Monday, September 29, 2008

Google I-phone promises more

Google has released a new mobile phone to compete with iPhone, and my favourite the Nokia E61i. These are all similar class phones. The Google phone will win the war I suspect because it will integrate some nice features. I can see where this is going:
1. Integration of email, internet experience
2. Standard features like music, wifi, camera, etc
3. GPS-facilitated advertising revenues

So how would this work? Well, you would be walking down the street and your phone would vibrate. Why? Because the global positioning system in the phone will tell you that there is some special sale on in the area you are based on triangulation between the three nearest cellphone towers. You tolerate these advertisements because Google has partnered with a number of telcos around the world, so its able to offer discounted internet services, or maybe even 'free' if you lock yourself into a 2 year contract.

This is a new side for advertising. Google of course already does context-based advertising with its keyword-based adwords placements. In this case the context is geographic position. It makes you think just how far Google can go. Well of course competitors can emerge, but its seems none can match the level of integration of Google. The exception is Microsoft-Yahoo, but they are looking very tired. It seems probable that hardware will become incidental to the software which drives them.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dell offers another mini-laptop

Dell is the latest entrant into the mini-laptop market. Manufacturers are taking another look at this market since it was abandoned by Toshiba in the early 1990s. At the time the mini-laptop experience was less appealing. For example, these early models were slow, required a dial-up modem attachment, but having had a Toshiba ‘Libereto’ in those days, I can tell you they were a very practical mobile computer. Today’s computers have some compelling advantages:
1. Solid state memory makes them more rugged. You can now take them camping with you.
2. They have far more powerful processors
3. They have seemless wireless use rather than dial-up modems
I would not however buy one until they are truly mobile. The two features that are missing from all models are:
1. Greater memory capacity
2. Longer battery life. Dell is talking 4 hours. When they start talking 7 hours I will listen.
One needs to type away on these units to determine how useful they are. You will hate the experience if the keys are too small, poorly positioned. One folly of the Libereto was the small ‘backspace’ key. I did however love having the trackball/pad on the right side of the display screen. Of course its nice having the option of a mouse, but this allowed me to work in airport lounges and use the trackball whilst also steadying the computer.
I think the problem with these mini-laptops will be trying to find a place as a 2nd computer. I think they are better suited to kids, non-internet-savy adults who don’t have a need for a main home computer. The reason I say this is because for mobile note-taking, reading an eBook, I would much prefer a Nokia E61i because it is has a practical computer size screen, sufficiently large enough keys (for Caucasian fingers) to type notes, and its a phone and much else besides. For girls & Asians will small fingers, the Nokia E70 is even better. Its upgrade I can’t use, but its screen is too small. I am looking for an upgrade to the Nokia E61i. Don’t change the screen, keys, just add a more powerful processor, a better resolution camera and add better Word editing software. This is where a lot of the business/internet-savvy mobile market will be going. The idea of a mini-laptop really suffers from an identity crisis, and I think the hybrid will only suit the non-serious user. Which is find, they will find great joy in these devices when they meet my spec criteria. The other problem is finding a place to use these devices. We need more places where people can go to enjoy a coffee shop which actually has freely available internet. Too many of these wireless links are locked these days. Its worse in the West than in Asia.
Anyway, if you want the latest Dell, here are the specs. Mind you I think I would wait, ot take a look at the mind-size Acer as a preferred option at this point. For business/serious users, the Nokia E61i is the better option. Mind you the Apple i-phone has just displaced it with its phone. I would wait for a response from Nokia. An upgrade of the E61i could not be too far off. The last upgrade was really very superficial. The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 retails for $US400 in the USA, or $A599 in Australia. It has a 16GB solid-state drive,as well as webcam, wifi and Bluetooth. The Mini 9 weighs 1kg compared to 2.7kg for a typical Dell laptop. It is sold with a Linux or Windows-XP operating system. It includes a 1.6GHz Intel processor, 1GB of system memory. The Mini 9 does not include a built-in wireless broadband modem but Dell says it is working on building the feature into future revisions.
Look at the competition - Asus, HP, Acer, MSI and Lenovo – as they all have sub-$600 portable computers. The Acer is a reasonable choice too, but I would be inclined to wait for better models, and depending on your lifestyle, take a look at the smartphones from Nokia and Apple (I-phone), who are the leaders in their market.
Andrew Sheldon
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