The quest for the perfect portable computer

An ideal product doesn’t exist in the device world. But in order to get close to “ideal”, the product would have to be able to adapt to the needs of different individuals and also be able to adapt to different situations.

For example, a person in a managerial position needs to access overview information on the fly from his organisation’s portal. The Apple iPad is a very attractive option for this because it’s light and portable, it has instant-on features and is easy to interact with using touch.

A blogger on the other hand, may want to write up a quick blog in the serenity of her garden. In that instance a touch screen keyboard just won’t cut it, so a netbook would be the preferred device.

Tablet PCs have stolen some of the limelight from the netbook market since the arrival of the iPad but each form factor has it’s own pros and cons and both are continuing to grow. An increase in demand for mobile web/media consumption and cloud computing has fueled the uptake of these devices, but I don’t think they should be seen as competing devices.

Although it has been attempted on numerous occasions, we have yet to see a product that properly unifies the two.

Dell has just released another attempt to merge the two form factors which they have called the Inspiron Duo. Until I get my hands on it I can’t say for certain whether it’ll be the ideal tablet/netbook combination but the hardware is looking very promising.

There are numerous innovative hardware options available but I think the key to unification lies in a seamless operating system setup.

Windows 7 is far too demanding for a tablet PC but slimmed down versions seem to work well on netbooks. A number of hardware vendors have opted to use Android as the iOS competitor on tablet PCs but it was never designed for screen sizes beyond 7 inches.

Canonical has been working with OEMs on a project called Ubuntu Light which is intended to be a very light weight, instant-on, direct to web operating system which would accompany a more feature-filled OS like Windows 7 Starter or Ubuntu Desktop.

The Inspiron Duo does not have an instant-on option, but Dell are already working with Canonical on Ubuntu Light. If the Inspiron Duo had the instant-on and touch functionality of the iPad, along with the full featured operating system and physical keyboard, I think we’d be close to having the ideal tablet that would seamlessly integrate into our everyday lives.

If you’re the type of person to install your own operating system you could potentially turn the Duo into a game changer. Then again, if customisability is your thing, then the ideal tablet is the Always Innovating Smart Book which has been referred to as the Swiss army knife of the tablet world.



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