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Old 08-23-2010, 10:58 PM   #1
Developer/Device Reviews
ColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongueColdSun can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his or her tongue
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
Device: Sony Xperia Tablet Z, Kindle Paperwhite 2, Lenovo Yoga 8, IPad 3
Thoughts on Converging Devices and eReading

I have to apologize for being so absent lately. To be honest, I'm an application developer and work is good, which is to say busy. There is light at the end of the tunnel for me now. Its time to donate some time to my favorite eReading site, MobileRead, and possibly help folks interested in new mobile reading technology. Please remember any thoughts from me in this thread are my opinion only, and should not be taken as fact.

The Digital Reader - Great Blog about eReading Devices

Every day I set aside some time to learn more about mobile devices, eReading, and technology. I visit certain sites I find interesting and that provide me with more knowledge. I would have to say the four sites I vist every day are MobileRead, Engadget, The Digital Reader, and UMPC Portal. Mix that with some others I pop over to from time to time and there is a lot of information to be had. I don't always agree with the things I read at those sites, and I try to verify things so I can come to my own decisions and opinions. Bear with me, as I get to the good stuff.

UMPC Portal - Great portal to Mobile Device Information

Tablet Device Popularity

Anyone coming to this site is likely to have seen the rise in popularity of tablet/slate devices. Even before the release of the iPad, these devices were gaining ground with folks looking for converging device functionality. The iPad sealed the deal, and now you have not just a bunch of Chinese tablets but other major international technology companies releasing new devices this year and next. This has to leave a lot of people confused on exactly what to buy. I've even seen people say tablets are a fad and will disappear sooner rather than later. We'll talk about that more in a moment.

Andoid - Everyone's Favorite Robot - Or Is It?

As consumers we dictate what becomes popular with our wallets. This is clear when you look at the iPad. Thankfully, Apple has delivered a quality experience to go along with the higher price. On the flip side, many of us with a budget are not willing to spend that $499 for a new portable device. The benefits and drawbacks of the iPad are discussed in a million other threads on this site, so let's just move past that. Let's look at the other side of the equation: Android Slates/Tablets.

These devices are crawling out of the woodwork now. Major manufactures are starting to release them in a bid to beat Apple at their own game. Many manufacturers are behind the game because they did not start development early enough to compete with the iPad and they are finding that Android isn't exactly ready for prime-time on this type of device.

Which is exactly my point for this whole thread. Since we as consumers vote with our wallet, let's be informed on the technology we are using. Android was designed for Smartphones. There, I said it. Please refrain from throwing your soda at the screen and keep reading. I promise that Android itself is not my problem, just its usage on tablets/slates. I have seen many arguments against the iPad because it is a closed system and that Apple pretty much controls everything. Still, many consumers are willing to go that route because of the confidence they have in the brand. Many supporters of Android tablet devices will tell us that the robot is not a closed system. That isn't true though. Sure, Android is based on Linux, but a very limited distro which is certainly aimed at specific market - smartphones. Googles owns it. They control their market with many of the same methods that Apple does. They tell everyone it is for technical reasons, but if it was truly open sourced, like say, MEEGO or UBUNTU, there would be no problem with any device accessing the Market and Google wouldn't be leveraging lawsuits against companies who put Market on their devices without permission. Let's say you don't buy my Google argument....

What The!?

So what about the OS itself? Well it was designed for SmartPhones. It is being expanded to do quite a bit more, but a truly tablet ready version isn't really here, and won't be for some time. The good Android tablets are almost as expensive as an iPad. The truly cheap ones are being released and quickly reviewed as sub-par. We are finding out the technology issues with Android:

1. Not "truly" open-sourced. Owned by Google.
2. Not a full linux distro - a very customized kernel using Davlik VM.
3. Many features needed for tablet/slate devices are not ready
4. Current Android applications are designed for phones. Many work OK on a tablet but orientation and size is still an issue. Just because Apple's iOS works on iPhone/Touch/Pad does not mean that is a good thing for Android or tablets.

Again, stick with me while I explain the next part of my opinion.

Apple's only iPad Contender Doesn't Have to be Android Tablets

It seems as if many companies have jumped right to Android as the OS to compete with the iPad. Google has done a fantastic job selling it to all of us, and it is a fantastic smartphone OS. On the other hand, I can't help but think we are missing something. An Atom-based netbook can be had for so cheap it isn't funny. A very good one can be had for $300. So basically, add a capacitive screen to a netbook, take out the keyboard and you have yourself and Atom-based tablet, like this one. Or this one. If you believe companies can't build that for the same price or better than an iPad you are kidding yourself. Both of the devices linked are available now and are $549. They run Windows 7? Sure do. A full OS, but wait - that isn't your only choice. There's a number of full Linux distros that make Android look, and perform, like a tinker toy (UBUNTU, KUBUNTU, Linux Mint, Jolicloud), all of which run on Atom-based netbooks - OR TABLETS.

Archos 9 - Atom-based Tablet Available NOW

So this does bring up the point that the price is higher on something like the Archos 9 or the Viliv. True, but these are also higher priced companies. I'm betting someone can mass produce these Atom-based tablets for $299 to $399 and they are doing the market a bad turn because they are not. Bring the price to $499 to $549 and we get capacitive screen versions. If some of you are willing to pay the extra price an iPad costs, then some of you are also willing to buy another tablet that offers so much flexibility and power. Just so you know, I never tried Linux before I had a SmartQ7. I wish I had learned it a long time ago. All I can say is that running Linux dual booting with Windows 7 on my computer was so easy that anyone could do it. You should try it too. Simply because if you can imagine that on your PC, chances are that version of linux will fly on your netbook too (I know because I have tried). There are a few exceptions (Kubuntu Netbook is kind of slow for example) but most of them are awesome. At the same time you aren't limiting yourself to an OS that was designed to use on a phone.

I SWEAR I'm Not a Linux Guy

So I Can't Afford That Much - Now What?

Like many of you, one of the things I wanted most was to get a $100 to $200 tablet for reading. I have always favored LCD screen devices because I read in bed and don't care for the lighting methods on eInk. I also like the idea of Multi-function (Converging) devices that can do more than just read (like music and video). There are a lot of theories on dedicated ebook devices, tablets, and phones. Its hard to definitively say what will happen but my opinion is that converging devices will gain popularity and eInk (or dedicated readers) devices will remain steady or lose a little market share - but always be around. Tablets are here to stay. So what choice does the budget buyer have? Right now and for the forseeable future it is an Android tablet. The question is, why doesn't someone pull a SmartQ7/V7 and build a solid Linux tablet with a beautiful interface that can support a tablet fully? Perhaps MEEGO will be the answer. Enter Intel and Nokia with a completely open-sourced FULL distro Linux OS that runs on your low-priced tablet. Already running on many netbooks, it can also run on your Atom-powered tablet (with some configuration).

MEEGO OS can be downloaded Now for Atom-based Tablets and Netbooks

You Haven't Helped Me At ALL

Well hopefully I did. Maybe you saw some things here that caught your eye. Maybe you will hold off on that Android tablet until the market settles down. That is exactly what I'm going to do. I still haven't purchased an iPad, although I'm happy that so many people like theirs because it only helps the tablet-lovers like me. No, I'm waiting on that mythical device that does what I want. 7" or 8" of pure heaven that runs the mobile applications I need and isn't as slow as watching mud dry. I don't expect laptop power. I expect a solid internet performance, decent video, and a clear-sounding music experience. Oh yeah - most importantly it has to read both DRM and non-DRMed ebooks too!

Until next time, ColdSun signing out.


Last edited by ColdSun; 08-24-2010 at 12:14 AM.
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Old 08-24-2010, 01:24 PM   #2
Houndx doesn't litterHoundx doesn't litter
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Great read.

I too crave convergence and it took me several tries to finally get there. In the last year, I've been through, in order, a Smart Q7, Asus T91MT, Sony PRS600, WitsTech A81, Asus T91MT(again) and an iPad. There were different things I liked, and disliked, about each device but they all had one flaw in common - I had to actively decide to take them with me. Since I take a 6-year-old with me almost everywhere, having to carry even the Sony - the smallest of the devices I had - was an inconvenience.

My latest reader solves that problem. The Dell Streak is a 5" Android tablet/phone that is at the very top edge of size for a usable phone and the very bottom edge of what I consider a reasonable size for ebook reading. For browsing speed and portable apps, it beats every device listed above except the iPad. For portability, it's right at the top of the list. I had to order a belt case from ebay, but that wasn't a problem and it's a nice quality case.

Anyone who's looking for a take-it-everywhere and do-it-all device could do worse than checking it out.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:06 PM   #3
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It's refreshing, to say the least, to finally read a text about this topic that stays clear of fandom and hype - thank you for that, ColdSun!

There are two questions that come to my mind instantly:
1) In your opinion, what are Android's biggest shortcomings in terms of features or UI?
2) Do you see any viable alternative platforms for ARM-based (non-nokia) devices?

The device i've been (and still am) waiting for some time now is the Notion Ink Adam, a Tegra-powered tablet with a Pixel Qi screen. It sports all the features i'd like to see combined in one gadget: A reflective display-mode to read and work outdoors, a transmissive display-mode to watch movies and read in the dark, bluetooth for an external keyboard, 3g and wifi connectivity, the necessary horsepower and output ports to feed 1080p video to a tv, and so on and so forth. The hardware simply sounds amazing.

What i'm still not sold on is the software environment. I've never really worked with Android, so i don't have any idea of how restrictive it is, how the workflow feels like. Can you ssh, vnc, rdp or x your way out of it? Can you access network storage via smb? Can you get a compiler/interpreter running? Do you have access to common gnu-tools? I've tried android on my eeepc, but since the unofficial x86-port has no access to the market, the whole experience felt a bit unauthentic and, umm, quite empty.

Well, to cut the whole story short, one thing's for sure: So far, i too haven't found the mythical device that has it all.*

I'd love to hear about other people's (read: your) Android experience. That would be magic

*I'd take the ExoPC within a heartbeat, if only it featured a Pixel Qi screen (the builtin TFT is said to have poor viewing angles and to be quite reflective) and a bit longer battery lifetime.
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