26 September 2009

Moving Closer to the Portable Electronic Office

The techsavy world (via Gizmodo) has been making a little bit of a fuss about the new "tablet" design which Microsoft is rumored to have come up with, apparently all based upon the leak of this video:

I've been watching the handheld computer market for a while now and this form factor is an innovative idea which I think merits consideration and imitation. Of late, the real innovations in handcomps have been on the ereader branch, so it's good to see innovation from the tablet side.

This solves one of the biggest problems with tablets: how to view a document and take notes on it using the same computer. Sure, there were workarounds. Some split the top and bottom half of the screen; some made the original document smaller. None were really satisfactory. Now a document can be on one panel and you can be taking notes on the other.

Nevertheless, I suspect that this will not become the tablet which launches thousands. Why? Because they will try to do too much and be too fancy and they probably still haven't solved the weight problem. Companies need to concentrate on making this (and any other tablet) into a replacement for a legal pad, files, and books. They need to concentrate on doing this well and getting the price as low as possible - down to the price level of netbooks or what good PDA's used to cost.

Just imagine being able to go to court with a handcomp the size of a legal pad containing all your files and notes (because you save them electronically as soon as you make them), complete copies of all the statutes and cases (for every US jurisdiction), and all the secondary treatises on evidence, procedure and law. It's not here yet, but, God willing, sometime soon.

Here's what I want in a handcomp:

Approximately the size & WEIGHT of a legal pad. If you've ever tried to use a tablet you realize that this is a major issue in usability. A 3-5 lb tablet doesn't sound so bad until you have to lug it around thru an entire trial (did it once - not happening again).

Folds open to have two panels.

The panels use e-ink and are not illuminated unless operator chooses to (this should save a lot of wear and tear on the eyes) & yes, I do realize that e-ink needs improvement

A slot for an SD memory card in order to import and export files / programs

Touch controls which work both with finger and stylus

Approxiamately the innards you'd find in a basic netbook: atom processor, 1 gb memory, at least 40 gb storage - in order to do this solid state storage will probably need to be made affordable and used

A very simple operating system. Nobody has to get too fancy here. Palm's old system worked wonderfully. Maybe something like a modified version of jolicloud. BTW, I can't speak too highly of jolicloud's operating system and have it now on my personal Acer portable and my work Gateway portable. It's amazingly easy to use and pretty much idiot proof.

The ability to send notes which I have written to another person via some sort of IMish function. This would be a great way to write notes freehand to send (as opposed to texting) or even to send handwriting to a secretary to be typed up.

An audio recorder. If Creative can fit a recorder in a Zen the size of a credit card they can get on in this.

I'm sure I'll think of something else later, but for now, that's my perfect handcomp.

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