Ultramobile Productivity Remains Elusive
Shrunken notebooks such as the OQO 2 and the Eee PC have yet to strike the proper balance between portability and productivity.
After spending the past couple of weeks testing OQO's eponymous micro-notebook PC, I can report that those days of single-device computing nirvana remain stubbornly planted somewhere in the future. While I had a lot fun with the OQO 2, the fact that this product (and others of its ilk) offer neither the portability of a carry-everywhere device, nor the full-fledged keyboard and display of a regular notebook computer.
In terms of size and heft, the OQO2 falls in between a smart phone and an ultralight notebook. It weighs one pound and measures 5.6 inches wide by 3.3 inches deep by 1 inch thick. The folks at OQO call it the only full-fledged PC you can fit in your pocket, but the device is much too bulky for even the most generous pockets. I found that my purse was a much better fit. Less amenable to my purse, however is the OQO 2's cost-the unit I tested starts at a full-sized price of $1,849.
Certainly, it was nice to be able to check e-mail and do some light instant messaging while riding the bus, but I had trouble using the OQO 2 for much more than that. While the micro-machine was perfectly capable of running the productivity applications of my choice, I wasn't going to thumb my way through writing a document, creating a spreadsheet, or researching my next stories with the device's miniature 58-key keyboard or 800-pixel display. I could have paired the OQO 2 with a full-sized keyboard, mouse and display via a docking station and an assortment of accessories, but considering all the accessories I'd have to assemble to make this a reasonable PC to work on it's not clear what I'd be gaining over an ultralight notebook such as Toshiba's Portege R500.
I do believe there's a place for miniature computing devices that can provide you with access to documents, calendar, task and contact items, and e-mail for quick reference and some limited editing, but these needs are better served by a smart phone such as RIM's Blackberry or Apple's iPhone than by shrunken notebook PCs such as the OQO 2 or the popular Asus eeePC.
The iPhone, in particular, scores points with me for its handy touch-screen, which is part of how the device succeeds by breaking the typical PC mold, rather than just miniaturizing it. What's more, since you're already going to be carrying a cell phone around, smart phones bring extra functionality without increasing the number of devices you have to tote around.
While I'm not ready to reorganize my purse to make way for an ultramobile PC just yet, I'll certainly keep rooting for-and covering-OQO and its computing portability compatriots. The perfect marriage between smart phone and notebook PC may not be here yet, but I'm confident that it won't be too long before movie theaters have to ask audiences to not only turn off their ringers but to keep keyboard clatter to a minimum as well.
Think you have the solution to notebook/smart phone unification? eWEEK Labs Technical Analyst Tiffany Maleshefski would love to hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her blog here.