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TechCrunch Wants To Create an Open Source Tablet

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-prefer-gelcaps dept.

Portables 160

RKo618 writes "TechCrunch announced that they are planning to design their own $200 web tablet device. Quoting: 'The idea is to turn it on, bypass any desktop interface, and go directly to Firefox running in a modified Kiosk mode that effectively turns the browser into the operating system for the device. Add Gears for offline syncing of Google docs, email, etc., and Skype for communication and you have a machine that will be almost as useful as a desktop but cheaper and more portable than any laptop or tablet PC.' The aim is for the tablet to run on modified open source software, which will be released back to the community along with the specifications for the hardware."

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160 comments

Hopefully they will get it right. (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287575)

They have to compete with the N770 and N800 both that run open source software and both already have a very large installed base of users.

They have to compete with that, so they really need to get it right. I love my N770 except for battery life. I wish these things could go at least 3 days between charges.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287687)

realh4x0rZuseemacs4shell

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (5, Funny)

H3g3m0n (642800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288085)

"realh4x0rZuseemacs4shell" happens to be a common emacs keyboard short cut.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (5, Insightful)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287817)

They don't mention screen size, which would determine if this is a Nokia Internet Tablet competitor. It's impossible to get a sense of scale from the mockups. If It's got a 10" screen it's in a different league entirely and just the kind of device I've been waiting for for several years. My 770 is nice, but the screen size is defined by the portable form factor, which means it's too small. I was rather hoping Apple would have made a web tablet by now (the iPod Touch is, again, too small). I want something with a reasonable sized screen for use where a laptop is awkward or unnecessary but I don't need pocketability.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287875)

They also have to compete with the latest "portable media-players" like the Archos Generation 5. I got a 605 Wifi [archos.com] for birthday. It comes with a 30GB HD and touchscreen and runs Qtopia Linux (unofficial hack.)

They sell for 200 Euro here in Germany.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24289129)

They sell for 200 Euro here in Germany.

Ouch, that is something like $500 in American dollars.

You forget the iPod Touch (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288017)

The iPod Touch is also a serious contender. If it were about 4-5x bigger, it would be almost exactly what TechCrunch is asking for.

Re:You forget the iPod Touch (2, Insightful)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288389)

Actually as far as real world extensibility, the N800 and kin are far better than the iPod touch, as you can install real applications, such as VNC, Gnumeric spreadsheets, mplayer, and a choice of either a mobile Opera or Gecko 1.9 (Firefox 3) based browsers, Skype, Jabber, etc clients, and Flash in those web-browsers. And to connect all of that to the internet, you can either use WiFi or Bluetooth pairing to a cellphone.

The only point that the Maemo operating system scores relatively low on right now is user friendliness, since a number of apps need non-default repositories.

Also, the N-series tablets beat this plan to make something as it's already in production, and sold at or close to the 200 price point, not to mention that again, it is much easier to use and install real applications rather than just the default environment being a web browser...

Re:You forget the iPod Touch (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288653)

opera was only a option in the 770, and maybe the early N800, firmwares. the more recent ones for N800 and N810 are pure gecko (and a somewhat dated one at that).

Re:You forget the iPod Touch (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288939)

The iPod Touch is also a serious contender. No, it's a serious oxymoron - "Apple" and "Open Source".

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (3, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288067)

It also seems like they're trying to sell to a market that's obsessed with customizability with a device that's designed to give you exactly one narrowly-defined way to do any given task.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288961)

Well, it's working pretty well for the EEE PC so far! You have the option of installing XP or extra applications of course, but a lot of people find they're happy with the built in OS and apps.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1)

kriebz (258828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288123)

Sorry to be mostly OT, but really? Buy a new battery. Mine lasts 3 days even with wifi on most of the time. It did die after about 4 hours of near continuous wifi searching with bluetooth on too. Instant off that actually works would make battery life that much better and make it really useful, but I don't know how well a non-embedded Linux kernel supports that.

Also, the 770 is too much device for these guys, actually running apps and all. The author seems to buy in to the web OS phenomenon. And skype? wtf. This is not how geeks do things... so maybe it will be succesful.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289045)

What's the problem with Skype? It works well, has a large userbase and interoperates with the traditional phone system at good rates. Are geeks meant to do everything by email, IRC and instant messaging (and perhaps Ventrilo but maybe that isn't geeky enough for you either)? What happens when they want to communicate with a non geek?

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1)

kriebz (258828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289765)

SIP + ITSP

Geeks now have to know voip. Didn't you get the memo?

I'm hating that there's no just-plain-sip client I can find for my 770

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289857)

From someone who worked in the voip industry for years, SIP is junk. Skype recognised this and jumped on the opportunity, and now they are without competition in the soft-phone market. Good for them, although it is a shame their call set-up is proprietary, but oh well.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288589)

Any hints why you didn't mention the N810?

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24289689)

Any hints why you didn't mention the N810?

.

Dang, I thought I did. Perhaps it was 810 by a grue.

Re:Hopefully they will get it right. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288819)

> I love my N770 except for battery life. I wish these things could go at least 3 days between charges

My N800 can go 6 days without a problem. Maybe they improved the power management on subsequent models? Also, be sure you aren't running background tasks that use the CPU - that will suck down battery life quickly. Even browser javascript stuff can do that.

If nothing else, you could upgrade - N800's are cheap now that the N810's are out.

Nokia needs to *advertise* the N800/N810 (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289323)

I use my N800 on my commute to and from work on the train every day to watch TV/films. Battery life is no problem, because there are power outlets on the train.

What I find amusing is that a lot of passengers will look at the thing curiously, then finally ask what it is. When I tell them, the usual response is something like, "I didn't know that Nokia makes something like that!"

We know about it, but we also read Slashdot. I bet this thing would sell more if it somehow got Apple-like viral advertising.

"Hey, Nokia, is my check in the mail?"

.."More portable" (1)

CBLynx (1324925) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287597)

I don't see how this beats a Linux distro, it's just as cheap, and just as portable. It's also probably going to be a lot more realistic for your average Joe user. Just my humble opinion, though.

Re:.."More portable" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288185)

"What advantages does this motor car have over say.. a train, which I could also afford."

*stunned silence* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287599)

I think all this is great, but $200 is too much.

I'd buy that for a dollar (-1, Offtopic)

nharmon (97591) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287605)

Well, 200 hundred of them actually.

Re:I'd buy that for a dollar (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287619)

Make that two hundred, or 200. Not 200 hundred, which would be 20,000. This is why I don't post in the morning.

Re:I'd buy that for a dollar (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287655)

At a dollar a piece, I'd buy a few. But what would you do with 200 of them?

And what the hell is 200 hundred?

Re:I'd buy that for a dollar (4, Funny)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287783)

At a dollar a piece, I'd buy a few. But what would you do with 200 of them?
 

Sell them at the (two) dollar store.

And what the hell is 200 hundred?

Twenty thousand.

Next customer!!

Kinda like the N800? (4, Informative)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287615)

I mean, those specs pretty much match a Nokia N800 [wikipedia.org] with a pair of 2 GB SD cards and running OS 2008. Heck, they even got the Linux part.

Okay, you can upgun to an Arm11, put in a bigger battery, and make the touch screen multitouch, but the device proposed is not something entirely new.

It is, however, something eminently useful on a daily basis.

Re:Kinda like the N800? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288103)

n8x0 has an ARM11, its all packaged inside an OMAP2420 from ti.
It even looks like we will be using the powervr [maemo.org] 3d soon as well.

Multitouch would be nice of course, but I don't hold 2 styluses at the same time.

Re:Kinda like the N800? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288683)

one can do quite a bit on the N800 with a finger these days. it even have a full screen keyboard for finger typing.

Re:Kinda like the N800? (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288901)

yeah, it does. I left my stylus at work yesterday and had to use the fingerboard. Ugh. I'm just glad it's not the preferred entry method, a la iPod touch.

Re:Kinda like the N800? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289399)

yep, thats why i have a foldable bluetooth keyboard for when i need to do long typing sessions.

Re:Kinda like the N800? (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289095)

Multitouch would be nice of course, but I don't hold 2 styluses at the same time.

You mean you're not into chopstick-stylus computing yet? All the cool kids are doing it.

Skype isn't Open Source (4, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287679)

They could use Jabber for instant messaging, and Asterix for voice communications.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (5, Funny)

Mark Trade (172948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287749)

Asterix for voice communications.

I hear Obelix is way better.

(But other than that I agree. Skype is not open source and a security liability.)

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24289751)

Asterix for voice communications.

I hear Obelix is way better.

Asterix has a smaller form factor, but Obelix has more capacity.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287791)

You misspelled "Ekiga". It doesn't start with an "A". Hope that helps!

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288703)

I was going to respond to this in an offended sort of manner, but actually you're getting off on a technicality:

Asterisk is a 'server' class device. You hook things to it.

Ekiga (GnomeMeeting) would almost certainly be better for a client device - that you would hook to something like an Asterisk server.

Comparing the two is likely insulting to both. :)

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288167)

Not only is it not open source, it's not an open protocol, and not even a reverse-engineered proprietary protocol. Skype is, in many ways, the absolute antithesis of open source - you can't modify it, you are locked into a single-supplier, interoperability is non-existent, and so on.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288851)

And yet it continues to be very popular. In fact, I use it on a daily basis. I've checked out a few other clients (ie. OpenWengo, Gizmo) but I have a very difficult time convincing my friends that they should use a less feature-rich client (the most important feature being "can I chat/call/video conference with my other friends that are already on Skype"). Of course everyone would have to convert en masse to make it worthwhile. I use Linux and open-source software wherever possible but Skype is one program I haven't been able to ditch yet. (The other that I sorely miss when under Linux is Yahoo! Launchcast- I've tried LastFM, but it's not equivalent. When I'm running Linux I just use Amarok to randomly cycle through my bizarre collection but I enjoy in Launchast the opportunity to listen to new music which closely matches my preferences.)

I am coveting (captcha) open source equivalents that would break me from those two programs (that are free downloads in and of themselves).

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (2, Interesting)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288951)

Skype's success and popularity is a good example of how proprietary or closed programs can still exist in an open-source world. The closed app just has to bring more to the table than their open source competitors. In this case, Skype is much more functional than Ekiga, which I've only had the worst of experiences with as far as quality and reliability. If a client-server model works, Murmur is a good FOSS VoIP client (sort of a peer to TeamSpeak), although it's very badly documented and hard to set up.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (2, Insightful)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288519)

...and Asterix for voice communications

Asterisk is to internet telephony as Apache is to web browsing..

As much as I'm a fan of open source, I'm also a very big fan of Just F****ing Works, so I'd include Skype.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289223)

As much as I'm a fan of open source, I'm also a very big fan of Just F****ing Works, so I'd include Skype.

Hear, hear here!

Nimbuzz does voice, and webclients (1)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288585)

You can use Nimbuzz [nimbuzz.com] for voice. Not open source, but uses Jabber/XMPP. They do have a web-client (that does not do voice) and a flash widget for Facebook et al that does do voice. Making a full-featured flash client that does voice should be an obvious next step, since it opens up linux/mac markets.

Nimbuzz connects to your Skype, MSN/Live, GTalk, Yahoo and AIM, with voice calling supported for the first three networks, and also works for mobile phones (both local dial-up and full VoIP) and PC (Windows only currently, which kindof sucks, given that I'm typing this on a Mac)

They should love to one-up Skype in a project like this, if they can get tight integration.

Re:Skype isn't Open Source (1)

Ptur (866963) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289131)

Eh?

Why not use Gizmo, it does voice and maybe soon video too (under linux - the windows version already does), and they have good working gateways to jabber and MSN. What more do you need?

Already have one (4, Informative)

yelvington (8169) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287689)

Linux kernel ... check.
Touchscreen interface ... check.
Firefox ... Gecko-based browser, so check.
Skype ... check. Also all the other IM protocols.
Wifi ... check. Also Bluetooth to my EDGE phone.
Headphones, mike, camera ... check.
Google Gears ... still waiting. But I have abiword.
About $100 over the target price, but not bad.
http://www.nseries.com/products/n800/#l=products,n800 [nseries.com]

I'd like a bigger touchscreen, but then it wouldn't fit in my pocket.

Flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287703)

They are likely to want to use Flash on this as well. As we know Flash works so well on Linux, and Gnash is frequently questionable, but probably a better choice if they want a choice in processors.

For VOIP it would probably make sense to include a SIP client as well as Skype, and if a non intel processor is being used, then they would need additional cooperation from the company, more than if they merely wanted to include it.

finally, we can identify with nazi crusaders,... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24287763)

as some of our work has also been rejected by the ny times. better days ahead? see you there? the lights are coming up all over now.

I'd buy one at $200 (1, Offtopic)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287945)

I just love the way that people are wanting and buying thin client hardware after years saying they couldn't possibly work without a REAL computer

Where have all the PDAs gone? (3, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287951)

I think these things would be more useful going the thin-client approach. E.g., just use it to ssh+vnc into a persistent desktop on your home PC. That way you have all your settings preserved, and the performance will likely be much better for anything more complicated than reading.

I think the opera browser for most smartphones / blackberries use a thin client approach, where they render your web page on their servers and send screenscrapes to your device which you can pan and zoom around in their interface.

Anyway, I've been looking for something to eventually replace my Palm T|X, and don't really see anything I like too much. The N810 looks nice, but seems like the PIM functionality will be taking a step back from what I have now (granted it wasn't really designed for PIM at all to begin with).

Re:Where have all the PDAs gone? (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288155)

You may be someone who hates everything Apple, in which case ignore this, but I'm finding the iPod Touch to be an amazing PDA since the latest firmware update with applications was released.

There's very little it can't do now, and not only can you run your usual PIM functionality, but it also makes a passable portable games system (graphically, I'd say it's better then my DS, but controls are somewhat lacking).

And it even comes with an iPod ;)

Re:Where have all the PDAs gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288161)

You can actually run Palm software on a N810:
http://www.access-company.com/products/gvm/index.html

Re:Where have all the PDAs gone? (0)

Teckla (630646) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288371)

I think these things would be more useful going the thin-client approach. E.g., just use it to ssh+vnc into a persistent desktop on your home PC. That way you have all your settings preserved, and the performance will likely be much better for anything more complicated than reading.

In the United States, at least, the upload bandwidth broadband customers (cable, DSL) get is pretty anemic. Combine that with VNC, which doesn't perform that well in the first place since it performs screen scraping, and you have a recipe for a really slow, frustrating experience.

In addition, all that wireless communication will drain your battery fast. It's better to keep as much local as possible.

Re:Where have all the PDAs gone? (3, Insightful)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289157)

I just replaced my cherished, precious Palm Tungsten T3 this Spring after I received an iPod Touch for Christmas.

It is absolutely the best PDA ever. I thought that even before I upgraded to the 2.0 firmware. I can now access my work's Exchange server plus all of my personal accounts. The apps are a mixed bag, but OmniFocus is the best Getting Things Done app on any platform, if you're into that.

A device this size is not the proper tool for remote support. For that I strongly recommend a ThinkPad X-series with a Verizon data card in a messenger bag or briefcase. People who use their handheld device (smartphone, PDA, Nokia Internet tablet, whatever) to do support are out of their minds.

One single, maddening omission (1)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289175)

The N-series would be absolutely excellent if it had a well-designed PIM suite (and by well-designed, I mean not a poorly-designed, hacked together, proof-of-concept, "oh yes there is a PIM suite" sort of PIM suite).

As it stands, the only real alternatives are the iPod Touch (which is very nice but can't do Flash and has no camera or mic) or a stodgy Palm device (do they still even make non-phone devices?). Nokia has the superior hardware, but alas the software just isn't nearly as versatile without a quality PIM.

let me get his right (4, Interesting)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#24287983)

a technology blog wants to create a device?

yea right seems like linkbait to get more ad impressions (open that site while having firebug open they load so much ad shit)

So, Let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288021)

$200 for a web connected device that runs all of it's apps from the internet rather than locally... I can think of one device that does that exact thing already, costs $199 and has enough power to do some stuff locally on it's own hardware, plus adds a phone and MP3 player to the mix - the Apple iPhone...

Re:So, Let me get this straight (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288137)

That $199 on the iphone is just a down payment.

Re:So, Let me get this straight (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288821)

That $199 on the iphone is just a down payment.

That's putting it lightly.

The street price of the device is, what, $800? So one really should assume that the strings attached to amount to something more than $600, otherwise why subsidize the cost?

Hint: AT&T is NOT a charitable organization...

Even if the $800 is inflated, one can safely assume that we're talking about a true cost of WELL OVER $200.

The parent was kinder to the GP's optimism than I would have been...

Maybe I don't get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288029)

But I don't see how this is useful at all except for a communications device. I don't see any way to input anything - no KB, no mouse. I guess your finger becomes the mouse but how do you type, even in the most rudimentary fashion? Even simple web browsing most times entails some sort of keyboard input. I like the idea but I don't see it being useful as a computer without a keyboard. Am I missing something?

Re:Maybe I don't get it... (2, Insightful)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288177)

Am I missing something?

On screen keyboards maybe? They've only been around for a few years, so you might have missed them, but it's hardly rocket science.

Firefox as an operating system? (1)

jdrugo (449803) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288033)

Now it is official: Firefox is the new EMACS.

If only Firefox had a good web browser.

Meh (3, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288049)

I want a 9" iPod Touch.

Make a Linux based one with a glass screen and multi-touch that has that level of polish, and that level of simplicity and people will be interested.

Give them plain ol' Firefox on a lousy LCD with a resistive touch screen and it'll have the same success every other internet tablet has had... ie, it'll end up on TigerDirect at 80% off.

More power to them, but they need to scrap their list of requirements and put one thing at the very top: usability. If it doesn't have the UX and physical usability of an iPod Touch (where my grandmother could figure it out), its missed the boat. If the software is getting less than 95% of the attention, then they've missed the boat.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288391)

"UX"? Seriously, "UX"? How do you live with yourself?

Re:Meh (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288897)

I want a 9" iPod Touch. Make a Linux based one...

In other words, you're expecting Apple to open up the specification of their locked down hardware in order to allow a Linux kernel to have an appropriate driver for each device built into it?

Here's an experiment for you - go buy a NORMAL iPod Touch, then go try running it with Linux and iTunes... let me know how well you get on.

Pepper tried this (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24288173)

Pepper Computer [pepper.com] already tried this, and they failed. It turns out that producing a device that can sell for $200 is quite difficult.

It also turns out that people aren't willing to spend $N for a limited-functionality device when they're able to get a full-featured laptop for $N, or even $N+100

I wish TechCrunch luck!

...as useful as a desktop... (1)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288183)

Provided you don't want to write anything down (no proper keyboard), connect your digicam or any other device (maybe one USB port, no other ports), play anything but the simplest of simple games (again, no keyboard/ports), no photo editing (not enought horsepower)...

So, yes, if all you do is to look at facebook and call people up with skype this is "as usefull as a desktop". But if that is all you do, why not get something like a Eee 2G, an Elonex One or a MSI Wind?

Re:...as useful as a desktop... (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289163)

To answer your question:
You're right. "Almost as useful as a desktop" is an inaccurate way of expressing the utility of this class of devices. I am writing this on my desktop, within arm's reach of a Nokia N800, which meets the specs above (800-pixel-wide touch screen, wifi, 256 MB RAM, 256 MB system memory, 24 GB in two SDHC cards, Linux, Gecko, Skype, Asterisk and Video), and yet I'm writing on a desktop.

What gives? Why are these things useful? For that matter, why not get an Eee 2G, Elonex One or MSI Wind?

To start with the last question, those ultra-cheap, portable PCs ("netbooks" or whatever), are great. They provide you with a desktop-like experience for less money, and with greater portability than a laptop. So, in cases where I would need to work on a computer, but didn't need full workstation power, it would be ideal. Photoshop on an Eee would suck, but word processing would be okay (if it weren't for the tiny keyboard).
But I don't often need to work directly on a computer in remote locations.

So why these things? Because in my day-to-day life, I often need to do something that involves (secondarily) a computer, and a small tablet makes a computer available where previously there was none. In a meeting, I can look something up and pass it to a colleague without breaking eye contact. In airports, I don't have to take the damn thing out of my bag for the scanners. With a low-power mobile processor (as opposed to an x86), I just leave it on, and it's handy. Someone wants to call me on skype, I can take the call and carry the phone around the house.

If I were to use cameras as an analogy, we currently have professional-grade digital cameras, prosumer dSLRs and portable point-and-shoot cameras. A dSLR with a sweet lens and a tripod is great, but the best camera to have is the one you're carrying when you take the shot.

What gives? Desktops are ideal when you've got a project that requires full-time work on a PC. Laptops give you desktop power in places where you can't get a desktop. Tablets give you computing in situations where you aren't always staring at a computer.

ducked the most important specification (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288191)

They haven't specified the screen size. While the designers go into detail for the amount of memory, SSD, number and type of ports - they are too shy to talk about this one attribute that will make or break the design.

We know PDA-sized screens are no good for web-browsing (especially when the mocked-up picture implies showing print-sized text). So it follows that the screen will have to be at least the size of a paperback and preferably the size of an A4 sheet to get any kind of mass market take-up (with, of course the battery capacity to match). If you plan to do this for $200, you must know something that the rest of the world has missed.

Even the book readers that appeared last year didn't manage that - and they seem to have sunk without trace. Without this, the project is nothing more than pie in the sky.

I'll keep an eye out for the end product, but I won't hold my breath waiting for it.

browser as INTERFACE, not operating system (1)

fishtorte (1117491) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288287)

What the article suggests is using the browser as the interface to the computer. Which is just as silly as using the browser for an operating system.

Why not skip the idea of a separate browser "application" altogether and build web-rendering into something that resembles the "desktop," with some kind of multitouch swipe that brings up an application launcher for stuff like Skype and your favorite porn torrent downloader and video player? Whoa...I feel like Steve Jobs all of a sudden.

Good luck with that! (4, Insightful)

illumin8 (148082) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288311)

I want a dead simple and dirt cheap touch screen web tablet to surf the web. Nothing fancy like the Dell latitude XT, which costs $2,500. Just a Macbook Air-thin touch screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel.

You want a Macbook-air thin wireless touch screen tablet device for $200? I want world peace, Dick Cheney's head on a pike, and a pony... good luck with that!

Here's the basic idea: The machine is as thin as possible, runs low end hardware and has a single button for powering it on and off, headphone jacks, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, and a microphone. It will have Wifi, maybe one USB port, a built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM, a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. Data input is primarily through an iPhone-like touch screen keyboard. It runs on linux and Firefox. It would be great to have it be built entirely on open source hardware, but including Skype for VOIP and video calls may be a nice touch, too.

I'll admit what they are talking about sounds really cool, but the real world limitations of battery technology, thin electronics, and design prowess that only companies like Apple seem to have will make this thing cost $2000-3000 when it's finally done. Sorry, you just can't cram all of that good stuff into a 0.5 inch enclosure for $200.

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288741)

Alternatively, make it 2 inches thick, peel off the Apple logo & sell it to me for £500 (=$1000) on the reassurance that I won't lose any sleep over the fact it doesn't look like a fashion accessory.

Re:Good luck with that! (2, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288803)

PS. By the way, you need to be modded "Off-topic". The article is talking about OPEN SOURCE tablets, not those that are locked down with a proprietary Apple OS.

Augmentative and alternative communication device (2, Insightful)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288871)

I like the Idea. For the simple reason that if it were truly open it could be used for other purposes. Like alternative communications devices for the speech impaired (i.e. autistic, cerebral palsy, kids, with motor speech problems).

Currently the only thing available to my knowledge is the Prentkey Romich [prentrom.com] tablets at about $6,000 US a pop.

It would be nice to be able to have the ability to develop an open source low cost alternative. Something with maybe only one button besides the screen. For people that cannot afford these devices for one reason or the other.

Needs an on-screen keyboard -- and a good one (1)

jeffehobbs (419930) | more than 5 years ago | (#24288943)

What this project needs is an on-screen keyboard/text entry method of roughly the same type and quality as the iPhone's keyboard. Until there's something like that in the linux world, using devices like this will be a pretty clunky affair.

Touch screen Mac Air (1)

changos (105425) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289073)

What I really wanted from Apple was a touch screen macbook air. Instead of opening it's just a screen, they have the technology, the size is right; why didn't they make a tablet?!

Oh well, guess we'll have to wait for Steve.

Wait a minute..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24289135)

Didn't Steve someone-or-other already do something like this. I think it was at the fruit company.

Source of funds? (1)

thedistrict (1327685) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289189)

Where does tech crunch get the funds and the in-house minds to pull something like this off? Seems to me they may not be able to.

Right out of Larry Ellison's Playbook (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289251)

Fifteen years someone's been trying to get the gadget that would be an online viewing device, tablet, NetPC, whatever. Michael "why won't they let me fly back on the Google Plane" Arrington is just one more arrogant joker, posing as a visionary in a high-profile spot, wanting to crack open the notebook/tablet/ultra-something marketplace. He'll fail, too.

As useful as a desktop? (1)

gravis777 (123605) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289317)

go directly to Firefox running in a modified Kiosk mode that effectively turns the browser into the operating system for the device. Add Gears for offline syncing of Google docs, email, etc., and Skype for communication and you have a machine that will be almost as useful as a desktop but cheaper and more portable than any laptop or tablet PC

What alternative reality are they living in? First, if we have an embeded Firefox in a kiosk mode, wouldn't that keep me from patching and upgrading the browser? Then, you are basically telling me that all I need to do on a computer is browse the web, and online word processing and e-mail, and VoIP? Shoot, the iPhone does more than that, and sells for the same price. And I certainly would not claim its as good as a desktop. Shoot, my desktop has more power than my maxed-out laptop, and I do video editing and 3D rendering, gaming, and multimedia. If I am using Google Mail, this probably means that I cannot sync to my exchange server.

And what is wrong with just taking a cheap tablet off of ebay and throwing Linux on it?

Also, Firefox is not an operating system. An operating system and a browser are not even remotely connected, no matter how much BS from Microsoft you have read. This is probably going to be a modified Linux build, boot directly into X, and then launch Firefox. For them to make Firefox into an operating system would require a HUGE rewrite of Firefox, and, as I said earlier, would keep them from being able to do patches and such.

Why these things keep failing. (4, Insightful)

sidragon.net (1238654) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289361)

Every time these ideas come around, they simply boil down to lightweight desktop interfaces. Just taking interfaces people are used to elsewhere and dumbing them down is not going to solve any problems. First, determine if the product solves any problems, then make the solution fit those specific needs.

Windows Mobile demonstrates this pattern exactly, which is one reason the iPhone dominates it. Apple realized that the form factor, the input devices, and usage scenarios are radically different from the desktop. Microsoft used hierarchical menus, scroll bars, and other common metaphors that break-down on handhelds. Apple opted for user interfaces that give powerful visual clues where pixels and real estate are hard to come by. The different is, as millions of people will tell you, striking.

This “yet another tablet PC” is not going to catch on or provide any value if the designers simply repackage the laptops we already have (never mind other flops like Windows XP Tablet Edition). Figure out what users actually need and develop to those needs. Have they solved handwriting recognition? How are they going to deal with small screens? Will essential functions be quickly accessible? Do they have any concrete use cases? Have they considered that people dislike stylus input? Any ideas for one-handed keyboards perhaps?

Sorry, but trimming down the web browser and preserving constrained desktop functionality elsewhere is not going to make waves. This strategy has failed many times in the past, and I am surprised that we are still trying it so many years after the QBE.

Microsoft's problem is Windows... (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289947)

Microsoft's problem in handhelds is Windows. They don't want the Windows Mobile based devices to become laptop replacements, because that would compete with Windows sales, but they want them to be recognizably Windows to both make development easier and to promote the brand.

Windows Mobile loses because Windows CE is just not reliable and solid enough to serve both the needs of a mobile phone and the needs of a general-purpose handheld. Palm didn't have this problem nearly as badly because PalmOS ran under a real time OS (AMX) that you couldn't get into from user applications... the whole Palm environment is just one task for AMX.

Take away the phone, and just worry about making a PDA, and you get a lot more freedom. The iPod Touch has really got more potential to benefit from iPhone apps than the iPhone, because it's not such a critical device. In the Pocket PC WinCE would have been fine if ActiveSync worked as well as Palm HotSync, so your ActiveSync repository served as a complete backup for everything on your Pocket PC... losing data every time I ran my battery flat was what drove me back to PalmOS for my PDA. So the Pocket PC loses because Microsoft didn't make it good enough to run standalone, and didn't make PC-side software good enough that you didn't care.

Going to a tablet, and you get even more freedom. Before "Tablet PC" there were Windows CE based clamshells and tablets that were quite capable, but Microsoft pretty much nuked them by loading the Pocket PC software down with restrictions (both technical and contractual) that meant the Windows CE based tablets were stuck with the previous generation of Windows Mobile software. Of course, they wanted their flagship product on the Tablet PC, not this stripped down embedded-only Windows CE.

I don't know if a browser-only tablet is a good solution, but a tablet is so far from the iPhone or Windows Mobile that trying to draw analogies between them is misleading at best... even if Microsoft hadn't continually undercut Windows Mobile to keep it from even potentially cannibalizing their flagship product.

Good Luck, I Can't Wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24289543)

If you build it, I will buy. This is a great idea and one that I hope gains steam.

Won't work (1)

joh (27088) | more than 5 years ago | (#24289955)

If they really want to use Firefox as a kind of OS/GUI and webapps for everything, they've got a problem. To do this, you need a *large* screen (at least 12"), because webapps are made to be viewed at large screens and controlled with a mouse -- controls are too tiny and cramped to be used on a small touchscreen (without a stylus). And with a large screen they need either a really large battery or the battery life of the thing will be pathetic.

With an optimized GUI you can get away with a smaller screen (look at the iPhone), but this would mean to have actually applications written for that...

So, nice idea, but a cheap web tablet seems to be just not possible right now.

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