The void between smartphones and ultraportable notebooks has been called the “tweener” space in computing. This week, in his review of the so-called Netbook, space, the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg dinged this not-a-phone-not-a-laptop device as one that has never taken off. UMPC is a perfect example.
So what is a tweener? To demonstrate I like to line up my ThinkPad X200 and my Blackberry 8300 and in between drop down a 7″ x5″ moleskine notebook. That, in my mind, is the Tweener, the device that hasn’t lit the world on fire yet. But … I’ve owned a tweener for two months now – an Amazon Kindle – and while it is version 1.0, it has definitely found a place in my life, even if I can’t run a spreadsheet on it or make a phone call.
Why? The interesting thing about the Kindle — aside from E Ink, the technology that permits it to display text in such great resolution – is the points in has in common with phones. Instantly turns on – no boot time, long standby battery life, and pervasive, always on wireless connectivity (switched on or off with a hardware switch at my discretion). That wireless service, unlike a phone, does not carry usage or monthly charges, doesn’t require a separate relationship with a carrier like Sprint or TMobile, indeed, is “free” in the sense that it is subsidized somehow by Amazon to provide a channel for me to buy books and have them delivered to the device.
Whispernet – the name of the service built atop Sprint’s network – is a big innovation, but not one necessarily conducive to always-connected internet. Yes, there is a web browser on the Kindle, but the device is not intended to be anything like the crop of 7″ to 10″ mini-laptops that have taken the market by storm thanks to Intel’s Atom processor. Those machines, which are moving rapidly towards 3G wireless connectivity, has so far relied on ordinary Wifi (802.11 wireless lan) connectivity atop XP or various Linux flavors.
Would I seek out a reading experience on a netbook the way Amazon has positioned the Kindle? No. Kindle is optimized for ambient light reading and as such is indeed a book replacement. A netbook … I need to get my hands on one our Lenovo S10s and see what the fuss is about beyond the sub-$400 price.
Anyway, long way of saying I think the future is bright for Tweeners, especially when connectivity becomes pervasive and people begin to seek them out for dedicated tasks such as e-books, GPS nav devices, etc.