Tag Archive | "mobile computing"

Mobile Solutions for Google Plus


I really thought we would be in a position, in 2012, where mobile operating systems would be able to offer a full Web experience but we’re not. My recent experiences with Google Plus drove me to dig out an UMPC.

Google Plus is becoming a business-critical application for many. Blogger, marketeers, brands and bands are all jostling for position. Millions are enjoying new online relationships and a huge amount of interactivity through photos, live video and circles but what happens when you’re mobile? The Android and IOS based solutions are really poor which is surprising considering Google should be creating products for its own operating systems.

Things you can’t do on Google Plus mobile (correct me if I’m wrong)

Read the full story

Our Mobile Computing Forums are Back!

We had so many problems with the UMPCPortal forum earlier this year that I eventually had to close the forum for new registrations. After some thought we decided to completely re-build the site on a new system and today we’re readyto announce our new mobile computing forum! It’s clean, fast and has all the features you expect.

forum header

We’ve moved the new forum over to MeetMobility.com and expanded it to cover the segments that match our three main websites.

All the accounts and the 37000 posts from UMPCPortal have been migrated (all the way back to Origami in 2006!) and those that were regular members should be able to log right into the new forum and get going. Some users (those with 5 posts or less) will find themselves as ‘banned’ users. Contact us via the link at the bottom of the forum and we’ll get you up and running in no time. Unfortunately we had to lock out thousands of spam accounts and ‘real’ users will have got caught up in that process.

Forum pro’s might notice that some features aren’t enabled or optimised. We’re still tweaking the set-up so don’t hesitate to give us feedback and tips. Vbulletin is a new process for us.

We hope you get stuck in and enjoy the forums. Ben and myself are looking forward to mobile computing chat with you there.

Windows 8 Brings More Mobility, but Should You Wait?

Win8-3I, like many others, believe that Windows 8 will re-enable the pocket productivity market and lift us out of this strange consumer-focused mobile mess we’re in at the moment and get us back to a place where we have ultra mobile PC choices for our mobile, flexible working practices and scenarios. Marketing, social networking, price wars and tablet fever are getting in the way of what many people want – productivity in the pocket.

I love Android and IOS of course but I’m not letting that change my opinion that there is a requirement for a full desktop capability in a handheld form factor. The market is indeed fairly small but it’s in many different niches and sectors. [Raise your hands in the comments if you’re one of those ‘niche’ users.] Android and IOS have done a lot for mobility, sharing and mobile media and have quickened the pace of mobile processor developments so much that we’ll all benefit in the end but when you look at the software, the pace of development of productivity software is just embarrassing. On the whole, It’s a sector that focuses on quick-hit, fast turnaround, short-lifecycle software and it’s vastly different to the full-fat, long lifecycle, productive and flexible software you get on the desktop. Two years after this consumer mobile market started taking off there still isn’t a way to buy an off-the-shelf DVB-T module, extend the screen or even log in with multiple user IDs. There are literally hundreds of features that are missing and each one of them is a potential roadblock for the advanced mobile user.

That’s why Windows 8 is an exciting operating system to look forward to. It will retain probably all of the flexibility of Windows 7 but will introduce important features from the world of consumer mobile devices. Always-on, improved sensor support, touch user interface, quick-hit apps and sharing along with support for ARM-based platforms and new X86 platforms that remove some of the old legacy PC features and introduce new boot and power management subsystems. Between now and, lets say, mid 2012, I doubt we’ll see any of the existing mobile operating systems advance so far that they challenge Windows and none of the new operating systems have much of a chance either. Buying an ultra-mobile PC has never been so hard but 12-24 months is a long time to wait for Windows 8. If you’ve got a requirement, you need a device and it’s as simple as that.

Your first strategy would be to sit tight and do nothing.  That assumes you don’t have a new requirement or your current device(s) can be stretched out until then. If you have a new requirement though, be it speed or scenario, and you don’t have a device you can cover it with you could believe the rumors that Windows 8 will arrive early or you could do one of the following things:

1 – Go netbook

It’s a low-cost solution but requires a table or a lap. That’s not quite ultra mobile computing is it! Having said that, if you want to save money until Windows 8 comes along, searching for a surface or using your lap might not be too much of a problem to put up with. My advise would be to look at some of the Atom N550 or N570-based devices with a focus on Samsung who still seem to lead with better build quality and more efficient electronic engineering and screens than others. The NF310 continues to get good reports. Asus are also worth considering and the Eee PC 1015 with N570, 2GB RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium is a real bargain at under 400 Euro in my opinion. There’s even the updated T101MT with N570 and 2GB, Windows Home Premium and capacitive touchscreen at around 500 Euro in Europe. Drop a fast SSD into that and it should make quite a nice Windows convertible.

2 – Buy a Menlow UMPC

Given the age of Menlow and the lack of choices around it’s not something I would recommend to everyone but if the pocket is the destination and Windows is the requirement, what option do you have than to buy a Viliv N5 or a UMID Mbook SE? Both companies appear to have disappeared from the radar though so be very aware that major failures may not be fixable.

3 – Wait for an Oaktrail UMPC

ECS and Viliv have both talked about building a 7 inch Oaktrail-based Windows tablet but unless a major customer or market is found, neither of those solutions are going to hit the market. By all means, wait and see but I personally think it could be a very long wait.

4 – Buy an Oaktrail-based tablet

Early review of Oaktrail-based devices aren’t singing the praises about performance and with the CPU inside being basically the same as before, it’s no surprise. The RAM will need to be 2GB, the SSD will need to be fast, Aero will need to be turned off and I dare say there’s some GPU driver improvements to be made but despite the claims of speed issues, you’ll still be able to render full flash and javascript-enabled web pages with 100% accuracy and faster than any ARM-based tablet out there. Battery life reports are showing marked improvements too so if running a PC in a 5W power envelope is your aim, take a close look at Oaktrail. The Samsung PC7 (TX100, Gloria) slider is one to watch out for and although my recent queries to Samsung don’t return any new information, they certainly don’t indicate that the project has been scrapped. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

5 – Go IOS or Android, adapt your requirements and track the developments

You may want to plug in your DSLR and run the remote capture software but there are alternatives. In this case, check out the Eye-Fi card. For those wanting full Microsoft Office support, look at the Asus Transformer and think about a remote desktop solution. For full-internet-experience browsing, look at whether IOS or Honeycomb will satisfy your needs. On smaller Android tablets, the Dolphin HD and Opera Mobile browsers are coming along nicely. Firefox is progressing too.  Think about a Dell Streak (only 299 Euros here in Germany right now) or a Galaxy Tab (350 Euros) along with a low-cost netbook. Look at PC keyboard sharing solutions for Android. Think about the Google suite too. Android also offers a lot that you can’t get in a PC yet. Location, Sharing, always-on and a large amount of fun!

If you’ve read this far, you’re into ultra mobile computing which is a good thing. It’s fun, flexible and productive but you will also have very individual requirements. The private pilot. The dentist. The courtroom assistant. The musician. The world-tourer. Take a close look at your requirements and see what would want and compare it with what you, realistically, will need. If possible, take a risk or two and ignore that extreme scenario that you’ve got on your list. One thing I would advise all of you to do though is to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’m not joking when I say it changed my mobile computing world. I no longer have a netbook. I no longer have a high-end smartphone and there are very few scenarios that I can’t cover with it now. I’ve heard people say the same about the Dell Streak (5 inch) too. If you really can’t swallow that, the iPhone 4 has to be high on the list, the netbooks I mentioned above and even some older devices like the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium.

Oh, and don’t forget to look at the Toshiba Libretto W100/W105!

New Personal Project – The Best Mobile Video Editing Kit. (For YouTube)

Is it the iphone4? A netbook? Honeycomb on a quad core tablet? Or is it going require 2kg of Windows laptop?

I’m on a mission to find a way to improve the video setup I use for my YouTube posts while retaining mobility.

I currently record in VGA using the mjpeg format at well over 10mbps. The results are smooth and free of common artefacts . The mjpeg format is also easy to chop around because there’s no frame-frame compression. With a fast ssd and 2Gb of ram its easy to work on, say, a 15 minute long set of clips. Encoding to 2mbps in WMV knocks the size down and ensures a reasonable HQ experience in YouTube. It works well.

The problem is that VGA, while perfectly good with a touch of zoom for details, isn’t acceptable any more. 4:3 is out! For YouTube sake, I need to move to 16:9 which means a minimum of 480p. That’s about 40% more bits of information per frame (and very little extra value to the viewer.) If you go to 720p, its many times more bits of information and at that point mjpeg become unusable because of the file sizes (storage and transfer times) and so you have to introduce mpeg2 or, more likely, mpeg4. The most common option, H.264, an Mpeg 4 standard, requires many many more times the processing power per frame than MJpeg so you’re in a situation where Atom, one of the more common mobile cpus that can be used with common video editing software, just doesn’t cut it.

There are choices.

Highly optimized software
More powerful CPU
GPU assistance
Cloud-based editing

The solution for mobile video requires a careful balance of source quality, format and bitrate and a partnership with optimized software on a platform that can do as much in dedicated codecs as possible. OR you get a big fat mobile pipe and do the crunching in the cloud.
There’s only so much that can be done in GPUs and hardware codes though. Fades, overlays and other per-frame changes can only be done in CPU and remember, video editing requires decoding and encoding, you don’t often find that in a mobile computing platform.

So here’s the challenge:
A basic video editing solution that includes watermarking, titles, clip editing, fades and crossover, audio track editing and voice-over. It should be able to take common formats in without having to convert them to a working format. It should output a format that is YouTube friendly. Minimum 480p with a bitrate of 2mbps and 25fps.
The hardware should not weigh more than 1.5kg but should last for about 4hrs of editing, 6hrs of general computing. The screen can be up 12.1″ to allow for a resolution of 1366×768 or similar. 10″ is acceptable if the resolution is good enough. Thinner and lighter is better than smaller screen in my opinion.
Cost – Under €600.

This is a huge challenge.

A quick brainstorm this afternoon has me starting with keywords like CUDA, Intel core, H.264 (source and output) 480p

The interesting part of this challenge is that I will have to buy a new camera. 720p recording is common but I rarely see cameras that can record a real 480p 16:9 source. Ideally I would combine my digital camera with the video camera but I know that’s going to be very very difficult to achieve.

Your input is welcome on any aspect of this. I’ll be updating when I’ve made discoveries and decisions. Wish me luck!

Posted from WordPress for Android with the Galaxy Tab

Report: Mobile Computing at CES 2011 – The X-Over Year

We’ve just recorded Meet:Mobility Podcast 62. If you haven’t tuned in, please do because JKK, Sascha and myself spend a long time talking in detail about what happened in mobile computing at CES and give you a good overview of the significant products we got to understand while were in Las Vegas. For me, the show brought me the biggest signal yet that the X-over is happening. That’s X86 and ARM platforms crossing over in the mobile and personal computing space.

We’ve seen many indicators before now that ARM-derived processing platforms and operating systems were capable of personal computing tasks. I tested the Compaq Airlife almost  a year ago (Fully Reviewed in May) and the Tegra2-based Toshiba AC100 that I still have for testing is everything needed for a good smart-book / PC experience except the software build but there hasn’t been a time when so many top-tier manufacturers have shown the same confidence by bringing out multiple X-over products. In that respect, CES 2011 is a very important year and I do believe that we’ll look back and say, yes, that was the start of the crossover.

Palazzo to CES Convention Center

It will be a turbulent year or whirlwind activities. We’re rising out of a depression and there’s new confidence that risks can be taken. Many of the products we’re seeing won’t’ succeed either due to being too early or by being side-swiped by other disruptive products.

Tablets came-of-age at CES 2011. The rising quality of devices and the number of top tier brands shows that there’s a big enough level on investment now that the segment is unlikely to fail to produce multi-million sales. Estimates range up to 40m units for 2011 which will match netbook sales. I agree. 40m is achievable, especially as prices drop like a ton of bricks.


We’re not just talking about tablets though. There are a whole list of products we need to mention.

Motorola Atrix. Taking the prize for most-talked about device at CES is this dual-core Android phone with a big battery and lots of connectivity. The laptop ‘dock’ turned it into a desktop that made people stop and think. This idea of modular computing is exciting but there are lots of issues to consider. I have a Tegra 2 smart-book running Android and while it’s fun, it’s not productive. Processing power is short of what is needed and the apps are limited. Despite a full Firefox build being available on the Atrix, the limits I’ve experienced on the Toshiba AC100, will also apply to the Atrix until Honeycomb and a lot of ISV investment, solve the problem. I also imagine the cost of that set-up to be getting close to $800 or more. Who’s going to invest that much into a system that still won’t do 100% of personal computing activities? There’s also the issue of putting all your eggs in one basket. Smartphones have a tendency to get lost! The Atrix is a cool product and shows very clearly how desk-top computing will be possible with smartphone cores.

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. Like the Atrix, this is a device aiming to be more than one computing solution. Unlike the Atrix, this one offers the tablet as the screen and computing core with a docking keyboard finishing off the ‘smart book’ look. The smartphone ‘core’ isn’t so obvious and this isn’t a device aiming to be totally convergent. In fact, it feels to me like it fits in with it’s target audience in a more comfortable way than the Atrix. A consumer, coffee-table tablet with an optional keyboard for ‘getting things done’ sounds perfect for the iPad generation. With Android offering great in-cloud synchronisation, a two-device Android strategy could work well, especially as this product will get the important Honeycomb operating system update. [More info on the ASUS products at CES available here]

Gemtech Zeus (1) Gemtek. Highlighting the progress that Intel are making with their non-Windows platforms is the Gemtek Zeus. While the product is targeted as a media phone, it’s worth stopping for a moment to look at exactly what’s happening here. This is Android version 2.2 on an Intel Moorestown platform. That’s an official Intel Android build (that is likely to become an official branch of Android) optimised for Intels always-on platform. The product is light, is said to have good battery life. It highlights just how close ARM and Intel products are in the mobile space – and this is just Intels first attempt!

OLPC XO-1.75 – One Laptop Per Child product was another win for ARM this week. Starting with an AMD CPU and then moving to VIA, another X86 CPU, they have now switched over to a Marvel ARMADA 610 ARMv7 core for the XO-1.75 which should go into production in mid 2011. The difference in battery life is likely to be very significant because in the past, they were using relatively old X86 CPUs. Always-on, screen-off standby is also now possible. It will be important to see the performance too. Compared to the very old AMD Geode CPU that was used in the original, there shouldn’t be any noticeable difference at all and yet the power envelope has been cut from 5W to 2W! There’s an interesting video available on this here. OLPC CTO Edward J. McNierney says in the video that the performance is now better!

xoom2 Honeycomb – Finally, the gun has been fired for a true large-screen version of Android. This is likely to be a branch of Android that will run parallel to version 2.x but the important thing is that it signals Googles commitment which, in turn, with give ISVs the confidence to invest in larger Android application projects. Serious productivity apps, video editing and ‘HD’ versions of existing applications. Motorola and Nvidia were the big winners as they have been chosen to provide the reference hardware and product. Soon after the Xoom launches you can expect to see more Honeycomb product announcements that will roll in the second half of 2011.Finally, we could see a productive ‘smart’ book although don’t forget that Intel will also be involved here. Honeycomb on i86 is announcement I expect to hear about soon.

Windows and Office on RISC SOCs. This was a huge announcement that gives ARM partners a reason to take a Cortex A15 license if they haven’t done so already. I’m not expecting to see a mobile product drop out of Microsoft onto ARM but again, it gives ISVs reason to create ARM versions of applications. That effort could spill over into Honeycomb-related work too. Interestingly, it puts Adobe in a great position as a runtime that will work across all of these platforms and operating systems. They could find themselves being used as an important bridge. Timescales for Windows, timescales for drivers, timescales for ported software are all in the 2-5 year timeframe although X86 emulation could speed that up? Developers could be given virtual ARM SDKs to aid development work which would explain why Microsoft took a full ARM license this year.

One of the interesting things about Windows on ARM is that, finally, it will give everyone the ability to benchmark ARM against X86 in like-for-like products. My money is on Intel having the processing power advantage and ARM offering battery life and price advantages. Differences, however, are likely to be minimal and it could all be decided on value-add features like security, wireless integration and application stores. OEDs are the ones that will make the decision here.

IMG_6338 Angry Birds on AppUp. Angry Birds migrated from ARM to X86 this week as Intel announced that the popular phone game was available on their AppUp store. That makes it available to some 100 million netbook and notebook customers and will have driven a large number of installations of the AppUp store that doesn’t yet come pre-installed on netbooks. Clearly Intel have bought-in the app to drive adoption but even so, it’s great to see and it won’t take many more of these wins before AppUp starts to drive its own adoption. Video demo here.

I was surprised not to hear any news concerning Windows 7 Compact. Microsoft still don’t have a consumer internet device operating system for the 4-10 inch segment. What’s going on there?


Intel’s Oaktrail surprised me at CES. I saw a number of WIndows-based products that were significantly smaller than I expected and had logner battery life than I expected. At least the claims of battery life seem to be good anyway. Viliv, a company that has both an ARM/Android and Intel Oaktrail/Windows product in the same 7 inch screen casing proved that parity has almost been reached. The X70 Slate is some 35% lighter than the previous model and even increases the battery life from 6 to 6.5hrs. I can’t wait to see the performance on both Intel and ARM versions. The Samsung Gloria/PC7/TX100 was also an interesting product in terms of technology, size and battery life on Intel. Ocosmos are also working on an Oaktrail device. It’s tiny!

Nvidia announced project ‘Denver’ which aims to bring ARM to the desk-top. [More info] I suspect this is a Cortex A15 project and won’t see the light of day until 2013 but once again, there’s the confidence and investment in a crossover product. These are hugely expensive projects so the message is clear now – the risks are low enough and potential gains are high enough to get these projects underway.

Finally, there was another signal that crossover is starting to happen. I used a Galaxy Tab A LOT at CES. Wifi and 3G internet was hard to come-by but as my PIM, note-taking device, map and Twitter device it worked perfectly and preserved my phone battery , a Nokia N8, for photos and those voice-type things some people do! SMS were also handled on the N8. The netbook was with me most of the time and, like now, there’s no easier way to get a lot of text in a blog and video edited and posted. For bum-on-seat activities, I still need Windows but I surprised myself just how much I used the tablet. You’ll see me use it a lot more at MWC next month.

Chippy on the Freelance Advisor Podcast–Talking Mobile Productivity

freeland advisor

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk on the Freelance Advisor Podcast. The topic was mobile computing and productivity – my favorite subject!

I answer questions from host  Andy White about the ‘cloud’ , Google Docs, Android, collaboration, iOS, MiFi and limitations.

Check it out here. (Scroll down past the transcript for the embedded player and download link.)

The 1K Challenge – A Closer Look At The Rigs

1000 words written on 4 rigs that cost less than 1000 Euro and weigh less than 1000gm.

As you can see, I haven’t quite started yet but I’m in the final stages and expect to start this afternoon.


The Toshiba AC100 is ready to go (indicative of the all-in-one nature of laptops perhaps?) but I’m still working on a few other devices. The main problem is that I don’t have a Bluetooth keyboard to use with the Galaxy Tab so I’m seriously thinking of going with the thumbs. I tested the keyboard in portrait mode last night and it wasn’t bad at all. I’m not saying it’s as stress-free or as fast as a keyboard but it would make a great all-in-one test (Cam, 3G, navigation, mp3 player, etc) and at 384gm, wow it’s a light solution. I’m going with it as an extreme, all-in-one mobile solution.

The Tega V2 is here and I’m struggling to get a package together that lies under the 1KG mark. Adding a keyboard, stand and smartphone (for the camera, navigation etc) brings it up to 1.4KG. That’s way over my limit so I’m thinking of dropping it and going with the X70 although with keyboard and stand, case and mobile phone comes to 1.2KG. The only Windows ‘tablet’ solution that I can put together with the rest of my ‘rig’ in under 1KG is the 5 inch Viliv S5. Unfortunately, 5 inch is below what I regard as usable in a table-top scenario with a keyboard.

This is interesting to see because we often regard tablets as lightweight mobile devices. With Windows, that’s not currently the case because once you’ve added the keyboard you are up to netbook weight. My Viliv S10 3G netbook is 1.25KG!

So what am I to do? If I was sensible I’d take the Viliv S10 but I want to take a Windows Tablet solution. The Tega V2 is here for review so for that reason (and to highlight the weight issue) I’m going to take the Tega V2. It fails before it starts but at least I get to spend some time with it.

So that leaves one more rig. I had the X70 lined up but considering that it will also come in at over 1KG, I’m not going to take it. Instead, I’ve chosen a mini laptop. Coming in at a total of exactly 1000gm for the laptop, smartphone and headphones its the Viliv S7.

The rig will provide this functionality:

  • ‘PC’ with email, web browser, document editing capabilities, storage, screen, keyboard and Wifi
  • 3G internet connectivity
  • Navigation system
  • Camera (minimum 2MP)
  • Video camera (MIN VGA)
  • MP3 player and headphones


The Final Setup

Rig 1 – The 10 inch Windows Tablet. (Bottom-left in picture)

  • Tegatech Tega V2 64GB+3G = 880gm
  • Stand – 132gm
  • Keyboard/mouse (Samsung lightweight USB) – 258gm
  • Xperia X10i phone / navi/ mp3 / camera – 138gm
  • Headset – 20gm
  • TOTAL WEIGHT: 1428gm
  • Expected battery life: 4hrs
  • Cost: Can be done in under 1000 Euro. This rig costing near 1500 Euro

Rig 2 – The 7 inch UMPC (Bottom-right in picture)

  • Viliv S7 (Includes 3G) – 842gm
  • Xperia X10i phone / navi/ mp3 / camera – 138gm
  • Headset – 20gm
  • TOTAL WEIGHT: 1000gm
  • Expected battery life – 7hrs
  • Cost: Can be done in under 1000 Euro. This rig around 1200 Euro

Rig 3 – The 10 inch Smartbook (Top right in picture)

  • Toshiba AC100 – 862gm
  • Xperia X10i phone / navi / mp3 / camera – 138gm
  • Headset – 20gm
  • TOTAL WEIGHT:1020gm
  • Expected battery life: 8hrs
  • Cost: Approx 800 Euro (Smartbook with 3G costs 350 Euros. High-end Smartphone about 450 Euros)

Rig 4 – The 7 inch Superphone Tablet (Top left in picture)

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab – 384gm
  • Headset – 20gm
  • TOTAL WEIGHT 404gm
  • Expected battery life: 8hrs
  • Cost – 700 Euro

Its very interesting to see what we’ve we’ve got in terms of weight, battery life and cost here. The ‘expensive’ Samsung Galaxy Tab right turns in at less than half the weight and 30% less cost than the Windows-based rigs while providing the longest expected battery life. Everything is integrated into a single unit. Total convergence! Adding a BT keyboard would bring the cost to about 750 Euros. The AC100 looks attractive on specs too. With a lower cost smartphone this solution could be put together for about 550 Euros which would make it the cheapest solution by far. For a rig with a 10 inch screen, good keyboard and good battery life, it shines.

On first glance it looks like the ARM-based devices have won here but this isn’t a test of specs, it’s a test of usability. I’ve got to write my e-book on these rigs and there could be big advantages to the Windows-based systems when it comes to this sort of productivity. I’m looking forward to testing all the devices and will report back regularly over the next three days.

I’ll be updating as I go along via twitter and blog posts here on UMPCPortal so be sure to check back, subscribe to the RSS feed, the daily email feed or follow UMPCPortal on twitter. You can also follow me, Chippy, on Twitter for some more details, highs, lows, Q&A and pics and I go through the tests.

Oh, and as for the 1000 km travelling, ahem, I might throw in the towel on that one. We’ll see how it goes but at the moment I haven’t planned any major tours.

The 1K Challenge. Mobile computing Put To Test.

IMG_5325 It’s rare that a new father gets 3 days alone but next week I’m in that position and I want to make the most of it which means I’m going on tour to test some 1KG mobile computing solutions the cost under 1000 Euro. I’ll write 1000 words on each and do my best to travel 1000km. It will be fun and productive at the same time and that’s what I really really love about mobile computing.

I’ve got a device shortlist but it’s not finalized and as yet, the tour route is unknown. I’ll be planning that this week and taking into account mobile blogger meet-ups and company drop-ins.

You can read more about the details over at UMPCPortal and stay tuned here, or there, as we countdown to the start on either Saturday or Sunday and if you’re in Germany and want to meet (business or pleasure) please let me know. Sponsors are also welcome.

The 1K Challenge: Working my E-book in Grams, Euros, Words and Kilometers.

Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads

Baby Nicklas Computes

This could be a long article or a short article because my 8-day old Son, Nicklas is sleeping and who knows when he’ll wake up. Everything I do at the moment has to be flexible, portable and completed in multiple short bursts. Many of you Dads out there will know what I mean and many of you will have tried, like me, to slip a little bit of ‘work’ into the quiet periods.

When you’ve got a studio full of mobile computers to choose from it’s interesting see see what bubbles up as the most used devices and I want to take a few minutes (or 30) to show you what I’ve been using. One thing is for sure though, my desktop keyboard is getting dusty!

[1st break – Clearing kitchen for lunch prep.]

We’re camped-out in our lounge during the daytime and with the kids off school (I have a 9 year old daughter and the kids are enjoying the Easter sun in the neighborhood gardens) and the midwife popping in every day it’s turning into an incredibly dynamic living space. I’m out most days doing some form of shopping…

[2nd break – Kids at the door]

…and trying my best to do as much cooking as possible along with helping where I can.

[3rd break. Baby woke. Now typing with one finger.]

[4th break. Had to take over the cooking]

OK, lets get to the point here. 4 mobile computing devices…

[5th break. Kids need a drink]

[6th break…oh wait. Wife is handling that one.]

..4 mobile devices have bubbled to the top.

IMG_2995One-handed use – Smartphone

Jenn Lee wrote an excellent article about this recently. [See: How Motherhood turned me into a smartphone Whore.] One-handed computing is so, so important for mobility and therefore you need a device that works with the thumb. You need to be able to do as much as possible in one hand too so that means convergence. Modern smartphones are therefore the ultimate solution. Forget that UMPCs can give you a faster, more complete Internet experience with faster keyboard input because you don’t have space for that second device. Forget a netbook too in this situation because despite being able to put a netbook on the side of an armchair and getting a great consumption experience, typing with one finger is hopeless and this static position won’t last for long. (See this post!)

As for convergence you want the best camera you can find when you have a new baby. I want to say that again because despite your thoughts of buying an HD cam or DSLR, you’ll find that, unless you are an absolute stickler for image quality, you’ll use a cameraphone more often and take more natural pictures. In addition to the cam, you’ll need a screen that’s not too large (thumb needs to reach all the way across) and you need, of course, great access to online data. That means not only having a web browser but also having finger friendly applications and references. Comfortable e-reading is a plus. Ensure your device has Wifi for unlimited home-based Internet activities.

One other tip: ‘Working’ with a smartphone is often more acceptable both socially and in the family situation than using anything that looks like a computer. Pulling out a netbook smacks of ‘work’ or ‘browsing’. With a smartphone you can pretend you’re sending an SMS to the mother while you check email.

[7th break… 2nd Pizza is ready.]

[8th break…clearing up.]

[Hiding further interruptions]

Best Choices for One-Handed Use.

I’ve got an N82 right now and its a great cameraphone but it’s not ideal for this scenario because when it comes to running multiple apps or browser windows the experience is relatively poor. There are so many phones out there that would be better and funnily enough, the Omnia Pro I gave to my wife would fit in really well here. (She’s sitting across from me right now thumbing the excellent Samsung on-screen keyboard in portrait mode.) Top choices right now would be HTC Desire/Google Nexus One (I question the camera quality on those having seen and taken a number of iffy-quality images that have characteristic plastic-lens fogging.) or, for a good value choice with an excellent camera and big capacitive touchscreen, the Nokia X6. The Motorola Milestone / Droid is also a great value choice and the recent Android 2.1 upgrade makes it even faster and more usable. The slider form-factor also helps with the bedroom scenario below. The Sony Ericsson X10 would be an expensive choice and if you can put up with some poor UI elements you can have one of the best videophones on the market, the HD and continuous-focus Sony Ericsson Vivaz. Again, get a great cameraphone because there will be many times when it’s the only camera/videocam you have. False friends here would be the Nokia N900 (terrible one-handed experience, slow camera software) and HTC HD2 (the screen is too large for most thumbs.) I wouldn’t recommend the iPhone because of the poor camera although the 3GS would just about creep into the ‘acceptable’ category. If you want a super-cheap cameraphone with a 5mp auto-focus Carl Zeiss lens, Xenon flash, lens-cover, free navigation and a T9 keypad, the Nokia 6220 Classic is amazing value at under 200 Euro for  (Make sure you have a data contract as there isn’t WiFi on this model.) My choice from the above: Motorola Milestone. SIM –Free with Android 2.1 for under 400 Euros + spare battery, bed-side docking station and car charger.


Mobile Office.

3 years ago I would be looking at something like the Flybook V5, the Fujitsu P1620 or an Everun Note and considering the $1000-$2000 cost with 3G. Today, I have a choice of 10 or more 3G-capable mini laptops for $600 or less. The Gigabyte Touchnote I bought in 2009 is working out really well. The touchscreen helps with one-handed browsing, the 3G is strong, the SSD is fast and as I’m largely located in the armchair or out for a short errand, the relatively short battery life isn’t a problem.

Listen, I know that an iPad sounds like more fun but you probably need to do some work at some point on a laptop so put those thoughts of an iPad to one side and get yourself an ASUS T101MT or similar. If you’ve got the money, buy a Viliv S10 with the 32GB SSD and 3G. It’s one of the lightest, most rugged, connected and longest battery life touchscreen convertibles out there. If I didn’t already have a Gigbyte Touchnote, that’s the device I’d buy. [Yes, I have one for testing but it might have to move on to another review soon.]

IMG_2991Bedtime Reading.

As a new father you’ll spend many hours awake in bed where a mini-slate comes in extremely useful for e-reading, music, games, tweeting and more. One-handed use isn’t an issue (quiet at the back!) so I’m finding myself using the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. Great battery life, great screen, a good selection of apps, flash gaming capability, ebook applications, fast browser and super light-weight means it fits in extremely well. A large-format high-end smartphone would also work well here but if you do that, don’t forget to keep it charged for the morning. A Viliv S5, iPad, Milestone/Droid, HD2 or something similar (just choose something that suits you or works with your smartphone usage) is a fun device to have.

IMG_2987Ultra Mobile Computing.

One area you need to cover is the unplanned requirement to do something serious. Fixing a web server, answering an email with a modified spreadsheet, editing an , printing a document or even taking advantage of 20 minutes while waiting for the doctor means you need something reliable and something familiar. This is where the ultra mobile PC has always been the perfect companion as you get to take all your desktop apps and processes on the road with you. I’ve been using the UMID BZ with the Mifi 2352 (and tethered to my smartphone) and it’s been working out well. I also keep it by my bedside for occasions when I need to do some real work while in bed and to be honest, I could use it instead of the Archos 5. The Archos 5 is more fun though!

You could use a netbook in this scenario but netbooks are relatively heavy (especially when you need to carry a bag full of baby ‘stuff,’ and need a stable surface.

[5 interruptions hidden]

So Dads, as you can see, there are some opportunities out there and that it’s not just the Dads that sneak in some mobile computing while looking after their babies. In the spirit of parenthood then, what tips have you got to share? Anyone worked out how to have two hands free? I’ll be testing a baby sling soon so stay tuned for some more mobile Dad tips!

10 Mobile Computing Reports

I’ve written  lot of reports about ultra mobile computing, netbooks, segmentation, X86 vs ARM and other mobile computing topics over the 4 -year life of Carrypad/UMPCPortal and after doing some categorization and tagging today I thought I’d take the chance to highlight 10 reports that I recommend reading and, even better, commenting on.

First there’s the buyers guide. The most recent full buyers guide is from late 2008 (I’m working on a big 2010 update) and it’s the biggest report I’ve published. 28 pages of mobile computing information and tips.

After you’ve digested that, here are a bunch of other interesting reports. All free and open for comments. All produced in the last 12 months.

And finally, one that I published over at Carrypad which is relevant if you’re thinking about ordering the iPad this week.

All the UMPCPortal reports are here (and you can track future reports via RSS) If you have any suggestions for future reports, please let me know and I’ll consider your requests. Bear in mind that I’m still working on the 2010 Mobile Computing Guide and I want to get that finished before I take on any more projects.

Ultra Mobile Computing Buyers Guide PDF.

I had hoped to get a big big updated version of the mobile computing guide out before the end of 2009 but time was definitely not on my side. I’ve done a lot of work on it but it’s going to take many more hours before it’s finished. In the meantime, the late 2008 version is still available as a re-flowable PDF and is still worth reading if you’re thinking about buying a mobile computer, tablet, MID or other mobile computing device this year.

Click on the image to download the free 28-page PDF.

PDF now removed. New version of this book is planned for Q4 2010

If you want to view it online, use the links below.

Part One: What is an Ultra Mobile PC.’ We give you a history of Ultra Mobile computing, show you how the devices break down into segments and show you what each segment is capable of.

Part Two: ‘Details and Choices.’ It covers the form factors, the keyboard, storage, the screen and connectivity elements of an Ultra Mobile PC. You’ll find a good overview and a lot of tips that will help you refine your choice.

Part ThreeDetails and Choices continued‘ continues the details about the components and covers CPU (including a detailed overview of the currently available solutions) GPU, memory, battery, weight and cost.

Part Four: ‘Additional Information and further reading.‘ In this section we cover some of the less commonly found features on Ultra Mobile computers and give you information and links to further reading resources.

If you find the buyers guide useful, think about donating. It all goes back into making UMPCPortal a better place.

Mobile Computing Segmentation and Capabilities. (Updated from DevMob 2010)

Thanks to the great crowd at DevMob2010 in London last week, I’ve had some good feedback to my scenarios and segmentation diagram which was originally created in 2006 and is now updated and re-published under CC license. It should help as a stimulus for software developers thinking about the possibilities in the space between smartphones and netbooks and can help device designers to think about usage scenarios. Customers will also find it useful to pick out their own usage scenarios and to see what type of device fits with their requirements.

FEEDBACK IS ENCOURAGED. If you have thoughts, please add them to the comments section below.

During my session at DevMob I had a set of suggestions which I’ve added to the diagram. It was interesting to hear suggestions for the 8-10 segment which included Multi-touch/User gaming (many players, one device) and multi-person video viewing. Those are two models that the iPad is targeting very closely. We also added ‘Media Overview / Chooser’ to the 8-10 segment based on the need for screen space for an overview of images, album cover art or video’s.

Many thanks to all that took part in the sessions at DevMob and thanks to all of you that took the time to present and talk about your ideas in this space. I hope to see you all again at the next DevMob2010 and at other events in Europe.

The diagram (V2.0) is available here (PDF)

Notes are shared in a Google Document here.

Update: I’m experimenting with a slightly different layout based on feedback below.  The segments have been re-drawn to represent a more fluid crossover point.

V2.1 diagrams are here.

PDF: https://www.umpcportal.com/downloads/devicesegments-V21.pdf
JPG: https://www.umpcportal.com/downloads/devicesegments-V21.jpg

Click for full size jpg image.

Thanks to Intel for sponsoring my trip to London for DevMob and to the Soft Talk Blog team [twitter] for their assistance.

Creative Commons License
Mobile Scenarios and Segmentation by Carrypad is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.

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