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Asus Planning Netbook With Slot-In Mobile Phone 75

An anonymous reader writes "Taiwanese manufacturer Asus is planning a netbook with a slot-in mobile phone that will double as a 3G communications module, according to a distributor. The arrangement is apparently meant to be an easy way to use the same SIM card and data account for both a phone and a portable computer. The phone module, from an Israeli company called Modu, is already on sale, together with an array of feature-phone shells and other devices that it's designed to slot into. There is some comparison being made with the iPhone and iPad — except that with the Modu approach, you can slot the phone into the netbook."
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Asus Planning Netbook With Slot-In Mobile Phone

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    They could replace the trackpad area with a slot for the iPhone/iPod. It could server as a dockable computer you could take around to whatever machine you need.

  • Bluetooth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:06PM (#32229164)
    Surely tethering is the better solution, since you could use any laptop with any phone.
    • by no-body ( 127863 )

      You can use any PC/Laptop with Blackberry over Bluetooth to get on the Internet with BB's SIM/Account.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Redlazer ( 786403 )
      Bluetooth tethering is expensive energy wise, and slow. It's not a great protocol for that.

      My N1 can use wifi, which gives me excellent speeds, but really hurts the battery.

      There is also USB tether, but I can appreciate something like this. Very clean and modern.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonbryce ( 703250 )

      Or even just a separate HSDPA modem. In the UK anyway, a teathering plan for your cell phone generally costs the same per month as a separate modem plan - about £15 per month

      • In the US, it depends on the carrier, but some let you tether for as little as $30. (And on many phones, you can hack them on cheaper data plans to allow tethering.)

        On the flip side, for "unlimited" data on an aircard, it's usually $60.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Think about more from the sellers point of view. All new singing and dancing smartbook with dockable smartphone, for one low initial payment together with a whole lot of expensive and highly profitable phone contract payments (I wasn't about to lie about that part). From the typical users perspective, they know it will work, no weird compatibility problems and it really is logically useful. The smartbook as a charging, long term data storage, easy data input and upload, large screen expansion device, all w

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:08PM (#32229176) Journal

    Wow, if only we had some standard universal serial bus that might allow us to connect a phone to a netbook, without relying on a custom "slot" and buying both products from one company. Maybe we could use some wireless short range networking method too. And then if only there was a way for the netbook to make use of the phone's Internet connection, so you can use the same SIM and data account for both.

    The modular approach addresses one of the great problems of mobile devices for both buyers and designers: you cannot, with current technology, have a device that is both large enough for comfortable extended use and small enough to carry around all the time.

    The issue is exemplified by Apple's Iphone and the larger Ipad. The only way to have the advantages of both Apple devices is to buy both and synchronise data between them.

    But how is this netbook and phone bundle any different to buying a phone and netbook? Is the price much better, for example?

    And how does this device solve the synchronisation problem - do I magically have access to the same data on both, without synchronisation?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davester666 ( 731373 )

      > But how is this netbook and phone bundle any different to buying a phone and netbook? Is the price much better, for example?

      It makes it more difficult to use the phone while surfing the net...

    • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:14PM (#32229230)

      If only we had some sort of subscriber identity module that could be easily transferred between telecommunications devices.

      • The operative word is "easily".

        • by leenks ( 906881 )

          Bluetooth? Surely something could be done to share the SIM data over bluetooth in a way that the two devices could use it?

          • You can tether over bluetooth. That is essentially the thing you just said, except with the slight bandwidth-over-wireless thing.

            Worked well enough for me and my Motorola V3i anyhow.

            • by leenks ( 906881 )

              No, I meant just share the sim rather than tethering. Ie the other device would have a 3G transceiver in it too, but use the sim remotely in some way. Ie low power.

              • Ah, I getcha now. Yes, that'd be very handy.

              • by IrquiM ( 471313 )

                Why not just get an extra SIM for the same plan? Dual, and even triple SIMs are available from operators that care about their customers.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            No problem [].

            (Unless your phone declines to support it, or your carrier somehow locks it, or your device doesn't understand it. In any case, though, it exists.)

            Even if it didn't exist, SIM cards aren't exactly expensive devices. Wholesale price lists aren't just leaping to the top of my google searches at present; but, based on the prices quoted for new prepaid SIMs, any carrier could easily afford to provide extra SIMs for $5-$10 a pop, tying them to an existing account.
    • PCMCIA? Modern phones are small enough you could easily fit one into a dual PCMCIA slot.

  • Which carriers will sell the Modu? Will the Modu phones be sold/subsidized by the carrier? Who will be willing to sacrifice their phone preference for this netbook feature?

    BTW, the Modu website [] catalog is annoying as hell.
  • How is this an improvement over tethering? Seems like a waste of valuable real estate in the netbook.
  • Pointless gimmick (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:12PM (#32229204)

    This is yet another proprietary pointless gimmick that won't take off unless it is really really really well designed and constructed, and these things rarely are...

    • So basically, as someone above mentioned, Apple might be able to pull this off using the iPhone as a trackpad. The users are used to a limited number of devices and vendor lock-in, so it really wouldn't change much for them. Done well, it might be pretty interesting if you're already an Apple laptop and phone user.
  • User: Oh hey, I'm going to cruise to Starbucks and get some work done. *meanders on to Starbucks with netbook/phone bundle, sits down, opens SSH connection* *receives phone call* User: Oh fuck... Sure hope you nohup'd that last command before you pull out your internet connection to take a call, buddy.
    • by Isaac-Lew ( 623 )
      You could forward your phone calls through a VoIP application, or use the wifi at Starbucks & leave your phone line open. As for the SSH connection - there's GNU screen [].
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      User: Oh hey, I'm going to cruise to Starbucks and get some work done. *meanders on to Starbucks with netbook/phone bundle, sits down, opens SSH connection* *receives phone call* User: Oh fuck... Sure hope you nohup'd that last command before you pull out your internet connection to take a call, buddy.

      Reaches over and presses the "accept call" button on the desktop only to hear your wife start to complain at you through the laptop speakers and wonders what the hell am I doing in a starbucks, I like real c

  • As others have mentioned, why not just tether your phone so it's not vendor locked (not to mention smartphone upgrade friendly) or maybe just buy a smartbook [] and just use something like Skype for phone calls?
    • by fikx ( 704101 )
      The concept or driver behind something like Modu is that the basic parts of the phone have become ubiquitous and a standard dock for something like this allows anything to get the common parts of a cell phone added to them: cars can have a standard slot to make then car phones and allow data services (like map downloads for GPS for example), laptops (like the the one here) can get a data cell connection, TV's can work anywhere , etc. This is basically an oversize SIM since you still need an account hardware
  • Waste of time (Score:5, Informative)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:31PM (#32229346)

    I don't see why they're bothering at all, especially when Android 2.2 is going to have Wireless tethering as standard. Essentially all they've done is opt for a proprietary, limited connection interface when there's at least 3 universal ones out there that could be used (USB, Wifi and Bluetoth).

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      And nokia s60 phones already had this for over a year. Pretty much any Nokia S60 smartphone + SIM card with 3G internet contract + nokia PC software = free tethering to any USB equipped laptop.

      Or, if you want to be truly innovative, get application called joikuspot and have your phone act as a Wi-Fi 3G modem.

  • for those that don't remember, Slashdot saw the Modu phone a while back here [] back in 2008. I thought the idea was intersting then, good to see it in the news again with new ideas. If I remember right, the Modu concept was thought by the same person who thought up USB thumb drives...
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:51PM (#32229472) Homepage Journal

    Cell phones are nearing the point where they are powerful enough to be a primary computer. All they need is a better display and keyboard, so why not put everything into the cell phone, and then sell docking stations in laptop and desktop form factors?

    The connector would need a few more pins than just USB to support video (perhaps a few lanes of PCI Express), but really, we have the technology now.

    Everything can live in your phone.

    • Agreed. I think Modu should have taken the next leap and designed modular computers. Imagine a computer smaller than half the size of a cellphone or a handheld PC of the late nineties (Psion, anyone?). You can then create "jackets" that will turn the module into the core of a variety of gadgets such as:

      (a) a cellphone
      (b) a tablet
      (c) a netbook
      (d) a PDA (do they still make these?)
      (e) the onboard computer of a car (doubling as the ignition key)
      (f) a toaster
      (g) a Chumby

      I can even imagine Intel or AMD selling no

    • Many cars now come with touchscreens for navigation and other system control.

      How about a docking station for your iPhone in your car? A bigger screen, better oriented for driving, access to music, apps..

    • by vlad30 ( 44644 )
      Like This []
      • by crow ( 16139 )

        No, that's just a stand to use an iPad as a picture frame. It doesn't provide a larger display, or in any way let you use your iPad as a laptop or desktop computer.

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:52PM (#32229480)

    There's a number of issues here:

    1. Tethering your 'phone, via USB or bluetooth, is a lot easier these days. Easily within the reach of those technically sophisticated enough to use/need it.
    (Plus it's nice to be able to charge your phone via USB - saves a wall-wart when travelling)
    2. What happens when your 'phone rings but it's plugged into your 'puter? So now you need to keep your bluetooth earpiece in?
    3. Linked to the above point, can foresee some funky situations if you're using bluetooth audio...I use my PC as a handsfree / music player for my phone sometimes
    4. Looks like a great way to lose/get stolen your phone along with your laptop.

    I went through this whole 'integration' thing with in-car PCs;
    A PC which does bluetooth phone, mp3, DVD and also sat-nav? Too complex
    Tomtom that does bluetooth handsfree? Have to cut the radio when it 'rings'; crappy sound.
    In the end me and my wife found the best compromise to be a car audio set that does bluetooth handfree, (cuts the music automatically when you answer a call; great sound over the car stereo speakers), but a stand-alone sat-nat device.

    Sometimes too much integration is a bad thing...

    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

      Well modu's website shows they have no grasp of internet technology. It's flash laden crap.

    • I've got a Nexus One with my bluetooth car stereo... it does navigation, bluetooth music to the car stereo, calls and everything all together, interruption of the music to speak navigation directions or to take a call. Integration is a good thing, if it's done intelligently.

  • My notebook has USB "slot" which can plug in my iphone 3G communications module..

    • Indeed, if all this is is a standard USB port but built into a special phone-shaped clip so you don't have to have the trailing USB cables, I can sort of see how it was a good idea- although I can't say I'd go for it myself.

      If it's proprietary connection crap then it is just plain stupid, and I can't really see what they hope to achieve.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:00PM (#32229524) Journal
    Is that integration between phones, smart or otherwise, and computers is not really a technical problem at all; but a business one. Yes, there are some technical details(fiddly bluetooth profile stuff, details of USB networking, etc.); but nothing that competent engineers can't work through, and largely have.

    The big issue is that carriers, for the most part, absolutely don't want phone/computer local connections to be useful. And, to the degree that they are willing to let them be, they still want to be paid for it. The real control freaks don't even want stuff like bluetooth OBEX to work, so that you have to get pictures off the phone by MMS ($.50 a pop, ka-ching!) and ringtones and things on to the phone from some walled garden store($2.99/ea, ka-ching!). Even among the more moderate, most of them want you to pay more if you are using the phone as an internet connection for a full PC, even if the phone is a smartphone with an existing data plan.

    You can, already, get all kinds of useful integration between PCs and phones, with no stupid proprietary hardware bundling nonsense; but you often have to buy unsubsidized handsets(and then pair them with voice/data plans that are priced to include paying off a handset subsidy) and either pay extra or risk TOS disconnection if you do any serious data tethering.

    This is reminds me of seeing stories about this device [] a while back. A "portable DVR" that would dock to record shows, and then be removable to watch them out and about. Incredibly stupid idea(Why would you want your DVR's capacity to be constrained by a portable form factor, when gigantic 3.5 inch drives cost nearly nothing? Why would you want a DVR that can't record shows when you are out of the house? Why tie the lifetime of a DVR, that should be able to pretty much sit there and Just Work for years, possibly with the occasional HDD upgrade/replacement to the lifespan of a delicate mobile device?). However, the simple, obvious technical solution(make the DVR networked, transfer recordings to whatever mobile device you want) is largely deemed unacceptable by DRM and control-hungry cable companies, so you get this really ugly hack. Similarly, connecting a phone to a computer using existing ubiquitous technologies should be fucking child's play. There is absolutely no need for any proprietary bundle solution, except because of carrier control freakery.
  • The only reason people want this is so they can use two devices on the same 3G connection. It's not as convenient as having a 3G card in each device. I would rather have a reasonably priced 'pay as you go' plan that allows me to connect as many devices as I want. Or at least a special 'unlimited' plan that allows me to connect two devices.
  • Why not just get a second SIM from your mobile phone provider, then put that in your notebook/netbook/whatever. The only difference is you don't get instant access to the data on your phone from your computer, but then you can still copy it across using USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi, and take calls while using your data connection.
    • in the US, two of the 4 major carriers don't use SIM. the other two that do use SIM have incompatible 3G networks. if you built the modem hardware into the computer, it'd be for one carrier (or lots of $$$ to and space to support the networks of all the carriers).

  • Palm^WHP has a patent on it which is about 10-15 years old.

  • Is there really a market for this? This seems like overengineering. I like to still be able to use the phone when I surf the web. In fact I can do so right now. The solution? Two SIM cards tied to the same account. As an added bonus I get to surf with my phone as well. This is a much cheaper and flexible solution, not even tethering is needed. Is this not commonly possible with other carriers?
  • I could see how this would work if the PDA's screen was used as a touchpad when docked to the laptop (although the laptop would be a bit useless on its own without the phone. Perhaps as a secondary display it would be OK?
  • And they're traveling back in time to 2007 to announce it. They'll call it .... Foleo.
  • You can tether over bluetooth. That is essentially the thing you just said, except with the slight bandwidth-over-wireless thing. Cheap Auto Parts []
  • The modu is especially nifty. It's roughly the size of an iPod nano (and it has 2gb for music). That said, I can't recommend them except as easy things to carry in case you get into a pinch. I only carry them when I don't intend to need them. Asus is right, there's lots of room for improvement. Shoving the modu into the netbook shouldn't be the priority though. The current modu doesn't even do 3G. The top 3 priorities should be:

    • Controls - the base modu phone has 7 keys vs the 12 on a basic push button phon
  • What might be useful to me is a netbook body to plug my N900 into, to get a bigger screen, full-size keyboard, more battery power, etc. It only has a 600Mhz CPU but it does everything except playing some higher-res videos.

    Actually this is something that could probably be hacked together from off-the-shelf parts. Get a small BT keyboard, an LCD and speakers with RCA inputs, a battery pack for it all that also provides power to the PDA, and have the N900 plug in so that the screen acts as a touchpad when dock

  • All seems MOOT if our damn providers would allow us to have more than one SIM with the same essential ID.
    When my home phone rings, several phones ring, but I only answer one.
    When I need to make a call, I pick up one phone and make a call ...

    Why not the same with mobile phones?
    Why can't my laptop have a SIM and my phone use one with the same identity and on the same plan?

    The problem is not with the technology, but as usual with companies that have outdated views of how SH*T should work.

  • This is rather silly. You can tether your cell phone with bluetooth anyway. i.e. if you have an unlocked phone.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford