Tag Archive | "compaq"

Why Google TV Interests Me

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The internet was abundant yesterday with news that Google had announced Android 2.2 or Froyo. Whilst a new version of Android with extra speed and flash support is certainly an exciting thing, for me it was over-shadowed by the news of Google TV.

I know, I know, why would another box to go under the TV and complicate the already muddy waters that are TV, cable, satellite, DVD, Blu-ray, etc get someone who loves innovative technology excited?

There are two reasons why;

Firstly at the heart of the Google TV set top box or new LCD is an Intel Atom processor. Intel have been making plenty of noise of late that the Atom can power Android, the operating system on which Google TV works and this has been the first real taste of this marriage which many have speculated about.

Secondly and more importantly, Google announced the full internet experience on your TV. Not Android’s standard mobile browser, the full internet experience including flash. To achieve this they will use Chrome.

Why is this significant? Just think about it, Android running Chrome, a full internet experience browser on an operating system that I think is going to be one of main two used in the emerging ‘smart’ devices market.

Chippy has posted his review today of the Compaq Airlife 100 ‘smart’ device (full specifications);

“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 inch

Imagine how the review would have gone if the Airlife 100 had Chrome, the several day battery life and instant on of Android and the full internet experience and browsing prowess of Chrome.

Will it happen? I don’t know and there is certainly no suggestion that Chrome will come with Android on these new bread of ‘smart’ devices. We also have to remember that Google announced its ChromeOS for this emerging market.

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.

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[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.

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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?

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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 ultra mobile PC 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.

Summary:

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 Netbook U.S. Specifications Now Official

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Unfortunately there’s no mention of the Google Marketplace in the latest information from HP.com about the Airlife 100 but at least we’re one step closer to seeing it in the marketplace. Official specifications are now available on the HP website in the U.S. (indicating that it’s coming to the U.S. market perhaps) and they confirm what we already had.  In fact, we seem to have more specifications in our database than HP do in theirs!

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In the application list we get clues about the version of Android. RoadSync is included for Exchange email syncing which means we’re probably looking at a V1.6 version of Android. Note that HP have modded the browser to include tabs.

It has been over 4 months since we first saw the Airlife and spring is here so we’re expecting Telefonica to make it available very soon but if it launches without a well-supported applications store (Google Marketplace is the de facto choice here) then it will fall short of many expectations for a social, always-on netbook.

Detailed thoughts about the Airlife 100 battery life and pricing available here.

News via NewGadgets.de and myhpmini

Source: HP.com

Airlife 100 Thoughts: 6 days Online Battery and Pricing.

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I know I’m starting to sound like a complete Airlife fanboy (see recent UMPCPortal article) but I think there’s one more thing I need to highlight (possibly for a second time!) and that is that the Airlife 100 (and similar devices) could last for 6 days without charge. I don’t mean 6-days offline in standby or in hibernation but I mean fully connected and online, pulling in emails, updating location status, voip, calendar notifications, tweet notifications and one of the features I feel will lock users in, instant on. That is, opening up the device and working within 1 second. PC-based systems take from 15 to 60 seconds to get going and connected!

So why is the Airlife so different? It ‘s a smartphone!

Smart sleeping.

Smartphones, their hardware, their operating systems and their applications are designed to operate well under standby conditions and when you turn that screen backlight off by closing the device you’re simply left with exactly the same as your phone but with a battery that is 4-6 times as big!

I estimate that a GSM-connected device running 2 or 3 applications in the background is going to average about 200mw of drain. That’s an estimated 150 hours on the 30wh battery that I suspect is in the Airlife. If you want to switch on GPS and roam around on 3G, expect the times to drop down by about 50% but still, 3 days connected is still pretty amazing. If you turn off the cell, gps and wifi radios, you’ll be able to get calendar and alarm-clock notifications with instant-on for up to about 10 days! With the device lasting for 10 hours in-use with the backlight on (a 3W average usage scenario with 30% screen brightness seems achievable) you’d certainly be able to take the Airlife away for a weekend with just a single charge.  This really could be my next Solar-UMPC!

One more note on the battery life. I challenged a Compaq technical marketing manager about the battery life claims at MWC last week and he said that he’s seen more than the stated figures and feels the figures are on the safe side.

What do you think? Killer feature?

We’re tracking the Airlife 100 in the UMPCPortal database.

Pricing thoughts.

So how much is the Airlife 100 going to cost? Well, consider that it uses one of the most advanced smartphone platforms on the market today, adds a huge 10″ touchscreen and 3G radio along with GPS and 16GB of SSD and you can see that the bill of materials for this one isn’t going to be bargain basement. But that’s not the main pricing factor. More important is what the market can tolerate.

Think about an ASUS T91 for a while. The T91 is a relatively niche 8.9″, sub 1KG  netbook with touchscreen and retails for about $450. It includes a convertible screen and a full Windows 7 build but only lasts for 5hrs on a single charge. Considering that the Airlife includes a 3G modem, huge battery life and some unique usage scenarios, I wouldn’t be suprised if the fully unlocked 3G models comes in at $499. Smartphones built on the same platform come in at an even higher price but given the downward pressure from netbooks, the 500 pricing point seems reasonable. A good price, in my opinion, would be $450. Offer a budget version for $349 (without 3G) and you’ve got a carrier subsidised model for about $150.

Here are my pricing estimates based on features, build cost and market factors.

  • Fully unlocked 3G version: $449 (399 Euro)
  • Wifi only version $349 (299 Euro)
  • Carrier 3G version on 24-month data-only contract, $150 (99 Euro)

I would love to see lower prices but considering the risk in this new market, the low production runs, limited carrier and channel distribution, unique features and lack of competition, I doubt we’ll see anything lower before Q3.

Your thoughts on pricing?

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.

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