31 January 2010

The Last Mile:
Handcomputers Post-iPad

As anyone who has been reading my blawg for a while knows, I have been keen on the idea of a workable tablet which could be carried to court instead of files. This is particularly of interest because both the Clerk of our Circuit Court and my boss are trying to get us to the point that paper isn't needed in the courthouse. This works wonderfully for the storage of closed files, but is more difficult for ongoing case files. Laptops can somewhat fill the gap, but to use the laptops you get stuck at the desk and have to type notes. You really need a tablet which you can carry with you so that you can pop up .pdf's and documents in a case file, take written notes when you are standing at the bench or podium, and use it to read your notes for openings and closings while you are standing in front of the jury.

So, I am really looking forward to a real working tablet. To this point, I have been most impressed with the enTourage eDGe which has a goofy name and is still too heavy and bulky at 3+ pounds (seems light until you carry it in replacement for a paper tablet), but has much more functionality than anything else I've seen.

Now Apple joins the race. I've been looking forward to this for a while because Apple usually tries to be innovative when it develops a new product. Of course, I also carry prejudices with me which caused me to expect the Apple tablet to be too expensive and too locked in to Apple programs (i.e. iTunes). Comes now the Apple "iPad."

It's an unfortunate name, which has led to a lot of jokes, most in the vein of the one which Mad TV did years before Apple ever thought of this tablet.

There was an initial flush of Apple fanboys talking about how wonderful this device is. Here's the uber-maven of tech Leo Laporte gushing about the device (bracketed by Tekzilla).

Then came the almost immediate and large backlash pointing out all the flaws of the device. This one by Molly Wood, via the Buzz Report, has a number of them (and is funner to listen to than most).

The Good: At a price of $499 with 16GB of memory, it sets the price point for everybody else. With it at this price, it becomes very hard for ereaders to justify their current pricing. In particular, I hope it drives down the price of items like the Sony Reader Daily Edition ($399) and the QUE proReader ($799). The proReader in particular seems badly overpriced at 8GB, even though it is impressive if all you want is a reader.

The Bad: All they did was make a big iPod touch. It will probably be a good way to read the internet and could be a good way to watch video if it supported flash (supposedly to be fixed sometime in the future by support for h264 in new HTML). It could at least have been a new type of communication device if it had a camera and microphone and did vid-phone between devices. No stylus either so that a person can write down a quick note and save it (or, continuing the new type of communication device theme, it could have allowed writing notes and sending them to another person with a tablet).

AAAaarrrrggggg!!!! I'm not sure what Apple thought it was doing when it put this product together. It doesn't look like it will work well for much of anything. Primarily, it seems to be interested in pushing against ereaders instead of actually becoming a working hand computer. It's sad, but the last company to do that really well is probably still Palm. I'm still waiting for the somebody to get it right.

[ADDITION] The coolness offensive has begun:


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