Should a “mobile computer” fit in your pocket?

There are an increasing number of devices blurring the lines between categories these days. Nokia’s new N97 is being positioned as a mobile computer and while we’ll have to wait to see how this new vision will be executed, it has the potential to be more than just marketing given the power and capabilities offered. The N810 is already a computer in my pocket and while it’s not a phone (yet – please!) it fits into the MID / UMPC zone which tends to be inclusive of devices that can grow larger than a pants pocket …

As you get into the larger devices netbooks have become a big factor largely driven by cost which while not the key factor for everyone is a serious detail. The average prices are less than $500 and while you need a bag to carry them around they can run Windows or Linux and familiar applications from the desktop (or larger laptops).

Walt Mossberg offers some good point / counter points in today’s column:

Netbooks still constitute a smaller niche than laptops and the exploding smart phone, or hand-held computer, category. But they are threatening to break into the mainstream in a big way, especially in an economic climate where a low price and fewer bells and whistles are suddenly more attractive.

They are much more portable than most standard laptops. They are easier to use on a plane or carry around town. And they are way cheaper, between $300 and $500, than the very lightest, thinnest standard laptops, which often top $1,000.

Compared with even an amazingly powerful pocket device, like the iPhone, the Google (GOOG) G1, or the forthcoming BlackBerry Storm, a netbook, at about twice the price, offers a much larger keyboard and screen. And they can run far more sophisticated software and perform a much wider variety of computing tasks.

But netbooks come with serious compromises. While they are great for light use on the go, their cramped screens and keyboards, and slow processors, make them much less potent and less comfortable to use than even a so-called ultraportable laptop. And, as small as they are, they can’t fit in a pocket like smart phones can, be as easily used as a still camera, or function as a cellphone.

I’ve been actively considering a netbook since I tend to read so much news about them. My biggest issue is actually usage. I already carry a Lenovo X61 for work which is a 13″ 3.5 pound laptop. The size, power and weight are all excellent and I can’t see adding a second 3 pound machine to my bag when the while reason I scaled down in size was to cut the weight in half. I could see using the netbook as a hobbyist to tinker at home and maybe on short personal trips …

The power and flexibility offered in today’s (and soon to come) pocketable devices is really where it’s going to get interesting. A phone tends to be th emost personal device we carry and something that along with your keys and wallet is always with us. As it becomes more powerful and offers an increasing degree of flexibility to do things I might have previously had to do from a tabletop or lap, our lives will really start to change. Unlike most netbooks, a phone (or at least what we call phones today) is a connected device and with that we get access to – well whatever we need from where ever we want.

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4 Replies to “Should a “mobile computer” fit in your pocket?”

  1. Yes. It should fit in your pocket. Of course, the screen should also be in that 4-5in range as well so that you can see enough that its not uncomfortable for productivity tasks or the occasional search-and-contact.

    I've been quite mobile for sometime. And even in my latest jump in making my N95 my main computer, I realize that there's a lot about what we do with computing that seems like it needs a lot of space, but really doesn't.

    Devices will adjust to us, but we are also adjusting to the fact that mobility, portability, and ease of productivity need to be at the top more than just comfort.

  2. Yes. It should fit in your pocket. Of course, the screen should also be in that 4-5in range as well so that you can see enough that its not uncomfortable for productivity tasks or the occasional search-and-contact.

    I've been quite mobile for sometime. And even in my latest jump in making my N95 my main computer, I realize that there's a lot about what we do with computing that seems like it needs a lot of space, but really doesn't.

    Devices will adjust to us, but we are also adjusting to the fact that mobility, portability, and ease of productivity need to be at the top more than just comfort.

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