Tag Archive | "ebook"

Weekend Tablet Reading (E-Pub Download)

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I’m flying to San Francisco tomorrow and so you’re unlikely to hear much from me until Intel’s IDF starts on Monday so before then I thought I’d promote a couple of reports and offer them to you as an e-pub so you can read them at your leisure over the weekend. Of course, you can read them online here too.

The two articles are tablet related:

Making a HIT. (Your Checklist for a Quality Handheld Internet Tablet)

Things to Consider when Designing or Buying a Tablet-Style Device

The epub file containing both articles is here and has been tested on Aldiko (Android e-pub reader)

Let me know if you download it and have a great weekend.

I Guess That’s @mikecane Sorted Then? (Archos 5 + Kindle App)

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For those of you that don’t know who Mike Cane is, dont’ worry too much. This post is pretty-much aimed diredtly at him.  He’s a long-time customer, commenter and participant at UMPCPortal and Carrypad and runs a continuous chain of personal blogs (currently he’s at Mike Canes iPad Test) that  focus around the ebook theme. He’s also very opinionated, sometimes rude and one of the biggest procrastinators I know. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that because he’s also happy to hear opinions. I like having him around.

He’s been following the UMPC-MID-Tablet-Kindle-Ipad theme for a while and also knows a bit about ebook publishing, ereading and reading in general. He likes open standards but recognises that if open standards don’t enable content then there needs to be choice until a de-facto solution arrives. He likes being connected, participating in Twitter, being mobile, understands ergonomics and he wants value in his products. JKK and I often take the Mickey out of him for getting excited about devices, finding a roadblock and then never buying anything. Well, Mike, when I installed Amazon’s Kindle application on my Archos 5 this morning (with one foot on the baby rocker,) I had to think of you.

Amazon's Kindle Application on the 5" Archos 5 Tablet

The Archos 5 [details] isn’t a new tablet and is not the most advanced tablet. When it was launched it had a continuous string of software problems which ruined the user experience for many and damaged the reputation of the device. Personally, I enjoyed the device as it had a good, fast browser, processing power, screen clarity, portability, flexibility, ability to support many many video standards and most-of-all, a great price. Over time we’ve seen improvements in the firmware and through applications like Aldiko, FBreaderJ, NewsRob, ACast, Seesmic and a number of ‘hacks’ the device has blossomed into something that makes a perfect handheld gadget and quite possibly one of the nicest and most flexible handled e-readers out there. Many people complain about the lack of a capcative touchscreen or the lack of Google Applications but at $250 (RadioShack looks like a good source in the U.S.), you can complain all you want – it’s a great value, internet connected MID, PMP, PND, Ebook reader, Web tablet and more. (See the full review.) Add another $50 for a 16GB micro-SD card, a case and a docking station with USB host and TV-Out and your’re set-up for  some real gadget fun. For the ebook reader, you’ve got Epub support, Kindle support, PDF support and through the Think-Free application, you can read Microsoft Office Docs and your Google Docs. There are more ebook store solutions too.

Kindle on Archos 5 (4) Kindle on Archos 5 (3) Kindle on Archos 5 (1) IMG_1220

Mike knows about the Archos 5 but this Kindle application  might be the final straw for him. There isn’t much else in terms of hardware on the horizon Mike. Summar is here and it will be quiet for a few months. Maybe we’ll see some new Archos devices later in the summer. The Dell Streak is double the price; The iPad too. The SmartQV7 is not powerful enough. Maybe the WiTS A81 is an option but it needs a lot of testing before it can be recommended. The same goes for the top-of-the-Carrypad-charts Huawei S7.

So, Mike. Does the Kindle application take you over the edge or did you buy something already?

Anyone else having fun with their Archos 5. Would you recommend it to Mike?

Full information, specs, links, images, reviews for the Archos 5 in our product database.

Mirasol Demo Proves Dual-Screen Readers have a Short Lifeline.

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mirasol Before you watch the video below, take a look at the video I shot of the Entourage Edge at CES. It shows a dual-screen reader with E-ink/E-paper and traditional LCD technology. It’s huge, heavy and will be expensive to produce. There’s no reason to have two screens apart from a comfort factor (it looks like a book) and to get round the limitations of LCD and e-ink displays. The latter problem, as I suggested in the article, can be solved by using a dual-mode screen; that is, one that can be used as a high-refresh-rate transflective display using ambient light and as traditional back-lit solution.

Qualcom’s offering is the Mirasol display technology which, like the Pixel Qi technology, offers an amazing experience in ambient light without the need for a backlight. The difference between the two solutions seems to be that Pixel-Qi is a standard LCD screen offering high refresh rates but only a black-and-white ambient light experience. The Mirasol display has a lower refresh rate but offers color in the ambient light scenario. Refresh rates on the Mirasol technology don’t appear to be good enough for a smooth HD video experience (I’m guessing we were seeing about 10fps in the demo) but for the ‘snacking’ that many of us do when browsing and reading magazines, it seems perfect. I’d love to see a Snapdragon-powered version of this as a home browser, music player, book reader and maybe even car navigation device.

The days of the dual-screen as a workaround for the limitations of e-ink and traditional back-lit LCDs are numbered.

Things to Consider when Designing or Buying a Tablet-Style Device

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I’m somewhat frustrated by all the Apple tablet talk. Number 1, nobody has a clue what’s going on and 2, there are so many design issues with ‘tablets’ that people need to be very careful about what they get excited about. I wrote these notes a few months ago but it makes sense to post them now so that you can make assessments about WHAT YOU NEED before any wave of marketing hits you. (*1)

In addition to the notes, I’ve added a couple of diagrams that I’ve previously used in posts and presentations and I also want to point out that this article is mainly focused on hardware. Software is a critical part of the equation.

Finally, I’m not saying that this is a set of rules. This is just my perception of what’s going on. I’m excited to hear what you think and ready to learn more from you comments.

Usage Scenarios

Firstly, here’s a diagram of internet-connected usage scenarios that lie between Laptops and Smartphones. There might be a few other niche categories like digital photo frames and video conferencing but the ‘ring’ below covers the primary sectors.

Usage by screen size.

Secondly, here’s a diagram that highlights functions that sit comfortably in certain screen sizes. There are 4 screen size ranges and I’ve positioned tasks in the smallest possible category. Example: Try doing advanced photo editing on a 5” screen!

segmentation
Click to enlarge.

Design/Usage Notes.

In no particular order, here’s a brain dump of design and usage considerations for tablet PCs.

  • One handed use: weight needs to be under 400gm for one-handed (finger-touch) use.
  • One-handed use: Width of device needs to rest comfortably in the hand in portrait mode (7” max)
  • Two-handed (only) operation not possible unless frame, corner or rear controls are implemented.
  • Current screen backlighting technology will add between 0.5W (for a 5” screen) to 2.5W (for a high-brightness 10” screen) Idle power drain tends to 200mw for well-designed screen-off, idle networking scenarios.
  • Minimum power envelope for an operating, connected device is about 2W (5”) or 3W (10”) (Only latest RISC CPU’s on best silicon processes can achieve this – expensive.)
  • Max drain can reach +2W over operating power envelope.
  • Battery capacity required for a 5” smart device – 10Wh. For a 10” device = 15WhTo achieve 4hrs always-on, dynamic and multitasking environment such as web and internet apps.
  • Battery weighs about 8gm per watt/hour (without control / feedback electronics – add 50gm for that)
  • Min battery (removable) and power electronics weight for a 7” smart device = 100gm
  • Screen backlights are ALWAYS needed for low-light operation.
  • Backlight average in-use power ranges from 0.5w (3-5” screen) to 2W or more (10” screen)
  • Capacitive touchscreens can’t be used with gloves or basic stylus.
  • Capacitive screens can’t be used for natural handwriting input, annotations, graphic creation/painting.
  • Keyboards need to split/position correctly when in portrait and landscape modes.
  • Tethering keyboards / headphones / data modems via Bluetooth is a long-winded process and requires batteries in end devices.
  • Pixel density should be between 180 and 250 pixels per inch for standard web pages unless intelligent reflowing /zooming is used. An 800-wide webpage would require about 4-inch width (about 6” diameter screen in portrait mode.)
  • Resistive touchscreens are not rugged.
  • Book reading does not require two-pages per view.
  • Hard drives are not rugged, are noisy and generate heat and vibration. Not to be used in tablets.
  • An integrated folding stand needs to be incorporated for PMP functions.
  • Wifi/Bt/3G/FM/GPS antenna separation is needed.
  • Mouse pointers allow selection with minimal hand movement.
  • Removing buttons helps aesthetics and ruggedness, reduces shortcuts for two-handed operation.
  • Moving buttons to ‘on screen’ reduces physical feedback, reduces usable screen area.
  • Buttons need to be backlit for night=time use
  • Screen brightness needs to be extremely low for night-time use.
  • Indicator lights distract and annoy when reading.
  • Good quality speakers allow for multi-person viewing.
  • Wifi needs to remain connected at all times (standby disconnection results in awkward delays on start-up.)
  • Web pages need to load in a 10-second average time. (with text and scrolling being available in 50-75% of that time)
  • Access to 100% of the internet requires Adobe Flash support (and, to a lesser extent, Silverlight and other run-time apps.)
  • Text selection for web applications is critical. (cut and paste.)
  • Zooming a web-page must re-flow the text to avoid left-right panning.
  • Auto screen rotate from landscape to portrait must not reset previous text selections
  • Using 3G when moving in car / train can drastically increase power drain from 3G components. (3G can take up to 1.5W in these scenarios – huge % of power drain.)
  • Docking stations help to keep a device charged and located.
  • Removable battery gives customer confidence about life-span of product.
  • Glossy screens can be filtered. Matt screens can not be made glossy with third party products.
  • Bigger screens are expected to be faster by the customer (and therefore highlight slow performance)
  • The concept of ‘idle’ is only for the lab.
  • Slider keyboards increase cost and size. decrease style.
  • Nothing over 4” screen is truly pocketable for most people.
  • Flash running on multiple tabs can easily take 100% of CPU on a ARM-based device.
  • A frameless device is impossible. 10mm frame is a tough design challenge.
  • For productivity users, a new operating system is a new learning curve.
  • Third party applications decrease stability and security.
  • Multi-tasking decreases battery life.
  • Fingerprint readers can drastically improve security while decreasing key presses.
  • A 7” screen device can be too big for a car dashboard.
  • Ebook readers are useless to the average consumer without commercial content being available through the device.
  • Cloud-based usage model is currently a home-zone possibility. (Not mobile) i.e. local storage and sync is still needed.
  • Larger designs permit higher pricing.
  • Larger designs need to deliver a faster experience (to satisfy user expectations.)
  • Notebook / clamshell designs are recognized as computers.
  • Sub 5” designs can be mistaken for smartphones.
  • New business models dictate that consumer tablets must be low-cost point of sale devices. (Marketplace for apps, content, accessories)
  • There are undiscovered usage scenarios.
  • There are huge numbers of new technologies and inventions that I don’t know about!

Example scenarios and solutions.

Ebook reading. 200 PPI screen with 300gm or less. Daylight (ambient light support) and backlight support needed. Content must be easy to access. Color screens important for education market (and advertising.)  See also this article.

PMP. 5” screen gives a comfortable 60-80cm experience. HD playback on small-screens is required because that’s what many users create and many websites deliver. You have no choice! 7” give HD (720p) experience and 1 meter. 5-7” screen in 300gm allows for only a 10-15wh battery. 5hrs online use. 7hrs video use.

Newspapers. Large screen format 9-12” format is impressive and permits newspaper layout ‘standards.’ Requires significantly more battery power. Advertisers want color and animated advertising. Difficult to design for one-handed use. 12” awkward for mobile situations. 9-12” also required for one-page per view A4/Letter sizing. (PDFs)

Web. Minimum resolution 800×480 although 1024×600 more comfortable and allows better portrait mode. 1024×600 at standard web (readable at 100% zoom) font sizes requires 7” screen. Multi-tab Flash enabled web pages can kill battery life and hog CPU if uncontrolled.

Mail, IM, social networking.Two handed thumb keyboard can only be built around max 5” (landscape)  or 7” (portrait) screen dimensions without separate keyboard. Requires always-on scenario. See also: Perfect Microblogging Device article.

An example multi-use tablet: 7” 300gm with 12wh battery, Cortex A8 CPU (high-end), 3D GPU, Video decoder hardware. (Intel Moorestown also a contender here.) Stand. Highly advanced on-screen keyboard with haptic feedback. 3mb HQ camera. 1.3mp LQ camera. Capacitive touchscreen. GPS, accelerometers, ambient light sensor, 3G, Wifi, docking port, 3.5mm headphone jack, array mic, stereo speakers.

The ideal tablet hardware is worth nothing without the correct software, services and content.

(*1) over the last 3.5  years I’ve learnt a lot about tablets and mobile computing devices including a lot about what doesn’t work for the masses through our pro-mobility-focused  sister website, UMPCPortal.

E-book Reading and the Archos Tablet.

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I’m no expert on e-book reading but I’m a big e-reader. What I mean by that is that I read electronic content all day long but I don’t read many books. I’ve been working my way through the Adventures of Tom Sawyer on the SmartQ7 and have tried to continue on the Archos 5 but I don’t get very far before I’m distracted by an email or twitter notification and then I’m off into one of those enjoyable but never-ending web journeys.

Based on my experience with the Archos 5, its form factor, hours of using Google Reader (Android formatted) and the web browser I’d say that the form factor lends itself perfectly to 1hr reading sessions and that due to the weight (smartphone weight) and screen characteristics (200 ppi and well-aliased fonts and adjustable back-lighting) many people will end up doing more. What effect that has on your eyes is unknown to me but it certainly feels more comfortable than smaller screens I’ve tried.

I can’t really show you the quality of the screen on a video but you might get an idea of how you might use this device to read e-book content in the video I’ve prepared for you below. You’ll see FbreaderJ with a mobipocket-formatted e-book and Aldiko and an epub-formatted book with online download. One thing missing is commercial content. It is possible to convert encrypted and even DRM-protected content but I’d like to be able to link directly into books from commercial stores like Amazon and Mobipocket without all that hassle.

Don’t forget to watch in full-screen and hit the ‘HQ’ button for the higher quality version.

Archos 5 Internet Tablet and E-Book Reading

I’ve shown you Social Messaging, HD video playback and now Ebook reading on the Archos 5 IT but there are at least two other usage scenarios that I want to show you. Next week i’ll be highlighting the Web browsing experience and the navigation experience and that will probably round-up the Archos 5 IT coverage for a while.

If you have experience with dedicated e-book readers, let us know how you feel about this LCD reading experience. How would you feel if the Amazon Kindle software was ported to the Archos Tablet?

P.S. Anyone know if there are commercial audiobook apps for Android? An Audible app would be awesome!

More info on the Archos 5 Internet Tablet here.

Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch

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The Q7 may not be a ultra mobile PC but there’s a lot to like and a lot to learn from the device.  It highlights the difference between professional and consumer devices very well so in this article I’ve mixed a review of the Q7 with some thoughts about consumer web tablets.

The Smart Devices Q7 has a slow, incomplete web experience, no Flash or AIR, poor video quality, very restrictive ARM11 core, runs a partially re-translated Chinese version of a year-old Ubuntu ARM port, doesn’t have a keyboard, is not good for outdoor use, needs a dongle to get Bluetooth working and has some twitchy touchscreen characteristics. Despite all these scary issues, i’m still using the device many times a day.

Full Q7 specifications available here.

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Omnia HD. MID, Smartphone and The End Of The Tweener.

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The Omnia HD is something that all MID fans should be taking a close look at. It highlights how close the ARM-based platforms are to Intel’s MID platforms. In fact, in many ways, the Omnia HD looks like one of the best MIDs so far with longer battery life, smaller form factor, 720p video recording and a mobile-focused software suite that addresses new mobile markets. It’s an incredibly converged product but at the same time, you could call it a tweener. Neither a 24/7 phone or high quality mobile internet device.  I intend to re-visit the Omnia HD by testing it in full in the near future but in the meantime, take a look at the specifications when placed side-by-side with the most popular tablet MID of the day and lets think about how the Omnia HD highlights that there is no such thing as a tweener.

S5D samsung-omnia-hd-3
Omnia Image via AreaMobile.

Viliv S5. (Estimated 800 Euros with 3G) Omnia HD 600 Euros Comments
CPU Intel Atom 1.3Ghz (Menlow platform) ARM (Cortex A8) 800Mhz (OMAP platform) Atom estimated 2x processing power.
Wifi BT 3G (data only) Wifi BT 3G (voice and data, HSUPA) Voice convergence is important for some. HSUPA important for Europe.
1024×600 4.8” screen (250dpi) LED, resistive touch. 640×360 3.7” screen (approx 180dpi) O-LED, capacative touch, O-LED will give outdoor readability issues. 640×360 restrictive for web browsing.
GPS (no software) GPS plus Navteq maps and social networking. GPS software for XP is expensive.
5hrs online Est, 3hrs online (based on hsdpa talk-time) For online use, the Viliv wins but the Omnia is more efficient.
10hrs standby (on, screen of) 600hrs standby (on, screen off) Always-on is important for comms!
Windows XP plus touch UI Symbian S60  plus mobile software suite (TouchWiz) S60 is mobile-focused (some exciting next-gen social and LBS apps available) but no desktop app compatability.
No cam 8mp cam with 720p recording 720p recording is a huge bonus for the consumer.
400gm 125 gm 1/3rd the weight means you can carry an extra two batteries
Video playback – 720p flexible support, 6hrs Video playback – 720p, 4.5hrs Similar video capability. XP comes with only WMV support out of box.
Storage 60GB Storage 16GB + Micro SD Big storage on the Viliv compared to Omnia.
Browsing: Desktop quality, sub 10-second average, full flash and plugins Browsing: Limited quality. Estimated 20s page load time. Omnia browsing will fall way short of a desktop experience.
3D graphics: Power VR SGX 3G Graphics: Power VR  SGX Snap!
Accelerometer Good for navi, web, ereading
FM Radio A useful, very low power information source. (Local Traffic, news, music, events)
Component, S-video out, VGA HDMI Out Digital output on Omnia turns it into a better set top box.
Best USB device support Limited USB device support If you have USB devices, they are likely to work better with the Viliv S5
Full desktop software capability Mobile-focused software capability Viliv S5 allows you to carry on using your desktop software. Desktop software is, however, expensive.
Availability: Limited roll-out Availability: Global Omnia HD will be widely available
Brand unknown outside Korea Top-tier global branding. Provides consumer confidence.

Clearly the Samsung Omnia HD has specifications that are very close to one of the best Intel-based MIDs on the market. You’re looking at an extremely capable hardware platform that provides consumer-focused MID, PMP, PVR and PND-like capabilities in a 24/7 voice-capable form factor.  It’s also got mature, consumer-friendly mobile-focused software that tackles new mobile usage scnearios and it’s reached the market before anyone else could with Intel-based MIDs that are targeted at the same usage scenarios.  For some it’s going to be seen as the ultimate converged device and one of the best ‘MIDs’ on the market.

Look at it from another angle though and you see a different story.  If you want a 24/7 phone,  the Omnia HD is very very expensive and for most people, too big.  If you’re looking for the best quality mobile web browser, PND, PMP or microblogging device, it falls short on either screen size, keyboard or software. As with most converged devices, it takes new, exciting usage scenarios and lever’s them into compromised form factors.

What I see with the Samsung Omnia HD is a device that underscores exactly the emerging  scenarios that MIDs are targeted at. It’s providing a taster of things to come.  If these scenarios develop, the new ecosystems created could support dedicated devices that fit in the space between the smartphone and the netbook. With technology like the Texas Instruments OMAP 3 platform and Intel’s Moorestown available to OEMs, it will only be a matter of tweaking the design, the software and applying the right marketing to slot the variants into the new ecosystems.

How about dropping the Omni HD’s internals into a Nokia N810-like form factor and increasing the screen to 4.8” with 250 DPI to improve the focus on mobile geo-enabled social networking? How about adding a powerful photo flash and video editing software to enhance mobile photo capabilities and add how about adding a daylight-readable 6″ screen for a move into the ebook market? Think about an iPod Plus, a Kindle with a fast browser and think about the next Nokia Tablet. A Techcrunch Crunchpad or  a Google Lattitude Social  Tablet.  A Canon/YouTube device  or even a dedicated Vodafone/BBC iPlayer.  I don’t propose that all of these are winning business opportunities but I bet there are a few opportunitues in that list for dedicated devices that people have called ‘tweeners’ in the past.

The real story here is three-fold. The Omnia HD highlights how advanced and flexible the latest smartphone platforms are.  It highlights that new usage models are emerging and that if these ecosystems grow, there will be opportunities for dedicated devices. Thank-you Samsung for highlighting that the MID concept is on the right track and that the end of the Tweener-era is nigh.

Beautiful UMPC concept from Toshiba

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The word ‘concept’ is not an easy word to write here. I want to say ‘product coming’ instead!

toshibaumpc

This image is from Pocketables.net who have a few more that you should take a look at. I have a feeling that by using the best available display technology and platforms like Menlow designers could come up with some incredible umpcs and e-reader devices. And when I say connected e-reader devices I mean everything from locally stored ebooks and PDFs to live webpages. The modern-day newspaper. I’m imagining a slick UI and a capacitive touchscreen and an OS and hardware that offers the normal desktop PC experience. MmmmmID-Tastic!

Check out Pocketables for more pics.

Why an iPod Plus is more likely than an Apple Netbook.

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ipodplus Following Apple’s moves is a complex but fun and stimulating activity so here’s my take on the big, crazy, risky business of predicting where Apple will move. I think they will move up the Ipod chain rather than down the notebook chain and here’s why.

Netbooks are cheap and in my head, I just can’t get past that simple thought. Apple can’t make a netbook as it would seriously risk de-valuing every other product in their portfolio and, due to the required sales numbers and relative complexity of OS X, could screw their global support operations.  An $899 10″ mini-note is possible, I agree, but despite sizing similarities, it wouldn’t be a netbook would it. Mind you, you can guarantee that every netbook web site will cover it like there’s no tomorrow! I will end that argument against netbooks there but they do play a part as I get to the details of my prediction below.

There are three other options that I see for Apple. The first is one of incremental change. Small improvements all-round. The problem with that is that the last Apple event felt like just the same and losing momentum right now could be an issue. Then again, major production-line investment for a new product could also be risky but given the fact that Apple have plenty of cash and that there are probably production lines out there just begging for a large production run, maybe that’s not the risk it could be.

The second option is some sort of 7″ notebook or tablet. While I, and many of you, like this style of device, we have to be honest and say that the productive ultra-mobility market is probably too niche for Apple. There’s a chance of a simple, slim 7″ iPod touch and a push into e-books, sofa surfing, sofa-gaming and turn-by-turn navigation on the existing iPod Touch hardware and software engine but while interesting and, to me, quite exciting, I don’t see a 7″ Apple tablet happening as again, it could be too niche.

The third option, and more likely in my opinion is a 5″ iPod Plus

Filling the hole that will eventually be left by dwindling MP3 player sales [Yes, Christmas iPod sales are buzzing along but in general, I see the dedicated MP3 player market dropping away over the next few years] providing some of the features of the above, 7″ device, retaining mobility and building on the money-making app audio and video-store is the key which indicates to me that a slightly larger iPod touch with better storage, video, navigation, ebook, web experience and perhaps data-only 3G would be a more attractive and solid base to build on for the future.

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Chrysler offers 4 mobile devices for $2000. But are they the right ones?

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webedition Chrysler are introducing a ‘web-edition’ mobile Internet device package for their cars which comprises a Wifi/3G router with one year of 3G data contract, a Sony PSP, a Dell Mini 9, an Apple iPod Touch and Eye-Fi wifi/sd card. The option price is $1999. Mobile Internet Mobility!

It got me thinking, given $2000 and assuming you had no mobile devices, what devices would you choose? You’d need to cover the following mobile scenarios.

  • PC Computing (screen, keyboard, storage, desktop OS)
  • Handheld web browser and e-book reader
  • Media (video and audio) playback
  • Photography / Video
  • Gaming
  • PIM
  • Navigation (with turn-by-turn)
  • Connectivity (voice, data, wifi, 3G, BT)

[continued…]

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