreen I've seen is $299, Megavision MV155U, and the power requirements for that thing make "portable" an impossibility. I've been playing around with building
  • Arrington & Co. appear to be completely naive about the realities of running a business or building technology products. If they even manage to create a prototype, how are they going to deal with support, with legal compliance and defense against outside legal threats, just to name a few issues? Are they really going to get engineers and designers good enough on a volunteer basis?

    The weirdest part about this is the volunteer aspect. Does anybody think they are going to find enough quality volunteers to

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire