Always Innovating’s Different Kind of Netbook

touchbook1At the DEMO conference yesterday, Always Innovating, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company introduced a netbook that’s a refreshing departure from all other netbooks to date. According to the company, their Touch Book features a detachable keyboard, an 8.9-inch touchscreen, 10 to 15 hours of battery life, and will cost $299 for the screen section alone, or $399 with the keyboard section. Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? The rest of the specs and analysis following the jump. 9.4 x 7.0 x 1.4 inches (with keyboard) Texas Instruments’ OMAP3 ARM chip 1024 x 600-resolution screen Storage: 8GB microSD card 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 6 USB 2.0 ports (3 internal, 2 external, 1 mini) 3D accelerometer Weight: 2 pounds Aside from the detachable screen (which is a pretty neat trick), this netbook has a few other unique facets, which may or may not prove useful. Take, for example, its open source operating system (based on the OpenEmbedded OS), which, according to the company’s FAQ, “enables to install many OSes on the device, including Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom, and Windows CE, though we would not recommend the latter.” Additionally, the OS has two modes, one for use when the keyboard is attached, and one for when you’re using the touchscreen alone. The touch-enabled OS is such that users can navigate it with a finger, as opposed to requiring a stylus. Also telling is the 3D accelerometer, which will let you use the tablet like an oversized iPhone. Given that this system looks like it will be popular with the early-adopter crowd, having a netbook that will let users install Android seems a sensible choice. After all, Android could take over a sizable percentage of the netbook market, as demonstrated by the fact that a third of the Dell Mini Inspiron 9′s are being sold with Linux. Then there’s the case of the Touch Book’s six USB ports, three of which are internal. The compay states that it’s so you won’t have to remove USB dongles every time you pack the Touch Book away, but we wonder how practical that will be. Since all dongles are not created equal, it will be interesting to see how many we’ll be able to cram inside a chassis that’s only 1.4 inches thick. Chances are, those ports will be most useful for those looking to add GPS, WiMax, or 3G to their Touch Book. Considering that a large number of netbooks have 160GB hard drives, it’s a little unfortunate that the Touch Book only has an 8GB microSD, although you can presumably insert larger cards. Even upping it to the max of 32GB pales in comparison; is this a tradeoff people will be willing to make for a 2-pound, 1.4-inch netbook? One of the most critical aspects of any netbook is its battery life, and Always Innovating’s claim of 10 to 15 hours certainly got our attention. Cleverly, the company put two batteries into the chassis, one in the screen, and one in the keyboard section. Of course, they had to do this, considering the screen is designed to operate independently of the keyboard section. According to the company, the battery in the touchscreen section should last from 3 to 5 hours by itself. For $399–the cost of the tablet and the keyboard section–this sounds like a compelling device. The Touch Book is currently available for pre-order on Always Innovating’s site, and should be shipping around May or June.

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  1. JonGl Says:

    Fascinating. In some respects, this may be the first genuine and truly “netbook” to come down the pike. The fact that it runs only mobile systems merely reinforces this. I don’t know if I could give up my Windows/Linux/OSX Wind, but maybe this would make an addition.

    -Jon

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