Netbook Versus Handheld

My reply to a set of links from Bill Kerr comparing benifits of Netbooks and Handhelds in schools.

> making-right-choices-foss-handheld-or

The n810 is an interesting device. They run a Linux distro called Maemo, and use lots of the same libraries as the gnome desktop (what Ubuntu and fedora use by default), making porting apps from the desktop to Maemo fairly straightforward. Porting is more like "make sure they work on the small screen", opposed to something like android where you would have to re-write the entire application from scratch, as android uses different programming languages, different libraries, and a different style of application.

Nokia didn't market them very aggressively, and they haven't taken Maemo (or Linux for that matter) to any of their other devices. This makes me think that the nXXX tablets are a research project that Nokia happened to sell to the general public.

There's been three versions of hardware: the n770, the n800 (i own one), then the n810 (added a hardware keyboard to the n800). The next version of the software, Maemo, will run on a new generation of hardware. The new version has abandoned the Gnome stack in favor of one based on Qt, which is the software stack used by KDE, the alternate Linux desktop UI.

Also interesting to note is this company's timing. The next nXXX device is just around the corner, and I would have thought n810's were very close to being end-of-lifed (I first saw a pre-market one at linux.conf.au in jan 2007; three years is 6 lifetimes in the mobile industry). This brings up procurement and support issues. Also, the new device is vastly more powerful than the current generation, making it more capable for multimedia (high-def video playback).

On the article itself:

> argument-for-desktop-applications

I disagree with Tom's overview of web apps binding a device to the network. New browsers have local storage and database API's built in (HTML5, and Google Gears is a "backport" of these features to older browsers), which can be used to write web apps that are available 100% offline. They can sync up to the network when connectivity is available.

Watch watch?v=VmjxmOtNZCk for a presentation from a Googler earlier this year of this running on Android and the iPhone. Same case for the new unreleased Palm Pre (this is different from the Palm that Wireless Generation refer too - it's a all new, shiny, device that will be better than the iPhone and Android). The software they demo there is available now; I've got it running on my Android.

That point aside, the rest of his blog entry I agree with.

> wireless-generation-on-handheld

Interestingly, the n8x0 tablets have a Palm (the old OS that Wireless Generation is talking about) emulator, so you could run the old apps on the new hardware.

"While netbooks are compact, they are still large enough to divert an assessor’s attention away from the student and toward the screen and small keyboard."

I call bullshit. Three points on this one:

I've owned and used two different handheld devices in the past two years, and used both in the lecture theater at uni. I find myself getting distracted, and once I start using it, I'll spend the rest of the lecture reading things instead of listening.

I don't feel comfortable getting my laptop out part way thru a lecture, or having it out full stop. A handheld does not have this limitation.

It's easier for me to use my Android (hardware keyboard) than my n800 (on screen, "software" keyboard only) while looking at something/someone else, due to the tactile feedback that the hardware device provides.

"Eye contact is lost, because the assessor must focus more on typing and moving the mouse"

Presuming they're saying that a touchscreen is better because it doesn't involve a keyboard: having only a checkbox, dropdown or slider only UI limits the type of data you can record compared to freeform text input.