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How About an iPhone OS Or Android-Based Netbook?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the upsides-and-downsides dept.

Portables 162

perlow (Jason Perlow of ZDNet) suggests that the current crop of netbooks might be missing the boat when it comes to getting maximum battery life and small-screen usability, and asks "Could Mac OS X iPhone or Google's Android be the key to mass adoption of the next generation of netbooks?" Android looks pretty nice, I admit, but so far I like having full-fledged Ubuntu on my own small computer. He's not the first one to think that the iPhone would be well-employed as the guts of an ultra-portable, though. (Note: it's only a model.)

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ZDNet is missing the point (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871455)

Netbooks are popular because they run the software that people are used to. No converting of data files, no learning of new user interfaces. Everything you know, just on a small device with a battery life that is enough for a day.

Cellphone technology based "laptops" have existed for years, and they have a solid fan base, but they are still big cellphones, not small PCs.

The distinction may go away as the web replaces desktop applications, but that requires fast, reliable and affordable network access, IOW: not yet.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (4, Insightful)

EvilNTUser (573674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871571)

Exactly. My phone already runs Symbian/S60. Why the hell would I want to buy a bigger object with the same feature set?

In my opinion, it's more likely to move in the other direction. Eventually, phones will be so powerful that we'll just run our normal Linux/BSD distros* on them, and hotels/airplanes will be equipped with wireless full size keyboards and screens.

This is fortunately also likely to end the security nightmare that is the webapps fad. No need for google docs if you have OpenOffice in your pocket. Hardware keyloggers will always be a concern, of course.

*Yes, there are more than Ubuntu!

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (2, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872853)

Uh, web apps are being made for one reason. SAAS (Software as a Service).

Companies think there is a market for products that don't have a license, they have a subscription. Additionally there are savings to be had by updating features/bugs and providing support for a central repository of software rather than for a distributed user install base where the environment is unknown.

Throw in the opportunity for an extra revenue stream from Ad supported 'free' versions of the software (which is to provide an alternative to piracy) and you can see that companies have a genuine business model to work towards.

You're right that security is a big issue - but not for consumers.

Companies just need to offer VPN-like access to webapp VMs for customers with more than 20 users of an application (or individuals wiling to pay extra).

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873353)

Also remote storage. Having a bunch of in-progress documents available on Google Apps is very convienient when switching between home, work, and other computers.

If you have only one laptop following you around, then it becomes a bit redundant. But for those of us who regularly work on three or more different machines, it can be quite convienient.

The iPhone would work (2, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871645)

Since it's basically just MacOS X under the hood. Apple would probably just have to install most of the OSX desktop APIs and provide some tweaks to the app launcher interface that the iPhone uses. However, I think the biggest incentive for them to not do this would be the perception that their product doesn't multitask which would be a turn off to some people.

Re:The iPhone would work (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871699)

If Apple got into that product category, I would expect it to be a smaller Mac rather than a larger iPhone. If you check out the teardown pictures of the MacBook Air, you'll see that the motherboard in that machine is very small, certainly small enough for a netbook-type product.

I'm not sure I'd go for the form factor myself, but I could see a Mac about the size of a checkbook with a high-DPI display like the iPhone being a popular item. A 1920 x 1080 OLED display around 6x3 inches could be pretty cool. Two gigs of DRAM and 20 gigs of flash RAM, and you'd have a rather capable machine.

-jcr

Re:The iPhone would work (4, Insightful)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871897)

> A 1920 x 1080 OLED display around 6x3 inches could be pretty cool.

I'd be happy with half that resolution on a screen that size. I doubt your eye could perceive the extra detail at a sensible viewing distance anyway. The iPhone screen res is just not quite enough to look sharp (it's "480-by-320-pixel resolution at 163 ppi")

Re:The iPhone would work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872845)

yupp, check the Openmoko Neo display: 480x640 at 285dpi -> single pixels are nearly not visible to the naked eye!

Re:The iPhone would work (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872929)

Regardless of the resolution all these small form factor devices need even higher ppi. 163 isn't enough... give me 600ppi and 72 dpi and I'll be happy no matter the screen size. You can only fit so many characters on a screen anyways. 480x320 is fine though a good 16:9 aspect for viewing videos would be better (just don't go any smaller than an iPhone).

Re:The iPhone would work (1)

sukotto (122876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872629)

They could call it the "iNewton" :-)

Re:The iPhone would work (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873497)

Ironically, it does multitask, just not with user apps. I think this is intended to deal with it's relatively small RAM amounts. The mail, text messaging, and phone apps are always running in the background or you couldn't get mail and phone calls when you were doing other things. The iPod app can also run in the background, though it doesn't always. You can listen to music while surfing the web or playing a game if you choose though.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (4, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871747)

I think the point they're trying to make is that cellphone based laptops don't necessarily have to be just big cellphones. There's absolutely no reason why Android can't run on a netbook - in fact, there's absolutely no reason why Android couldn't run on your desktop. It's all open source, so package up Dalvik and the class files for your Linux distribution of choice, compile Skia with the Cairo backend, and you should be able to run Android applications on standard Linux installs. Maybe it could do with some desktop integration, but it's certainly possible. You could possibly even replace Dalvik with OpenJDK, which should give a nice performance boost.

So back to the point: the G1 and other Android phones really are just small PCs - the clock speed of the T-Mobile G1 is over 10 times that of my 486 from a decade ago, and it has over 5 times more RAM, so clearly the technological distinction between a desktop and phone isn't as big as it used to be. Heck, if you have a jail-broken G1 you can run a full blown Debian install on it. Forget web applications, the time for a computer capable of running real apps in your pocket is right now.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871907)

That's like saying a bike could be a good car, you only need to add two wheels, an engine and a body. What makes you think you'd end up with something significantly different from a netbook if you used Android on a laptop shaped cellphone, and then replaced Android with something more like a PC OS and user interface? The biggest difference would be the non-x86 processor, which would mean you can't use Windows software and in return you get (at best) a 10% longer battery life. That's not a trade off I would make.

Netbooks are so efficient that turning off the wireless network interface very noticeably boosts the battery life. If that reminds you of your smart phone, you're beginning to see that the important difference between netbooks and big cellphones is the software, not the hardware. There's absolutely no reason why Android can't run on a netbook, but there's also no reason why you'd want it to, at least not if you want the device to be more than a cellphone with a bigger screen.

There are netbooks with ARM processors. These are basically just what ZDNet is asking for. They are even cheaper (no Windows tax, no Intel surcharge) and they use a little less power. I don't see them taking the world by storm, do you?

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (1)

turbotroll (1378271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871971)

Heck, if you have a jail-broken G1 you can run a full blown Debian install on it.

Pardon my skepticism and ignorance, but I keep listening about installing Linux on HTC handsets for couple of years already. Apparently such installs are usually quite successful, except for a tiny detail -- such devices are no longer usable as phones anymore.

Has anything changed in the meanwhile? I mean, is there any support for HTC phone hardware in Linux kernel? Any dialer application? Some very basics?

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (4, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872105)

Yes, the Debian on G1 install gives you access to phone, Android, and Debian functionality at the same time. At the moment it's done with a chroot environment, but there are plans to package/replace the Android stuff to give a native Debian install. Basically, libc and the dynamic linker are non-GNU under Android, but they are standards compatible, so it shouldn't be too difficult to replace them. The G1 runs Linux by default, so of couse there is already support in its kernel for the phone hardware.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (1)

turbotroll (1378271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872239)

Basically, libc and the dynamic linker are non-GNU under Android, but they are standards compatible, so it shouldn't be too difficult to replace them. The G1 runs Linux by default, so of couse there is already support in its kernel for the phone hardware.

Now that sounds good. Thanks for the information. Now, if we only could buy blank handsets, without any firmware pre-installed, from HTC...

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (3, Informative)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873333)

You can buy an HTC running WinMo and install Android on it, if that helps? Check out xda-developers.com. When I last looked into it, it was getting fairly feature-complete on the Kaiser. As soon as it's ported to one of the new and seriously cool HTC handsets it's going to get a lot more popular, at present I think that the fat form factor of the G1 is a major stumbling block. The G1 hardware is pretty similar to other HTC WinMo phones in terms of chipset etc.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871937)

I tought netbooks were popular because they ran linux!

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (4, Interesting)

Graff (532189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872131)

Cellphone technology based "laptops" have existed for years, and they have a solid fan base, but they are still big cellphones, not small PCs.

Actually, the iPhone OS IS Mac OS X. All Apple did was add some hardware support and a bit of custom GUI to better support the minimal size of the screen and the mouseless interface. Mac OS X is very modular, versatile, and it has the ability to scale down or up well depending on the resources available to it. It's vastly different than just taking a cellphone OS and modifying it for a netbook, Apple would just use the regular Mac OS X and add hardware support so it could run on a netbook.

All of this looks like it's gone over the heads of the people at ZDNet. They talk about Mac OS X and the iPhone OS as if they were two completely different animals instead of both being Mac OS X. They don't seem to realize that you can have your cake and eat it too: a version of Mac OS X that runs like a laptop version and yet has a small OS "footprint" like a cellphone version. You certainly can and it wouldn't take a major reworking of anything to get the job done.

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872353)

It's not the hardware - it's what's loaded into it. My 2-year old smartphone has about the same processing power and RAM as one of my production webserver (and more than its backup).

Re:ZDNet is missing the point (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873275)

>Cellphone technology based "laptops" have existed for years,
>and they have a solid fan base, but they are still big
>cellphones, not small PCs.

And you say that like it's a bad thing... the number one issue i have with the PDA/Smartphone market is that - since Psion quit the game circa 2001 - none of them have clamshell keyboards. I've longed for a wifi-ed up Revo or Series 5 for 5+ years now. The Word processor and Spreadsheet on the Greyscale, 8MB Revo are both simple and fantastic. All it needs is enough ram to use the interweb (youtube and hardcore ajax not included) and enough punch to double up as an Mp3 player and it'd get the job done nicely. Why, exactly, one needs gigs of Hz, RAM and HD to do that I have no idea.

(at the mo i'm eyeing the OpenPandora, as mooted by others below)

Openness (5, Insightful)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871457)

He's not the first one to think that the iPhone would be well-employed as the guts of an ultra-portable, though.

If Apple manufactures is, not on your life. I don't want to have to jailbreak the thing at each update, or be denied the right to run this or that on it.

I think the success Asus has had with the EeePC doesn't come so much from the PC's form factor or scale, as from the fact that it's ... just a PC, i.e. an open platform that doesn't require people to buy special software, and lets them run whatever they want on it. PDAs these days are powerful enough to do almost the same, but depending on the manufacturer, it can be a breeze, or a pain in the butt, to develop and run applications on them.

Come to think of it, this issue of openness (i.e. letting people do what they want without corporate greediness and power-freaking getting in the way) is what defines successful things from unsuccessful ones. MP3 for example is an open format, just look at the MP3 players industry now. PCs are essentially an open design, and it's been flourishing for decades, to the point that it's so entrenched that it gets in the way of better designs. On the other hand, ebooks for example are a dismal failure, because people have to jump through hoops (and pay dearly for the privilege of jumping) to get DRM-encumbered files that won't be readable on other devices.

OpenMoko (2, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871513)

You said it very well. It is really just the convergence of the cell phone and PC. I'd prefer the mostly open hardware and software flexibility of the PC wins over the locked down "just works" option of the cell phone. If we want to grow the netbook up from a phone maybe the OpenMoko platform would be a better bet?

Re:OpenMoko (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871559)

OpenPandora is more interesting. OpenMoko is using truly ancient hardware. It's a generation behind my phone, which is one or two generations behind the state of the art. My phone does, however, act as a bluetooth dial-up networking device using UMTS or (falling back to) GPRS. I can use it to make calls, and I can use it to access data. This means that any device I own with Bluetooth can connect to the Internet via the phone, as long as the phone is in my pocket. I can use the same connection with my laptop or with a palmtop (I currently use a Nokia 770, but I'll probably grab one of the next generation of the OpenPandora system).

There is already some very nice hardware in this arena, such as OpenPandora and the BeagleBoard, that run open operating systems. Once you ditch Windows, you ditch the x86 requirement and so you can make much nicer devices.

Re:OpenMoko (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871755)

Would you use a smartphone dock? [ibeentoubuntu.com] I know I would if the interface were an open standard, the terminal were really dumb, and the phone used biometric security.

VERY bad examples (4, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871639)

MP3 for example is an open format, just look at the MP3 players industry now. PCs are essentially an open design, and it's been flourishing for decades

First off the PC wasn't an open design, it was closed but companies did a "whiteroom" re-engineering of the BIOS (something that the DMCA would outlaw today). It became more successful once opened but the original design was very much closed and of course the operating systems that made it successful are pretty much the poster child of the closed software movement. The other example you give which is MP3 isn't really open either (otherwise why would there be Ogg?).

So Openness can be a good thing, but your examples are in fact more examples of how closed works commercially as long as it develops an established market.

Re:VERY bad examples (3, Informative)

the_womble (580291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871751)

First off the PC wasn't an open design, it was closed but companies did a "whiteroom" re-engineering of the BIOS (something that the DMCA would outlaw today).

reengineering for inter-operability is allowed [chillingeffects.org]

IBM also published complete hardware designs. The closed components were the BIOS and the OS (which was Microsoft's, not IBM's).

The other example you give which is MP3 isn't really open

The format is open in that it is published, but it is patent encumbered. Once the patents expire anyone will be able to implement decoders and encoders, and there most of the patents will expire in the next two years.

Re:VERY bad examples (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872067)

IBM also published complete hardware designs. The closed components were the BIOS and the OS (which was Microsoft's, not IBM's).

The BIOS was copyrighted, but not what I would call "closed." They were as open as the hardware designs. I had the source code to the BIOS (printed along with the rest in an IBM three-ring binder) in 1981, the year it was released.

Re:VERY bad examples (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872137)

reengineering for inter-operability is allowed

True but irrelevant, since there was no copy protection mechanism to circumvent.

The DMCA would not in any way have prevented Compaq from reverse-engineering IBM's BIOS.

It's also worth pointing out that Compaq's "clean room" approach (using one team to read the BIOS code and create specifications and a separate team to create a compatible BIOS from the specs) wasn't actually necessary. It was probably a good idea to do it, to reduce the likelihood that IBM could drag them through a lengthy and expensive court process, but the law doesn't require it. The notion of "contamination" isn't in the law.

Re:VERY bad examples (1)

LO0G (606364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872655)

Actually MP3 isn't open. It's public, but not open (nobody can submit changes to the spec, which is part of the definition of "open").

And then there are those patent restrictions...

Re:VERY bad examples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25873129)

IBM also published the source code to the BIOS. It was only closed in that you were not allowed to make a copy of it -- but since all the (commented) source was there a work-a-like was writable.

Re:VERY bad examples (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873215)

First off the PC wasn't an open design, it was closed but companies did a "whiteroom" re-engineering of the BIOS (something that the DMCA would outlaw today). It became more successful once opened but the original design was very much closed

But the original design was not, and wasn't intended to be successful. It was cloned because Compaq et al saw it as an easy way to 'leech off' IBM's reputation, which is why the first PCs were all marketed as "IBM compatible", and once they did that and prices began to drop the PC market began to grow. Take that away, and there's no way in hell the PC platform would've been as successful as it was, not even IBM wanted it to be since for them it was just a 'bone' to throw to those who weren't ready to buy proper workstations.

and of course the operating systems that made it successful are pretty much the poster child of the closed software movement

But when it came out, it was *much* more open than the competition. For starters, you weren't forced to buy expensive hardware from Microsoft to get it. Openness, and not closed source (what you're aiming at, and which has little to do with open standards) was what gave Microsoft its monopoly.

The other example you give which is MP3 isn't really open either (otherwise why would there be Ogg?).

Good point, but again, the success of MP3 was due to its openness. It wasn't *legal*, but no one back then paid a cent to the patent holders to implement it, use it, and redistribute MP3 files, and if they had to, there's no way in hell it would've caught on as it did. And it continues to be popular because the manufacturers refuse to implement OGG and FLAC, and MP3s are much more open than the formats they do implement.

I bought an EeePC last week... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871807)

The reasons were: (a) It's small and (b) It's a PC

I want to use the same apps as my desktop machine so I can work with the same files on both.

More and more people want to compute on the move and the EeePC is portable in a way that laptops simply aren't. That's the reason they're selling millions, and deservedly so. It's a brilliant little invention.

Re:Openness (3, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871969)

I think the success Asus has had with the EeePC doesn't come so much from the PC's form factor or scale, as from the fact that it's ... just a PC

Except the original EEEPC came with a customised Linux OS which to most of the target market was not what they were used to.

Also, although it wasn't "locked down" in the iPhone sense, and all us slashdot types had enabled the "advanced" desktop and added the full Debian repositories before you could say "apt-get", your typical non-geek user would have had difficulty installing anything not on the very limited Asus repository.

Yet the original EEE seemed to fly off the shelves - and its hard to know whether the subsequent move towards XP was really "by popular demand" or because Asus drank deeply Microsoft's Kool Aid.

I definitely wanted XP on mine (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872347)

The Linux version was cheaper and had a bigger SSD so I bought that and converted it...

Re:Openness (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873015)

When it comes to cell phones, I kind of like a bit of control so that crap like adware, dialers phoning numbers in Nigeria and charging you $10 per minute etc don't get installed on my phone. Also, someone else takes care of those details so I don't have to spend my valuable time staying on top of what software is safe to install on my phone.

Phone is not a general purpose computer, and honestly I don't want my phone to be one.

Now if we are talking about personal computers, then that kind of control would be unacceptable. On the other hand Apple (not anyone else) does not control what you can put on your apple computer.

Re:Openness (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873521)

I think the success Asus has had with the EeePC doesn't come so much from the PC's form factor or scale, as from the fact that it's ... just a PC, i.e. an open platform that doesn't require people to buy special software, and lets them run whatever they want on it.

I'd argue that the Asus EeePC finally filled the need for an ultraportable on a realistic budget. 2 years ago you had to spend at least 1,400 dollars for a Dell XPS or equivalent if you wanted a notebook you could carry comfortably. The EeePC dropped that 30% more weight, offered a more portable formfactor, and put the cost comparable to that of an Xbox.

Would it have been unsuccessful with a custom OS? Probably, as the appeal was that it was a tiny, cheap laptop. Was it successful "because" it had no DRM? I don't think that was on most purchaser's radars. It would be just as fair to say that it was successful "because" it had a monitor.

Smartphone power (3, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871465)

One point to note here is that Smartphones of today are the "ultra-portables" of a couple of years ago, the laptops of about 5 years ago and the desktops of 8 years ago. The power of the devices is equivalent to what many modern OSes were developed upon, so the issue when looking at OSX(iPhone), Android or Symbian is purely on its better battery efficiency and better small scale UI.

Personally I'd add Symbian to the list as the old Psion 5mx and 7 were in effect the netbooks and ultra-portables of their time and Nokia have some tablet devices at the moment. Combined with the touch screen interfaces, especially the "drag" widescreen display that Android and the iPhone have, gives a robust, low power, operating platform with the added benefits of an easy to use set of installers.

So maybe the question isn't so much whether this is a good plan, but what marketing, software suites and public perception pieces are preventing these mobile OSes (mainly Symbian at this stage) being the default.

But one thing that isn't preventing them is the power of the devices, I'm continually stunned at the multi-processor power of my humble "mobile phone", for most people a netbook with the same processor as my phone (iPhone) but a bigger screen would be perfectly okay and easier to use for their core tasks (email, internet browsing, minor games).

Re:Smartphone power (2, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871501)

I'm really looking forward to the new crop of ARM processors, the ARM10s [wikipedia.org] . Atom-like performance at about a third of the power usage. Wow. Flash is already prepped for the ARM via the iPhone. If people can get over the lack of Windows, ARM netbooks could be a big hit.

Re:Smartphone power (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871541)

I don't know what happened to my brain there. Of course I was meaning the Cortex A9s. Disregard my ramblings.

Re:Smartphone power (2, Funny)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871797)

I don't know what happened to my brain there

You Cortex is in your ARM, that's what.

Re:Smartphone power (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871989)

The confusion probably happened because the ARM10 is the currently-shipping MPCore, while the A9 is the newer MPCore. The A9 is basically an A8 with a few tweaks and support for up to 4 cores on the same die. The existing A8-based chips are very nice, my personal favourite being the OMAP3530, which has a nice DSP and an OpenGL ES 2.0 accelerator on the same die, and supports flash and RAM in a package-on-package configuration. I just noticed that Micron have started selling 2Gb DDR POP modules, so you can get an OMAP, 256MB of flash and 256MB of RAM in a combined package the size of a thumbnail.

Re:Smartphone power (3, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871503)

You are correct. I can do more things with an Cellphone than I could do with my old full-sized Commodore 64 or Amiga 500 back when I was a student. In fact most cellphones are powerful enough to emulate those old machines and play the classic videogames.

The only flaw I can see with cellphones is their tiny keyboard. Perhaps Apple or some other maker should repackage their phones to include laptop-sized keyboards so users can run some limited software (like MS Word). They could call it the Iphone or Ipod lapbook.

Re:Smartphone power (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871547)

hence the original article's idea. a larger version of them.

personally I want an iPad. Something the size of an e-book, with wi-fi, and an OS that is simple to use on it. Oh and i want it for less than $500 as that is what most of those things go for.

Re:Smartphone power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871753)

You are correct. I can do more things with an Cellphone than I could do with my old full-sized Commodore 64 or Amiga 500 back when I was a student.

Except for reading a screen full of text from several feet away.

Re:Smartphone power (1)

paanta (640245) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872251)

Yeah, except a screen full of text was 40 characters by 25 characters in those days. I DARE you to go set your terminal window to 40x25 and relive those days. My Bash prompt alone is 25 characters long.

How soon we forget...

Re:Smartphone power (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872841)

I remember. The limitation was self-imposed by the designers because they wanted home users to connect their computers to 1970s and 80s-era television screens, and those televisions had a very low resolution. Computers moved past that limitation by mandating the purchase of an RGB or VGA monitor, but home gaming consoles still limited themselves to 640x240 in order to avoid chroma blur and interlace flicker.

Trivia - The Commodore 64 can do 80 characters if you have a copy of GEOS and a good S-video monitor. ;-)

Re:Smartphone power (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871979)

The only flaw I can see with cellphones is their tiny keyboard. Perhaps Apple or some other maker should repackage their phones to include laptop-sized keyboards so users can run some limited software (like MS Word). They could call it the Iphone or Ipod lapbook.

Nokia SU-8W bluetooth keyboard [amazon.com] . Not included, but paired right up with my phone, has a little tilt stand for the phone, and even has the function keys.

There are plenty of 3rd party BT keyboards (including the Apple one) that work great with S60.

Re:Smartphone power (1)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872705)

Personally I'd add Symbian to the list as the old Psion 5mx and 7 were in effect the netbooks and ultra-portables of their time and Nokia have some tablet devices at the moment.

I loved my Psion 3c, and when the screen eventually died, I got a PocketPC. Despite running nearly 40 times faster and having "unlimited" storage thanks to cheap memory cards, it couldn't compare to the functionality of the Psion. Two simple reasons: Lack of keyboard, and available (free) software.

Bring back the Psion form factor, run on linux/bsd/android for reasonably easy porting of software, and keep the price in the (lower) netbook range, and at least I would love it. (Bonus points for making different brands 100% software-compatible.)

(The Nokia Internet Tablets are a bit too small for me, and anything with a phone seem to cost twice as much as they should.)

Local port of Google Docs? (0, Troll)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871471)

There is one caveat here, and it would have to be addressed â" currently, thereâ(TM)s no OpenOffice port to Androidâ(TM)s Dalvik JVM, so Google would have to get a comparable productivity solution for Java working, run a local port of Google Docs, or port X.Org to Android to make the regular OpenOffice implementation work on either ARM or x86.

WTF is a "local port" of Google Docs? It's a webbapp, forchissakes!

Re:Local port of Google Docs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871527)

It's a version of Google Docs that locally caches the javascript libraries that it uses to run in-browser applications, and stores the data locally to work offline. It's called Google Gears and Offline Access and it works already. Forchrissakes.

Re:Local port of Google Docs? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871603)

Talk about Redundant Redundancy Overkill. You'd get better performance making a native app then running it in the small devices browser.

This obsession with making everything in a browser so it's cross platform etc. etc. is stupid on small devices and especially using technologies where whole segments of the market doing adhere to standards.

Re:Local port of Google Docs? (1)

whyloginwhysubscribe (993688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871643)

I don't think performance is the issue...

I could have a collaboratively edited spreadsheet or document on my work PC, then download it to my eee pc using Google Gears to work on the train on the way home where there isn't an internet connection. Then at home, I could re-synchronise the changes I'd made and edit the same document on my home pc.

Makes sense to me really...

Re:Local port of Google Docs? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872009)

One of the nicest spreadsheets I've used was for my Psion Series 3. It came on an external ROM package (around 100KB, as I recall) and ran very nicely on a machine with a 4.7MHz CPU and 256MB of RAM (also used for storage via a dynamic RAM disk). There are other reasons for not using a web app (host platform integration being the best one), but performance is increasingly irrelevant.

Re:Local port of Google Docs? (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871765)

No, that's not Google Docs. That's Google Gears. If the blog writer wants a port of Google Gears, then he should call for one. Docs doesn't require gears to work.

Because those OS's don't have the apps I want? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871497)

Let me know when I can run vi, gcc, PC/SC (smartcards), and Thunderbird (for its PKCS#11 smartcard S/MIME) on iPhone OS or Android. Otherwise STFUAGBTW.

Re:Because those OS's don't have the apps I want? (1, Flamebait)

intheshelter (906917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872261)

Yeah! And everyone should STFU unless this idiot can run DOS on iPhone and Android, and his phone should also use vacuum tubes and should be powered by coal fired steam!

Maybe you should pipe down until your views are shared by at least a fraction of 1% of the rest of the world?

Re:Because those OS's don't have the apps I want? (1)

pohl (872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872535)

But how would we ever know we've risen above that threshold if all such people pipe down until said conditions are met? I don't think you've thought this through.

Re:Because those OS's don't have the apps I want? (1)

intheshelter (906917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872667)

Actually I have thought it through, and your question reveals my plan. Using my conditions I'd never have to hear from someone whining about using vi again!

Kudos to you for your insight.

How about this instead? (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871565)

How about I pound nails with a wrench instead? It would be about the same thing.

Use the right tool for the right job. Keep the cellphone OSes on phones.

Re:How about this instead? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872071)

How about I pound nails with a wrench instead? It would be about the same thing.
Use the right tool for the right job. Keep the cellphone OSes on phones.

It's funnier when you pretend he says it in a preacher voice, railing about operating system miscegenation.

Pandora (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871579)

http://openpandora.org/ - can run unbuntu, pocket-sized and a 10 hour battery life = win!

A laptop with the iPhone's OS? (5, Funny)

Crotch Jenkins (1229438) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871601)

This is a great idea. Laptop users don't need to copy and paste either.

More iPhone slashvertizements... (-1, Flamebait)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871609)

Seriously, all stupid iPhone articles are getting annoying. There are hundreds of handsets and other gadgets out there that are more powerful than it. Not to mention, better designed.

How come there is about 3-4 articles about iPhone on /. every fucking week when there is about 0/month from all other mobile phone manufacturers combined.?

Re:More iPhone slashvertizements... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871949)

i agree with you, no matter how many articles they put about their phone/brand in the front page i won't buy any of their products,

Re:More iPhone slashvertizements... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871995)

I totally agree. The jesus phone is fucking evil. Stop ramming it into my face, please.

"It's only a model" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871611)

Shhhh!

Netbooks running Ubuntu using ARM devices. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871621)

Soon to be the reality.
http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS8395222090.html

If so then why don't run that OS on my desktop? (1)

dvh.tosomja (1235032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871625)

If so then why don't run that OS on my desktop? It would run like hell!

why would i want either? (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871635)

what would either offering on my netbook seek to achieve? are you just saying words at this point?
given apples track record, id hate to see 10-20 apps i cant install on the damned thing because apple has "banned" them. id also hate to see every semblance of music and video on my netbook buried under DRM encryption.

a google netbook? if you bought the EEEPc linux edition then technically you are using googles OS in a way, as it prefers to run its search monster on a custom flavor of linux.

Grrr (1, Funny)

telchine (719345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871637)

The only Apple I want on my netbook is the one I'm having for my lunch!

Run one App at a time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871677)

I'm all for battery life, but not at any cost; the iPhone is truly an amazing phone, but its OS is for a phone and someone on-the-go that does not need want to run a bunch of things simultaneously. However, the lack of background apps (other than proprietary) and only allowing one app to be running at a time, it kind of points to a limitation and very obvious path to take.

Scale back the major OS distro where it makes sense (unnecessary flare); don't scale up the iPhone OS X.

What? (3, Interesting)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871697)

So I'll have a big laptop-like device with an incredibly confined proprietary OS I can't change, and that has a tightly controlled application base?

Great! Sign me up! I totally hate how I can run any OS I please, any application I please. I want to have an OS that locks me into using the applications the manufacturer tells me I may use on my hardware!

You know, sarcasm aside, the linux versions of these netbooks have a much higher return rate than the Windows versions. If you make your device around an iPhone, you're looking at the same higher return rate for a confined OS that isn't windows, but you're also disregarding the benefits of an OS that costs about 5 bucks per machine. Basically, you're taking the worst of both worlds, and you don't even have a Windows XP version to sell to the masses when they realise that's what they really want.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871877)

I'd at least like it to have copy and paste.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

renoX (11677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871941)

>You know, sarcasm aside, the linux versions of these netbooks have a much higher return rate than the Windows versions.

That's debatable, I remember that one news (I think it was from MSI, not sure) said that the netbook with Linux had a much higher return rate that Windows but another news from Asus say that this isn't the case:
http://www.osnews.com/story/20568/EeePC_Return_Rate_is_Similar_for_Windows_and_Linux [osnews.com]

As both are using different distribution, maybe this could be the explanation or they have different market or someone is lying, I don't know..

Re:What? (1)

AceofSpades19 (1107875) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872843)

If they had alot better documentation included with the laptop the return rate wouldn't be as high. For example, a common question on the forums is how to install limewire on these machines, if they included a booklet on how to install limewire, then the return rate might be sightly lower

because (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871887)

because a minimum install of debian testing works better.

Cut-down OS in a laptop case for netbook use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871905)

Here you go - an eMate [msu.edu] ! :-)

I still don't get the point of a netbook (1)

Octorian (14086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871933)

Seriously, what is the point of these things? They are way too big to be used like a PDA, yet way too small to be used like a laptop. They're like little toys you show all your friends, then put on the shelf, and don't touch again for 6 months.

Anyone who thinks regular laptops are too big has been buying lower-end consumer-grade Dell and HP hardware for too long. My old 12" PowerBook looked like a PDA compared to those monsters, yet was still a very full-featured laptop.

Re:I still don't get the point of a netbook (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872025)

I still have my 1.4GHz PIII subnote, and I don't think I'll ever get rid. It's a Dell and it's that good, I've replaced stuff that needed replacing on it over the past five years (screen, battery, HDD) and use it on a daily basis. The best bit about it is that it only weighs 2.4lb sans battery, so I can lug it around all day.

Re:I still don't get the point of a netbook (1)

intheshelter (906917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872407)

I'm not sure I get your point. You're boasting that you still have an old notebook that you've had to replace virtually everything on? For the money you spent on all those replacements you could have bought a new machine.

It only weights 2.4 lbs sans battery? Since the battery is a significant portion of the weight it seems like something odd to boast about? On a related note, my car is relatively light sans engine and frame. . . .

Re:I still don't get the point of a netbook (1)

Fatalis (892735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872155)

They are not too small, people use them "like a laptop" all the time. I don't know where you got the idea that they can't be used. The point of netbooks is simply to be cheap, small laptops for when you don't want to carry the extra weight and don't want to spend a fortune on, say, an X series ThinkPad or a PowerBook, or any of the other expensive larger laptops. For instance, I tend to have back problems so having a light laptop is important, but I only use it to take notes in lectures, so I wouldn't want to break the bank just for that, therefore I have an Eee PC. It does the job very well, and it wasn't even hard to get accustomed to the keyboard size. I probably type at around 60 WPM on it, and the notes I get are much easier to use.

Re:I still don't get the point of a netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872577)

They don't have moving components and they don't burn your lap?

Re:I still don't get the point of a netbook (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873443)

The point is that they're super portable. I can throw mine on my laundry basket with no real noticeable difference in weight. I can balance it on the arm of a recliner and IM/surf while watching TV, and look up more information about the show I'm watching. I can perch it on the toaster with a recipe on screen.

I'm not a big fan of full-sized laptops - they aren't comfortable to type on for long periods, they aren't all that portable, and they cost way too much to justify what limited use I'd make of them. When I want to do *work*, I switch to my desktop. It's fast, powerful, and comfortable.

Netbooks are cheap, they're functional enough for a bit of screwing around on the internet, and they are super portable. I pinch mine between thumb and forefinger on the top corner of the screen and carry it around like that on a regular basis. It's got about three moving parts, and so far has bounced the first dozen or so times I've dropped it.

But the real reason I bought it is that it's an appliance. It's a couple hundred bucks, and I'll never be tempted to upgrade it, as it should always be able to perform its basic functions: Browsing and IM. It's not about to be obsolete anytime soon. My desktop gets regular upgrades. My goal was decidedly not to add a desktop replacement which would require the same. I'd have gone with a PDA, but this wasn't much more expensive, and has far better features such as a full terminal and the ability to handle 90% of the web pretty gracefully.

unrealistic request (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871961)

why should I buy a netbook with an operating system that doesn't allow me to install all software I want to install on it ?
I don't want to support an operating system that just allows one software provider (eg. itunes). I'm not interested into an operating system where every event is recorded by the OS provider and where all input is parsed automatically (eg. Android: just type reboot within the sms editor). I hate the way Symbian handles software installations (digitally signed by symbiansigned.com only).

This is called vendor lock-in.

Netbooks need to go ARM (1)

gbr (31010) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871987)

What Netbooks need to do is lose the X86 (and clones) and go ARM based. Battery life will increase dramatically, and those of us in the Open Source world will barely notice a difference.

Article subtext... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871991)

"I wish my iPhone had a bigger screen"

Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871993)

How about no you crazy ZDNet bastard!

Search physical books with Android (0, Offtopic)

cnnetc (1413919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872033)

My mom recently sent me a copy of The Last Lecture [blogspot.com] , a book based on the inspiring talk [blogspot.com] given by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch a few months before he passed away. I particularly remember him starting the talk with push-ups; a poignant introduction to the topic of terminal illness.

The Last Lecture was one of the first books we tested on the Barcode Scanner application, a new searching tool available for download on Android-powered [blogspot.com] phones. Here's how it works: when you open up the application, the screen will show what the phone's built-in camera is seeing. When you line up the camera in front of a book barcode, it will automatically zoom, focus and scan the ISBN - without you even needing to click the shutter [blogspot.com] . As you can see below, you'll then have the option search the full text of the book on Google Book Search right away.

Here, I'm searching for push to find all the pages that mention push-ups, and they're displayed below the search box.

For students, this could be an easy way to locate that critical passage that the professor was talking about in lecture. Or if you're browsing through the shelves of a bookstore, you could use this application to easily determine whether a book contains the information you're looking for.

This is the first release of this program, so there may be some hiccups. Most of the books supported by this tool were printed in the mid-1990s or later, because it took some time for ISBN barcoding standards to stabilize. And of course, not every book is on Google Book Search [blogspot.com] . Yet even with these limitations, it's a lot of fun to search through a paper book using your mobile device, and I think the tool opens up new ways to experience printed works.

It's the harware, stupid! (1)

shywolf9982 (887636) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872079)

Like Bill Clinton once said... or was it Al Gore? Anyway, most of the amazing battery performances of cellphones come from using dedicated, low power hardware.

A small, and absolutely not comprehensive list:

ARM based processor (yes, RISC is much more efficient and predictable, than whatever-i686-is)
Low-power wireless (that can be a true killer, especially true for WiFi, much less for WiMax)
No hard disk (that kills a lot)
Etc etc

Sure, software has its own share of guilt: mainly, the fact that mainstream OSes, in their standard configuration, are much oriented toward having to deal with x86 processors, hard disks, PCI buses, etc.

From those OSes, one can churn out a system that retains the kernel and some userland but does a better job handling low-power resources.

A practical example, my EeePc (from which I'm typing this) ran painfully slow when i first installed Fedora on it (default install, with LVM, big swap space, continuous disk access). Tweaking parameters here and there has fixed a lot of speed issues and, probably, makes the battery run better than it did.

Maybe one should try Ubuntu NetBook edition and do comparisons based on that.

I want an iPhone with Keyboard and bigger Screen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872257)

that's what i want,

i bigger iPhone with tv out and hdd space.
i know a couple who wants the iphone as small PC/netbook substitute. for example elder, who just want to surf, skype and email with the family

Been wondering about this for years (3, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872417)

My Palm Tungsten is a hell of a computer. With the IR keyboard, it serves as a somewhat awkward laptop. It got me to thinking, the only real difference between it and a proper laptop is the screen. Of course, the screen is over half the cost of a laptop so I kind of figured "Ah, that's why we don't see sub-$400 laptops." But then the netbooks came out and I said "well, looks like I called that one wrong."

What we're seeing here are the warring priorities of usage and form factor. If I'm on the go but need the full feature set of a proper desktop, I'm stuck with a laptop. I need the large screen, I need the keyboard and touchpad, I need to run proper PC apps. If I'm really on the go and can't afford to sit down and setup my laptop every time I need to do something, then I really need a PDA-format device. But then there are the situations, usually in businesses, where you end up with weird hybrids of those demands. That's where you see the tablet PC's that are supposed to serve as digital clipboard replacements. There's also the hybrid tablets where you can close the lid like a laptop or turn it around and close it and now you have a tablet PC. Personally, I think those units are just too damn fragile. The old-school blackberries were completely awesome and the biggest part of that was how durable they were. You could take these things into the field and do abuses to them that would make Jack Bauer toss his cookies and they'd still work. There's also a number of businesses that just put a proper desktop PC on a cart and say "haul it where you need it, plug it in when you get there." I've seen that for medical equipment and also inventory systems at warehouse stores.

It pretty much boils down to "how much screen do you need to display what you need to look at" and "how are you inputting information?" At this point, horsepower is pretty much a secondary concern, we can put amazingly powerful computers in little tiny PDA formats. But as powerful as they are, if you need to do a lot of typing, you need a computer. I can read slashdot just fine on a berry but I wouldn't have wanted to thumb-type this post on one.

Re:Been wondering about this for years (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873507)

I can read slashdot just fine on a berry but I wouldn't have wanted to thumb-type this post on one.

That's actually where the netbook shines: I can read and post using mine. Feet up in a recliner, a cat on my lap, a drink in one hand, and a tv show on. Were it a PDA, I wouldn't be able to type well enough. Were it a full sized laptop, it would be a lot harder to balance on the arm of the chair. Or on the cat. Were it a desktop, I'd be missing the feet up and the TV. This is one niche that the netbook fills quite well.

What is a NEtbook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872567)

Basically, a netbook is a small computer. The problem with computers is they don't scale with price. A computer half the size and half the power is not half the price - because the major components are the screen and teh keyboard (or tuchscreen functionality) which will be the same no matter the power of the PC behind the curtain -- I mean, screen.

So having spent $150 for a nice functional IO (guess), what makes more sense - spend $150 more for guts that can sort of run modern PC apps, or $75 for something as good/bad as my cell phone? I think people want a computer because its a computer.

This is why these appliances in a non-portable incarnation have not taken off for home use - by the time you figure in the cost of display and keyboard, they have 10% of the functionality of a computer for 10% less in price.

The other post is correct - if you can handle most of the standard file formats, use apps pretty much the same as PC apps - i.e. public domain equivalents of MS Office, your eMail, MP3's, and your choice of browser, RDP into work or home, wifi access... That's an appliance people want.

I guess if you want to edit your autoCAD or do video edits, hi-res photoshop - you'll get a full laptop. If you want to do the same as your phone, you'll remember to bring along your phone instead. It fits in your pocket.

An Apple Netbook likely an Oversized iPhone (3, Insightful)

ianmac47 (445083) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872597)

I think its likely that any touchscreen tablet from Apple would more or less simply be a larger version of the iPhone/Touch, but with similar hardware on the inside. This would have several huge advantages for Apple in terms of a business model.

Something like a 7 inch iPod Touch would provide most of the same functionality as a netbook, but have the advantage of a built in App store that Apple already tightly controls and has a monopoly on. The digital keyboard would save space and size, but a screen twice as large as the current iPhone/Touch would allow for greater usability. Such a product also follows with Job's claim that the iPhone is already a netbook.

I think any Apple entry into the Netbook market would rely heavily on the iPhone OS, especially since the whole idea over the iPhone OS is that its really, deep down at its core, Mac OS.

brilliant (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872645)

Having a phone/pda that is usable while I'm mobile yet powerful enough to be attached to a docking station which turns it into a PC is just brilliant. As long as the dock has additional ports and its own power source sign me up.

Wait. Isn't that describing a laptop? Have they finally improved the hardware for portable devices to the point of being able to put them in your pocket?

It already exists: Windows Mobile + Redfly (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872701)

A Windows Mobile phone and a Celio Redfly [celiocorp.com] get you a phone-OS based netbook, and it works REALLY well. For browsing and e-mail and other web-based work, it's a great platform, highly portable, lasts a LONG time (I get 7+ hours from my Redfly, regularly), is small, lightweight, and instant-on.

How about an external keyboard with the Iphone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872823)

It has bluetooth - would make a great PDA just to carry around the phone and a portable bluetooth powered keyboard.

Macbook is a better Netbook (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872861)

13'' Macbook serves me as a netbook pretty well. It's not too big to prevent you from taking it with you and it's not so small that you can't browse internet (in comfort of 1280x800 resolution).

You can run Skype on it and use it as a phone as well at any WiFi hotspot.

It's stable, and perfectly usable with only a keyboard and track pad (no need to bring a mouse).

And the keyboard is nice and you can actually type on it comfortably unlike most netbooks.

well, heck ya (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873017)

I want an integrated package, a robust good smartphone that is built to hard dock into a laptop shell like thing, the laptop-dock gives you a better screen, more battery, more storage, regular keyboard, and perhaps like an optical drive, etc, whatever would fit. The phones are getting really good and they could be the mainboard replacement for at least low specs useages and it should therefore make the laptop dock cheaper than full-on model. And upgrading would be simple then, whenever you feel like getting a newer cellphone, which would help that whole "laptops suck for upgrading" deal. You could keep the same "lapdock" machine, just replace the phone. I've wanted such a config for a long time now, seems a natural evolution. Netbooks try to cover both things and are lacking, because they are neither. cute idea..but neither...too small for a real computer feel etc, and, too large for pocket carry still. A phone/laptop dock combo would cover both bases as you need them. Give you two screens on a portable as well.

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