In the early mid-‘90s, I worked with a group of Wall Street technologists who were doing some early business applications with wireless data. The team included several fans of the HP DOS clamshell palmtops such as the 95LX and the 100LX. EPOC, the precursor to the Symbian operating system, spent its formative years on devices like this from Psion, such as the popular Series 5. And asHP flirted with Windows CE in its Jornada line, it experimented with various combinations of keyboard usability and screen size, even creating a netbook-sized product with an 8” screen and trackpad called the Jornada 820.
But I’ve seen little since those days to capture the combination of utility and portability of those early HP handheld computers updates for the Internet era. We now have tons of smartphones with keyboards, some of which are quite usable, but nearly all are designed to be used standing up. (The HTC Touch Pro 2 is probably the one that comes closest for tabletop usage). Other mid-screen devices such as he Nokia N810 and Samsung Mondi have sliding keyboards and are designed similarly.
Along with others, I have been wanting for some way to connect a keyboard to the iPhone to simulate a clamshell, but that would require Apple adding Bluetooth or dock connector input support. Most MIDs or UMPCs focusing on the 4” to 7” screen size are tablets although something like the UMID mbook M1 looks intriguing, but it’s clear that there are a too many compromises stuffing Windows XP onto a 5” screen.
By using a proxy server and what some have deemed too-aggressive compression, the DataWind PocketSurfer devices delivers fast Internet access. While its no platform, changes to its historically unpopular pricing and refreshed hardware, it could become an alternative for those who want simple Net access on the go.