Tag Archive | "airlife"

Summer Breaks, Products Wait. Round-Up and Outlook Q3/Q4 2010. (Pt. 2 of 2)

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smartbook surfer Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about 3 tablet products. Today, there’s more and the first one is something that shouldn’t be a surprise because Smartbook AG have released a ‘Smartbook.’ The only problem is that I don’t see this as a smartbook. A smartbook to me would be in the laptop/netbook form factor and have an advanced CPU that brings enough power for a quality web, gaming and application experience along with an application store. Smartbook’s Smartbook Surfer runs an ARM11 based Telechips CPU and has a basic Android 2.1 install with, as far as I know, no Gmail, maps or marketplace. That’s not to say it’s a bad product because at 170 euro with GPS (possibly not in the 170 Euro version) HDMI-out, stereo speakers and a case, it’s worth considering for basic coffee-table and holiday duties. If you’ve looked at the Archos 7 Home Tablet.

The final 7” tablet to talk about is the Viewsonic which is in a different league to the Smartbook Surfer. It’s a rumor but looks likely to me considering the Viewsonic branding we’ve seem on prototypes around the trade shows this year. Stuff.TV indicates that it will be running Android 2.2 and have 3G, hi-res cam and GPS options making it a competitor to the Samsung and Huawei slates. They say that is will launch in the UK in about 2 month. Again, this is a rumor, but it seems likely.

Before I move on to the other news items I want to talk briefly about smart books. I’ve been very positive about the possibility of ARM and Android bringing an always-on, social, fun and lightweight netbook alternative to the market but as yet we haven’t seen anything that really hits the mark. The hardware is there in my opinion but it was always the Android build that fell short. Both the Compaq Airlife 100 and Toshiba AC100 were build on open-source Android and included none of the important, even critical elements of sync, Gmail, maps, marketplace and other Google software. For a category that would benefit from software re-writes, not having a software delivery channel means no developer is going to bother with the opportunity. I’m 100% sure that Google and ARM know about this and the stars seem to be pointing towards Android 3.0 (codename Gingerbread) as the solution. It will finally branch Android out to non Smartphone devices. Why the delay? I suspect Google is re-writing some of its apps to suit WVGA and higher resolutions just like Apple did with their apps on the iPad. As for timescales, I suspect we won’t see anything until the last weeks of 2010 which is just about when MeeGo/Moorestown based tablets will hit the scene. The differences between the two hard/soft platforms will be clear at that point.

Did you see the new renderings of the Eking slider UMPC? It looks similar to the design we saw in plastic form with Wibrain (sold to Eking) in Sept 2009.

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It also looks a lot like the Mui HDPC. I remember using the Amtek U650 in 2007 and liking it a lot. If Eking can bring this to market on Oaktrail with some quality engineering and better aesthetics, it has a chance in the UMPC market but maybe it would be more successful as a ‘smart’ product on a Cortex A9 core with Android 3.0? Slimmer, always-on, great for Android gaming? Just a thought.

Here’s something about MiFi-a-likes. I’ve been using the MiFi for over a year and it’s been a great product but I’m disappointed that there haven’t been any upgrades since launch. The GPS remains unusable, I get the occasional lock-up, it gets very warm, it’s impossible to remember to indicator meanings and the battery life needs to be more than 4 hours. Novatel will fall behind if they don’t watch out because the new Huawei E583C looks to match the MiFi’s current capability and offer an OLED display panel on top. The idea of an on-board application processor sounds attractive with the MiFi but there’s no software for it yet so why bother? I’d rather save 40 or 50 Euros and take the E583C to be honest.

Other news I’ve ‘starred’ over the last few days of catch-up time…

Clearwires Apple-centric 4G hotspot.

Motorola-Verizon Tablet with FIOS TV.

Nokia’s take on the MeeGo handset UI.

Android 2.1 on the Dell Streak

ExoPC slate update.

‘Watchlist’ and ‘Events on the next page…

Compaq Airlife 100 Review at Carrypad

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IMG_3336 In terms of mobile productivity, I’m sorry to have to report that the Compaq Airlife 100 has a lot of holes. It does, however, prove that there’s a lot of potential in the ‘smart’ platforms. Long battery life (due to extremely low idle drain) and always-on/connected are features that, once you’ve experienced them, are hard to let go of. Android has potential too but there are 2 key things that need to be done. 1) The browser needs to be improved. The Airlife 100 is not up to doing any web-application work. 2) The marketplace needs to be put into place so that developers have a channel for productive and large-screen apps.  Once these two issues are fixed though, it’s only a matter of time before productive mobile computing moves to ‘smart’ platforms with advanced mobile operating systems.

Do you agree?

As a consumer device, the Airlife is also missing a few features. Better media support and management is badly needed for a start so with the costs running close to that of the iPad, I suspect the latter would be a better choice.

Great progress by HP and signs of real promise mean that smart books have a future for mobile computing / mobile productivity but it could be 2011 before we se a real netbook competitor.

I’ve reviewed the Airlife and published the article over at Carrypad.com

Compaq Airlife 100 Review

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I feel I could already write an extended 10-page review on this potential game-changer after the marathon open-review session we broadcast on Tuesday but time is at a premium this week so let me just give you a basic but detailed review of the Compaq Airlife 100.


[Article text written on the Airlife 100 using the WordPress application (installed via 'apk' file.) Post-processing done on a netbook. The device we have here appears to be a final build with final packaging but there's a possibility that firmware will change before launch so bear that in mind as we go through things here. Thanks to HP Spain for sending this over.]

Full Specifications, gallery and external links available in our Airlife 100 tracking page.

I want to start by highlighting that I’m very positive about the potential for ‘smart’ laptop-style devices. Always-on, always-connected, location-enabled, app-store capable, dynamic and mobile-focused features are missing from most of today’s netbooks so any device that comes in and demonstrates these features is good in my book. These ‘smart’ devices show new angles on the old theme of desktop-laptops and highlight the separation of mobile and desktop Internet experiences. Unfortunately, these smart devices, have downsides. The mobile operating systems are built with short-term use in mind and although they offer new and interesting features that you don’t get on your desktop, they don’t offer the full internet experience that we all expect. If you use the Airlife 100 as a traditional laptop, as one might expect from something that looks like a traditional laptop, you will run into issues. Not only is there a learning curve and a new set of usage methods but you’ll trip yourself up looking for features that you take for granted on a standard netbook. The USB ports are missing for example. This is a slave device designed to be connected, in much the same way as an iPad, to a PC. This isn’t a device that you can simply plug a printer, webcam or smartphone into. User confusion, frustration and disappointment is going to feature heavily in early feedback.

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The design of the Airlife 100 is nice. Good clean lines, a light, 1KG, weight, large and quiet keyboard, good plastics and silent operation leave a good impression. There’s only one design fault of significance and that’s the screen angle. It simply doesn’t open up far enough and you end up with the screen pointing at your chest. This wouldn’t be a problem if the screen had a wide viewing angle but it doesn’t so you’re left with the constant desire to adjust the screen. I’m finding it frustrating. The screen frame houses a 10″ resistive touchscreen of 1024×600 which doesn’t provide iPad-levels of dynamics but does the job well. Coming from a touch-enable netbook myself, I found it useful and quick to use. The touchpad provides a mouse-pointer and integrated select button though so you have an option if you’re not used to touchscreens on netbooks.


The Compaq Airlife 100 uses Android 1.6 with some HP enhancements but doesn’t provide the Google experience. This is the Achilles heel of the device and we’ve seen it on so many non-smartphone products now that we’re beginning to wonder what game Google is playing. They’re protecting their valuable smartphone marketplace from splintering into multiple screen sizes and yet failing to offer OEMs and developers the chance to expand into new form factors. The Airlife is crying out for a set of productivity applications. Even a twitter client that takes advantage of the huge screen real-estate would be nice but unfortunately, it’s not going to happen on the Airlife. Not only is the Market missing but all the important, ney, expected Google applications are missing. No Gmail app, no contacts sync, no buzz, no maps, no Goggles, no Sky map. As a Google user and Android phone user I find this extremely disappointing. 3rd party marketplaces like the Andapp store and SlideMe just don’t fill the gap so you’re left with a very sparse application suite. In HP’s defense, they too have created an app store framework that carriers can use to funnel applications to users but if it works anything like the Appslib framework on the Archos products, it is going to be very underwhelming. We can see how carriers could potentially do a deal with Google to cherry-pick applications and place them in this channel but based on Google’s history with Market, we don’t see it happening. Hunting down APK’s is possible, and the reason I’m able to write this article on the Airlife is because I found a raw install package of the WordPress application. That sort of work-around doesn’t fit with where I see the Airlife being targeted.

Let’s talk about this always-on component for a minute. It’s groundbreaking, lock-in and a feature that netbooks need to work towards. For mobility-minded users like me, it also enables scenarios that aren’t possible on a standard netbook. In the live review session, JKK (JKKMobile.com) argued well that the phone is the notifier and that always-on is not a critical requirement but in my opinion, not only is it nice to have a device that takes the load off a smartphone for high-load events like podcatching and file syncronisation but it’s also nice to have a device that provides a secondary notification system for events, especially when in the home zone where your mobile phone may not be by your side. Its also nice to think about push applications too. Tracking is one example. Finally, never having to turn a laptop off and having it ready and connected to the internet the instant you open it is something I’m going to miss when I go back to my desktop-style netbook after my time with the Airlife 100.

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Not only is the always-on feature good but the battery life overall is excellent too. In regular measurements in the live session, we saw a consistent 12-hours when we extrapolated the drain rates. The device has a 28Wh battery which means this device is running in under 2.5W of power requirement when in-use. That is, quite frankly, stunning. Latest generation netbooks are taking three times that amount of energy. In a 24hr test (on, connected to 3G and Wi-Fi, unused, screen off) the device used just 4% of its battery. Not only is the processing platform very efficient, the Wi-Fi and 3G modules seem to be very efficient too.

Finally, in this ‘brief’ review, I want to mention the browser. As we’ve seen on the iPad, ARM-based devices can be fast and the Airlife is another example of class-leading speed although with default settings, you’ll be getting the full versions of most websites and noticing that it isn’t as fast as an Intel-based netbook. Flash is missing along with important AJAX features used in online applications. Hover, too. Accessing the back-end to WordPress has its its issues and most Google applications aren’t working. Not even the full version of Google Mail. Without applications to fall-back on, there’s a huge gap in the full internet experience with this device. This is a very serious issue. People expect the full internet experience in a $250 device. Why not in this?


Other notes:

  • Screen is matte finish.
  • Stereo loudspeakers are reasonable quality
  • Audio playback application is basic
  • Video playback is a hit and miss affair on this device. Very few codecs are supported. (Maybe this is something not fully implemented yet?)
  • The device works as a USB hard drive.
  • 3G reception seems good.
  • No external indicator for notifications.
  • Keyboard has been good throughout the writing of this article.
  • Web cam works although it can only be used for video snapshots for saving locally. Quality is low.
  • Language can be changed between Spanish, English’US and English-UK. Maybe this is an indication of target markets?
  • Once again, the lack of Google experience is a big disappointment.
  • No way to turn off 3G and just run on Wi-Fi without removing the SIM card.
  • Built-in data usage tracker
  • This article will have to be post-processed on my netbook in order to check spelling, add formatting and images!
  • NDrive application is pre-installed, GPS locks quickly. (Western Europe maps are 2.5GB, 39 Euro)
  • Last.fm, Aldiko, WordPress and Seesmic apps all work.
  • Roadsync apps are included for exchange sync support.
  • Ebuddy app (Instant messaging) is included
  • Occasional hiccups in scrolling where the screen bounces back to where it was
  • SMS application is included
  • Bluetooth stack is typical of a smartphone and not able to act as a data recipient (in my photo transfer tests.)
  • Dolphin browser and Opera Mini 4.2 being tested.
  • At 1500hrs today, the Airlife needed its first charge. It’s been on, heavily used and connected via Wi-Fi and 3G (including 7hrs ‘screen-off’ time overnight) for 18 hours on a 90% charge with no attempt at configuring the device for long battery life.

More notes on productivity issues can be found here. The article is focused at the iPad but many of the considerations apply. The Airlife is clearly not targeted at productive or business use but for those thinking about (like me, like many have done with the iPad) this article is worth reading.

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The Airlife 100 does the ‘smart’ thing better than any other ‘smart’ laptop we’ve seen before. The balance of amazing battery life, weight, communications features, always-on and performance matches casual and social scenarios well and netbooks will need to take-on some of these features to compete when the software issues on Android are solved. The lack of USB host support will be an issue for some but as smart books develop with more features and customers get more used to the application and cloud-driven usage model, the need for USB may fade away. On the subject of performance, don’t expect netbook-style browsing speeds and multitasking. What the Airlife offers is just enough for a pleasing two-at-a-time experience but there’s very little overhead.

We don’t know all the details about the pricing but with a 24 month contract, the total cost of ownership reaches up over €1000. That includes data of course and compares well with the iPad 3G that would cost more over the same period but without the applications store, you haven’t got the hope that amazing applications will develop over the next year. We suspect an outright purchase of the Airlife 100 would be about €400 to €500 which says two things. 1) That the $99 smart book is as hard to deliver as a $99 netbook and 2) That customers probably won’t be picking these up in the hypermarket for the next family holiday.

The biggest take-away from the Airlife is that it’s a smart book that ARM and their partners promised to bring us over a year ago and it’s still not ready for prime-time. The Airlife does have a customer but it’s still only a very specific type of customer. Adventurous, flexible, traveling types need to take a closer look. Unfortunately, there’s not enough ‘wow’ in the device to generate sales from marketing to other types of customer so sales will probably be limited to those that we see in the niche tabletPC and UMPC markets. Having said that, HP are doing the right thing by testing the Airlife out in a relatively small country-specific market in Europe. They will learn a lot and will be able to gauge potential for a larger project in 2011. The rest of the world needs to take a close look at the potential too because there are only a few software elements that need to be fixed before it becomes quite the competitor.


Fantastic, always-on, always-connected and long battery life operation are desirable features but the gaps in the internet experience and lack of marketplace mean it’s only possible to use this device for casual purposes although video support needs to be fixed before that scenario is truly covered. [this may be happening in final builds – we don't have that information yet] Although the Airlife is an important step forward for ‘smart’ books and it proves that the hardware platform itself is fit-for-purpose, it also proves that work is needed on the software. Android may work well on leading-edge smartphones with slick overlay software and a ton of supporting applications but it appears extremely immature in large-screen, laptop-style scenarios. It’s possible that we’ll see the software evolve quickly but as a product, the Airlife 100 won’t hit the mark to become a huge seller, especially considering the price.

Compaq Airlife 100 Open Review. Recordings now available.

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IMG_3315 Thanks to over 500 people that stepped into the live Open Review of the Compaq Airlife 100 yesterday. We spent 2.5 hours going over the device and tested as much as we could. Thanks also to JKKMobile for joining-in via Skype and helping out. During the session we made three live recordings which are now available at Ustream. They’re relatively long but hopefully interesting to people looking towards the ‘smart’ devices sector. There’s a lot to learn from this ‘always-on’ device segment.

I’ve embedded part 1 of the session below and the links to the two extended segments are included below that. Check back on Carrypad tomorrow for a review article.

Full specifications, gallery and articles list is available in our Airlife 100 tracking page.

Part 2 is available here. (More general testing. Q&A.)

Part 3 is available here. (Video, audio testing. Apps testing)

Note that while Ustream provides a fantastic free live streaming service, streaming of recorded videos is sometimes a little hit-and-miss in our experience. Early morning viewing is recommended!

Compaq Airlife 100 Unboxing, Overview, Demo

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As promised in the last post, I’ve unboxed the Compaq Airlife 100 that turned up today. It’s 20 minutes long but is detailed and shows some of the features of the device including browsing and application installing. Tonight (18th May) at 2200 CEST I’ll be doing a live session with the Airlife so please, drop in and ask questions. More details about the live session in the last post.

The recordings of the Open Review are available in the Meet:Mobility UStream Channel. I’m writing a full review right now. Expected to be posted on Thursday 20th May.

Airlife 100 Social Netbook Launches in Spain, starts at 230 Euros

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I’m not one to let companies hide the real price of a device behind a subscription but at the moment I can’t find the full, unsubsidised price of the ARM/Android-based HP Compaq Airlife 100 that has just launched in Spain. Based on the two prices below and similar subsidy deals, the full price if the Airlife looks to be about 450 Euros. It sounds expensive for a smartbook doesn’t it but it’s not. A 3G-capable ‘smart’ book (I’m calling them ‘social netbooks’ to avoid the wrath of the company that sits about 30km from my office here in Germany) with GPS and a 12-hour battery life weighing 800gm do not exist in the market. This is unique and exciting. If I could order one today, I would. (Here’s why)

The full press release:

Telefonica has launched HP’s Compaq Airlife 100 netbook in Spain. The device features a 10.1-inch diagonal screen, a full keyboard, 16 GB solid state internal storage, SD card slot, Android operating system and customised touch interface. The netbook also features 3G access, Wi-Fi connectivity, VGA webcam, up to 12 hours of battery life in active use and up to 10 days of standby time, GPS capabilities, preinstalled NDrive navigation software with included regional maps with points of interest, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon QSD8250 chipset platform. Telefonica will offer the Compaq Airlife 100 netbook at Movistar stores across Spain for EUR 230, in combination with Movistar’s Internet Maxi data plan with a monthly fee of EUR 49.
Customers can also acquire the HP netbook for EUR 300 along with Movistar’s Internet Plus data plan with a monthly fee of EUR 39.

I’m trying to get hold of availability info and of course, a review device and will update you when I have more information. In the meantime, see the specifications, gallery, videos and related links in the Airlife 100 information page.

Via Telecompaper

Social Netbooks and ARM’s Lock-In Netbook Opportunity.

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airlife100-2 We’ve had ARM-based mini-notebooks and tablets for years and in recent months we’ve even had the chance to test out some new, high-powered arrivals. The Netwalker, Wirelession 1060, TouchBook and many more. The potential has always been there to make a killer product but no-one has executed correctly yet. The Mobinnova Beam gets close but there’s a lot missing from the OS on that one.

The Dell Mini 5 and Apple iPad might change that and in the world of 4-10” ultra-mobile devices are likely to be the biggest sellers this segment has seen for at least the last 5 years. They combine some unique features over X86 devices that I discuss below. These niche-market devices may not see multi-million sales but there are still big opportunities.

Up at the 10”  netbook segment though there’s a well-established market for low-cost, portable, low-end internet-focused mini laptops. Netbooks have 40 million or more sales to-date and over 100 million sales predicted for 2013. Prices are low, battery life high, performance acceptable and even style is playing a role. Netbooks are just cool and very easy to justify. This is where ARM partners have a superb opportunity…in the Social Netbook.

ARM-partners aren’t in the netbook game yet but they do have a big chance if they use some unique weapons that Intel will have to think carefully about in their next-gen netbook platform. The ‘Social Netbook’ is a huge opportunity for ARM partners.

For the first time this week I finally saw an ARM-based netbook that executes well on what I think are the important unique and ‘lock-in’ features and the device slots neatly into a category of ‘social’ netbooks. Jolicloud beware because the Compaq Airlife 100 is good.

The 4 ARM-Centric Features of a Social Netbook.

1 – Point of sale

First of all we have the point-of-sale element. Selling applications, books, videos, music and other online services adds value to the customer and  value to the sales-chain which, in turn, can bring the price of a product down. Android, iPhone OS and other ARM-centric operating systems have proven that the model works and is important for the future. Windows-based netbooks aren’t POS devices. Intel and Nokia are working on this via their Intel Atom Developer Program and app-store framework but it’s in it’s infancy and needs a lot of marketing, development and commitment from OEMs before it becomes interesting for developers and customers. Point-of-sale is a lock-in feature.

2 – Location Based Services and Social Networking

LBS is becoming very big business and customers are starting to catch on to the idea of local search, local social networking and other location-based services. There ARE solutions for Windows-based netbooks but they are few and far between. Take Google Buzz for instance. The only way you can use the location aspect of this service is to use it on an ARM-based smartphone. Windows just doesn’t lend itself to these services and despite efforts to include ‘sensor’ support in Windows 7, developers are just not developing with this in mind. All the action for LBS is exclusively on ARM-based platforms using operating systems built with this in mind. Intel and Nokia do have a solution in MeeGo but like the Intel Atom Developer Program, it’s a long way away from developers minds right now. LBS is a lock-in feature.

As for social networking, although the majority of it still happens on the desktop, the growth in mobile social networking is phenomenal and combined with LBS is something that an Intel/Windows netbook just can not do right now.

3 – Dynamic User Interfaces.

What’s more interesting? A static workbench or a tailored ‘active’ screen with dynamic wallpaper, active widgets, finger-attractions, location awareness and a neat integration and interleaving of notifications from device and external services? Despite Windows 7 being capable of all these things, it’s not delivering a dynamic, exciting, social-centric experience. How many usable finger-centric overlay packages did you see for Windows 7?  What platform are developers looking at when they want to make a dynamic, mobile friendly UI?  The answer is simple. Most of the work is going into ARM-focused operating systems right now and you only have to look to peoples reaction to ‘Sense’, the UI layer from HTC to see what a difference it makes. Funnily enough, Windows Phone 7 Series won’t be offering tailored overlay layers either so in terms of dynamic, evolving mobile user interfaces, Android is in the best position possible. Again, MeeGo is tackling that issue but again, it’s a long way away from developers minds right now. Dynamic user interfaces are a lock-in feature.

4 – Always on.

I’ve left the best until last. Always-on is a killer lock-in feature and the primary trojan horse for ARM-based products. Always-on is not about in-use battery life, it’s about staying connected and active when you don’t use the device. It’s the smartphone usage model and it’s the reason that many of us, despite having laptops with us, will choose to browse the web or do an email on a smartphone rather than on a mobile computer. We’re simply lazy.

I first experienced this always-on computing model with a productive device back in 2008 with the WiBrain i1 which was able to achieve a nearly all-day connected usage scenario but it got hot, was a little temperamental and was hardly the most attractive design. Since then we’ve started to see netbooks achieving a regular 8-hour connected battery life and we’re moving to the point where that is going up to 10 hours with designs based around Pinetrail and Menlow but they are all 1.2KG or more, all have huge 6-cell (expensive) batteries and all use an operating system and platform that aren’t designed for the out-of-use scenario. With the current mobile operating systems you get always-on in a much more efficient manner (expect connected active-standby times in days on an ARM netbook) and the OS is designed for that usage model too. From core OS functions to notifiers and the ability to light lamps and buzz buzzers when necessary – even based on location. Users understand these OS’ as ‘always-active’ whereas with Windows 7, users are associating a desktop usage model and power-down after use.

Always-on usage is one of the best advantages ARM-partners have in this space and the primary lock-in feature for ARM-based netbooks.


Also worth thinking about are casual gaming, in-use battery life advantages, weight, design flexibility (smaller, fanless designs) carrier channels and subsidization models.

Snapdragon-based Compaq Airlife 100 Offers Something Special.

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IMG_2049 ‘Always-on’ is going to be a seriously important weapon in the fight for the netbook market for ARM-based ‘smart’ devices. I’m 100% sure that the first manufacturer that brings this seamless experience to customers in a fast, well-designed, well-priced device will cause waves in the netbook market. Customers that switch to the ‘always-on’ model aren’t going to go back to anything less.

Not only is always-on going to allow mail and social network polling and instant-use scenarios, it’s also going to enable a whole new range of applications. From a simple alarm clock to video and voice calling, these applications just won’t be possible on Intel-based netbooks with the current platform.

I spent a long time with the Airlife 100 today. It’s a 100% ARM (Snapdragon 1Ghz) ‘smart’ device being offered by Telefonica in Spain. Pricing and availability is not known at the moment but we’re estimating that this one will be free on a 24-month contract.

The 10-minute video below shows the user interface, applications and a look round the design of the device.

Compaq Airlife 100 – Android in a Netbook Styley.

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We had heard that HP were going to unveil a new ‘3G’ device on Monday at MWC and we suspect this is it.

Extended battery life, light weight, touchscreen, 3G and a lower price (or at least some very cheap ‘free with data’ offers) means this is one for us to check out at MWC. No confirmation on the processing platform yet and clearly there’s a question over Android makes a good productive platform. It will be interesting to see if the Google apps are on  this one.

Compaq Airlife 100 puts Android OS, Snapdragon CPU, and an SSD behind 10.1-inch touchscreen — Engadget.

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