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The TouchBook: The NetBook to End All NetBooks?

Posted: May 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The primary problem with my iPhone, G1, iPod Touch, etc… Is that they are too small and have too limited a battery life.  What I have been hoping for, for a very long time is a single slab tablet computer, sort of like a big iPod Touch with a 3G / LTE modem, a soft keyboard, and an open set of programming APIs so that I can make whatever applications for it that I wish.  Ideally it would have a dual core ARM CPU and great battery life, plus the option for a physical keyboard, well it seems that while I was hoping that Apple has done it, Always Innovating has taken matters into their own hands:
TouchBook

The TouchBook will run a variant of an open operating system called OpenEmbedded, a variant of something called the Angstrom Distribution, which I suppose is a distribution of the OpenEmbedded OS.  Although I have only seen the you tube video:

It seems to have the right stuff to be successful.  At $299 for just the touch part, or $399 for the touch part with the keyboard and second battery, the price is right.  The 3D in the video appears to be sufficient to compete with the iPhone, but what it will likely come down two are a couple of things:

  1. Are the APIs polished, or are they as disjointed as the normal Linux programming APIs
  2. Is Apple going to do a large form factor iPod Touch

If Apple is going to do a MacBook Touch, or a MacBook Mini, even at $499 or more, that can run the current crop of iPhone apps as desktop widgets, it will make it difficult for normal people to justify buying the TouchBook over a big iPod Touch.  Hax0rz, evangelists, early adopters, and general geeks like me may buy the TouchBook, but it is going to be an uphill battle for widespread customer adoption with yet another programming environment for developers to adapt their iPhone apps to.

On the other hand, if they were to make a pre-installed Android option available that was running Gnome or something, but could still run Android apps with little to no modification, in the same widget system as was described above, it could be interesting.

I respect what these guys are doing, its something I have thought of doing many times myself, and I might even spring for one if I get a little personal government bail-out money, but I just am afraid that I will crave whatever Apple makes.  Even though I have switched my personal phone over to a G1 and love it, and love coding for it, I still pine after the iPhone, some things are just simpler.   It really has nothing to do with the G1 hardware, while it is ugly as the offspring of sin and feces it functions adequately.  Its the OS that seriously lacks polish in places, and the unavailability of any sort of desktop synchronization mechanism is difficult at times, especially since the iTunes app doesn’t always play ball when dragging large numbers of UN-DRMed files out.

I suppose Google could modify gears to allow Android to tether to some kind of web app / web management system, that would be interesting, but I see that as being in the distant future.  Love it or hate it the iPhone and the iPod Touch, Cocoa Touch is just way ahead of any of its competitors.  If Apple would loosen up on the app store policies, allow 3rd party libraries and scripting languages on the iPhone, I think most of the competition would disappear overnight.  You’d still see the Linux guys pushing stuff for the fringe crowd, but Apple would have the consumer market locked up.

I think that the App Store situation is what is going to hurt Apple the most.  I am only developing for Android because I can’t flush out my app on iPhone, not because I can’t or because its obscene, but only because Apple doesn’t allow PHP, Ruby, and Perl, which is what my application is all about.  I can’t believe I am the only one who is playing by the rules and doing what Apple is making me do, develop for competing platforms.  I’m sure Apple doesn’t and wouldn’t care, my application applies to only a subset of a subset of a subset of the general population, web developers, and isn’t likely to bring in a ton of money for them or me, but I do it because I love the concept of building web apps while mobile.

The TouchBook is really perfect for my application, so after the Android release, I guess I’ll be doing it again for the TouchBook. Here’s to hoping people buy it, and that Apple doesn’t announce a large iPod Touch at WWDC.