Not a notebook or a netbook or a UMPC (or any of the other variants). I’ve come to realize over the years that the current classifications and niche computing devices are missing out on one form factor and the current attempts to fill it are pretty horrible.
Current devices like the iPhone or the Touch Pro are limited – they are too small to be “computer” replacements yet they don’t work really well as phones either. They are a compromise and perhaps the solution is to pair a more basic featurephone with a very portable device that’s actually useful.
What I want is something the size of an A5 notepad with a touch screen covering the whole of the front of the device – no need for a keyboard or extraneous buttons (they would be flush in the bevel or on the edges along with any ports) that I can interface with using a pen (similar to my UMPC) but with enough battery power to easily last a full day and enough processing power to deal with handwriting recognition and speech recognition.
This device would need WiFi and Bluetooth to enable it to pair seamlessly with my Cellphone and a headset. The headset would ideally be able to connect to both the notepad and the phone – so I can dictate to the device, break off and answer a call and the continue to control the notepad while listening to music from it, all seamlessly.
The connection to the phone would be ideally be more synergistic than just being available as a modem. Ideally transition from WiFi to the phones 3G data would be seamless (let me set preferences but it should be smart enough to take the optimal data path) so I can always stay connected. Beyond that the phone and the notepad should be aware of each others status so when the phone rings my music pauses, caller ID information is displayed on the device and I can hit and answer button on the screen or the phone and route the call to my headset, the phone or speakerphone on the notepad, and text/MMS messages could be composed and read on either. The notepad should be able to access the phones camera to record images or video (as well as having a built in one) and via a standard USB connection they should be able to share power as needed.
There’s no reason the phone shouldn’t have limited internet capabilities (web browsing, email, a social networking client, GPS mapping) and, of course, some games so it’s a useful device in it’s own right but it’s primarily a phone. At the weekend for instance people might not want to take both devices but a smart-enough phone to keep them in contact would be the right balance.
Using software that has learnt lessons from the iPhone UI and Microsoft’s Origami Project and InkSeine the device would need to work with pen (both for tapping as well as handwriting recognition), finger (gesture control) and spoken input. Applications like Outlook and OneNote would need optimizing for maximum usability on a screen this size and layout with these input methods but simpler cut down versions would help performance and battery life.
Accelerometer, light sensor and on-board GPS would open up other possibilities for control, and of course being able to use a dedicated Bluetooth keyboard (or the phone keypad or an on-screen keypad) to extend the ways you can interact with the device.
Not only would this device offer a more practical replacement to the iPhone and N80x type devices it would also be a platform for Amazon to extend the eBook capabilities to – much like they have extended the Kindle Reader to the iPhone.
Coupling a device like this with a service like Mesh and Exchange Active Sync to ensure your data is always available (and offload processing of things like search indexing to the cloud) and live updates (weather, stocks, traffic for mapping etc) and you have an ideal personal companion device.
In fact, with a standardized mount / connector architecture you could check your schedule on it over breakfast, slot it into you car and use the GPS to route you to your appointment (with live traffic updates) and via the connector have it monitor ODB-II information to remind you you’re running low on fuel and suggest the cheapest gas station or remind you that you’re due a service soon (maybe add a task to your to-do- list!)
In William Gibson’s Virtual Light Yamazaki takes his notebook for granted. I just want one now ;) Maybe it’ll need a kinetic charger to keep going as long as I want, but the rest shouldn’t be too hard…