What’s in the next mobile PC?

In the mid-1990s, the laptop started to become the desktop-replacement: big and heavy, but becoming much easier to use than earlier laptops. Users valued them – particularly the nice big screens – and big laptops became the norm. Smaller beasts such as my 13″ MacBook (which would’ve been big in 1995) are unusual.

That left the demand for smaller laptops, like my 10″ machine from about ’93/’94, largely unsatisfied. So when the Asus Eee PC came out, it had a ready market, and spawned a new generation of mini-laptops. But today’s netbooks are no more than that: an updated generation of small laptops without major innovation.

Innovation has come elsewhere. Lots of it in smartphones, and more recently in e-book readers. But while useful, neither of these is a candidate to substitute for the macbook.

So what small/mobile computer would I buy? Top of the list on the market today is the Nokia N810 tablet, which is not too much smaller than the eee but an order of magnitude more portable. But a slightly bigger screen would be better still, and isn’t it time e-ink entered the mainstream?

Here’s a startingpoint shopping list for the device I’d like:

  • ARM processor. Anything from Intel implies such a huge weight of battery.
  • Solid-state storage. Surely we can dispense with moving parts, and save bulk/weight at the same time?
  • E-ink screen. I don’t care if it’s less pretty than the mac, too slow for videos and gaming, and even if it’s greyscale-only. But I do want low power consumption, and a screen I can read in full daylight would be a huge advantage.
  • Linux (or other *X) OS, so I have freedom over what I can run on it.

Apart from that a few more good-to-haves are builtin e-book support, applications like GPS and FM radio, and regular connectivity including USB, Wifi, SIP telephony, and GSM/mobile broadband phone support. And a solar power supply would be great! But some of these eat battery and/or space, and the ideal system is perhaps something modular where these can be slotted in.

So who’s going to be first to market with a device for me?

Posted on May 31, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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