From the Gateway LT2016u to the Nokia Booklet 3G, there is no shortage of subsidized netbooks with built-in 3G connectivity this fall. But the Mobinnova Beam, which was announced as the “Elan” during Computex, is different. This 8.9-inch device powers on instantly, weighs less than 2 pounds, and promises epic battery life. In other words, this isn’t just another netbook (as we showed you during our initial hands-on). But will consumers bite when Mobinnova announces the carrier and pricing at CES?
Because it runs Windows CE and not Windows 7 or XP, the Beam is more akin to a smartbook or Mobile Internet Device than a netbook. Or you could think of it as a smart phone with a bigger screen and keyboard (without voice). Another unique feature is the battery, which has a hinged design that hides all of the ports.
Under the hood is an Nvidia Tegra chip that powers a slick 3D interface and promises 720p video playback and graphics-accelerated Flash content (once 10.1 becomes available). Mobinnova claims the Beam should last between 5 and 10 hours when playing HD video, or for up to 24 hours of continuous audio playback.
Here are the highlights of a recent conversation we had with Mobinnova’s CTO Mark Anderson about the Beam, along with a gallery of Beam pics.
What’s the benefit of having Windows CE as the backbone of this device?
What Windows CE brings is a pretty mature embedded OS, so you have a pretty large development community you can tap into. It has good sleep modes, so the power savings is better than what you’d get on a (full) Windows device. This was something that Nvidia and our manufacturing partners really drove.
Will there be an app store?
Initially, no, there won’t be an app store. We’re really defining the experience in terms of what apps are included and which ones are not. It’s really more of an appliance than an open platform. But there will be some apps online that you can buy. There will be some games that you’ll be able to download.
If this device can play back 720p video, where are users going to get the content from?
You’ll be able to stream, download, or sideload. There’s a video and music player built in that supports DRM. It supports Windows Media. We’ll have announements about content partners at CES as well.
What sort of flexibility are you giving the carrier to support and promote their own services on this device?
Those are discussions that we’re having with our partners and it’s something that we definitely encourage in the sense of being able to plug into an existing ecosystem. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
Will the Beam have integrated GPS and can you use it as a navigation device?
We won’t have navigation software on it so I’d say no. You could go to Google Maps and navigate that way, but GPS is really there to add location to something you might be doing like Facebook.
60 bucks a month is a lot to pay for something that doesn’t run full Windows. Will there be other pricing plans for this device?
We should wait until the announcements are made. But I agree in general that there should be more flexibility in pricing plans. And I certainly expect that to happen.