As I’ve already mentioned in a few past posts, There isn’t currently a gap in my computing options that needs to be filled. During the reveal of the Apple iPad Steve Jobs touted it as filling a gap between the Macbook laptop and iPhone. Personally I already have an awesome home desktop, Netbook for portable computing, and HTC Tough Pro smartphone for specific computing jobs that work best when mobile (dayplanner applications, basic calculation, timer, and data lookups, etc).
So what I’ve been hoping for is a way to make my netbook into a convertible tablet. Then it can be both my mobile computer and a tablet computer. I don’t have much of a “gap” in my life but at the same time I want to do more than my smartphone can but not have to worry about whipping out the netbook.
Tablet computers are generally great but always just a hair too big to truly be portable. I’ve moved away from full laptops and onto netbooks because of this. For a laptop you need a good protective carrying case, and due to power constraints you usually have to haul a tangle of power cables as well. Pretty soon you’re carrying a backpack full of equipment to the coffee shop an pretending it’s mobile; because while it’s more mobile than a desktop, it’s certainly not as convenient as pulling a phone out of your pocket.
The apple tablet is almost the same size as my netbook and a good midrange size but at times even that netbook is a bit big. You can’t put it in your pocket on the way out the door, I keep mine in a neoprene case that is about the size of a dayplanner a “go-getter” from the late 90’s would carry around. But it’s still got to be carried by hand, plus a coffee in the other hand and I’m suddenly helpless to do simple things like open doors.
That’s why the Dell Mini 5 (aka streak, M01M) caught my eye. It pushes the limit of fitting in a pocket and is basically a smartphone, but it’s optimized to all the non-phone functions of a smartphone.
I’m a long time PDA fan going all the way back to 2000 when I got a Handspring Visor upto the Dell Axim X51v I had right before I switched to smartphones, so carrying a dedicated computing device in my pocket isn’t really a stretch for me. The only change is the addition of a phone, and while I don’t want to hold a Dell Mini5 to my ear (I think the iPhone is too big) it’s really easy to have a Bluetooth headset you can pop into your ear when you get a call. I actually prefer this because I can talk hands free and take notes on the device in my hands, or continue doing any work while the conversation if beamed from my ear to the slate in my jeans and out to the phone network.
In fact 99% of my phone usage is non-phone related, it’s all the computing features that I usually use, from quick text messages, to music, to video, to web surfing and reading. So having a larger than smartphone screen would be really helpful.
This would be made even better if the Locus OS concept by Barton Smith.
Locus basically works like a device that customizes its interface and options based on the job at hand. I first noticed this idea and got excited about it when the Motorola Droid was coming out. The idea was a car kit where the smartphone automatically switched to in car GPS mode when connected to the kit.
As a concept it’s great and would pair perfectly with a device of the Dell Mini 5’s size, imagine a phone that worked like a secondary screen/controller when docked to your computer. Would switch to a universal remote when in front of your entertainment system and could minimize to a web browser to lookup imdb or wiki info while watching. Then when you went out to your car and plugged it into the car kit it would become a GPS and pump music to the stereo. Or if you ride the bus or trains it would become a PMP and play movies or podcasts for the ride.
I love the fact that all these is possible right now and is little more than a few lines of programmer code from reality. The only remaining question is if any company will have the forethought to make it real, and if I can stand holding a 5” phone to my head to make calls on days I forgot to carry a separate headset.