Awkward Form Factor

I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of wanting to be able to check email and go online from anywhere.  The current crop of devices like this seem a bit awkward to me, though.  Take the Palm Treo 700w as an example.  If you look at it as a PDA, it’s not too bad, in that it’s similar to many others in size and form.  However, as a phone, it’s really funky.  Everyone I’ve seen using a Treo as a phone looks slightly uncomfortable.

Now the idea of an all-in-one still has some appeal, but I think it needs to be better integrated with proper input/output devices, so you don’t have to hold a brick to your face to have a conversation.  This seems like something appropriate for a Personal Area Network.  Have a central “box” that manages the CPU, memory, and networking capabilities (i.e. cellular plus WiFi) and then connect the various devices with Bluetooth or something similar.  It’d be nice if it integrated iPod functionality as well (and you could have an integrated stereo headset with mike for listening to music and taking calls). 

I could also see this box being pluggable into a “base station” and usable as your personal computer, so you don’t have to have different systems for PDA vs. laptop/portable.  I guess this is getting into oQo territory, although maybe a bit smaller.

This still leaves some interface issues, though, as entering and viewing data is often difficult on these small screens.  All those people working on holographic interfaces need to get cracking.  cheese


  1. Two things:

    1) The Treo isn’t all that awkward.  I think a flipped-out RAZR is longer.  The newer Treos are thinner, too.  And if you’re willing to walk around with a dorky BT headset, it can rest comfortably in your dorky belt holster.  As you might can guess, I don’t do this, being OK w/ the Treo phone.

    2) I think about this stuff ALL THE FREAKING TIME.  The OQO is dang close.  If it had
    a) an instant-on/off WinXP,
    b) cellular broadband (EVDO), w/ voice capability.

    2) a) is the biggest problem, IMHO.  The market can’t be that small.

    Lenovo is coming out with built-in EVDO on some ThinkPads, and Sony already has one in an eensy Vaio.  I think there’s only one provider that offers EVDO voice and data, though.

  2. I think the main thing about the Treo that looks awkward is the width.  It looks like it would be hard to maintain a firm grip, since your fingers are spread out to the edges, rather than being able to keep the phone in your palm with the fingers wrapped around it.  Or at least that’s the impression I’ve gotten watching a few people use them.

    As for instant-on with XP, that’s an interesting problem.  MS improved startup time for XP on initial boot considerably over 2000 and NT.  However, it’s definitely not instant on.  Maybe future advances in static memory could help with this.  If you could retain your memory state even while powered off, then you could potentially do instant suspend/resume without having to swap a bunch of stuff to disk/permanent storage.  Current Flash designs aren’t really up to this, as I understand they’re slower than regular RAM and they have a limited number of write cycles.

  3. Jeff Medcalf says:

    Samsung i500 cell phone/palm pilot.  Size of a cell phone, with a Sony palm screen (high enough resolution that it can be small and still perfectly viewable).  I’ve had it for two years, and it’s fantastic.