Friday, March 16, 2007

Blogging from the Northern Hemisphere

Sitting at Tacoma Airport Seattle I thought I would take a moment to talk about the Vulcan Flip Start and the Motion C5. Whilst I didn’t spend a great deal of time with the devices in my hand I figure it’s probably a lot more time than many of you did. So in order to maintain the “realtime” focus I’ve been working on I thought we’d take a little to look at them together. I’ll sit here and enjoy some food and wait for my flight, while you read some thoughts on these upcoming devices.

The Motion C5:

The Motion C5 is a device focused mostly on the Vertical Market arena, i.e. Medical specifically. Before I get into it too much I should probably be fair and say that I am sure many of you would be happy with a system like this too. The first thing we should talk about when looking at the C5 is the ergonomic qualities. What crosses my mind when I think of this first is the massive, hand-bag-like handle that dresses the top of the device.

Unbelievably I have to admit upfront that the handle is actually extremely useful/functional/helpful. My biggest concern when I saw the initial photos uploaded was that the equilibrium created by the placement of such a specific feature would be an instant failure. You need to remember that up to this point nothing had really been as boldly designed for carrying a Tablet PC. We had seen bags, pouches, slip cases and caddies, but never an integrated handle. The integration of such a concept into a production unit lends itself so easily to criticism…don’t you think?

The way I see it is that if the handle was anything other than perfect I would find it so easy to write pages and pages of criticism. As it turns out, the handle is perfect. (Shock I know). The handle is perfect…there I said it again. It is so good because it allows for firm grip; it allows for ease of transportation, and most importantly it has addressed many OH&S concerns normally associated with the use of Tablet. Incredibly it makes the device feel lightweight and promotes confidence in use. If there was one thing that came out of several conversations with the Tablet PC MVPs this week it would be that Tablet is still the best digital replacement for Pen and Paper. And if you also consider that Pen and Paper is normally carried using a clipboard then you’ll see that the Motion C5 has actually taken us forward in development and not back at all.

Continuing on with the concept of ergonomic developments it is probably good to mention that the C5 is draped in the nicest rubberized backing I have ever felt on a Tablet chassis. It isn’t as cheap and nasty as I might have just made it sound, it is a rubber that provides cushion, and, I cannot confirm, but I am pretty sure it also provided some insulation against the heat of the CPU and HDD to the user. This coupled with the handle truly lend this slate for use as a Slate PC. While this sounds like an obvious thing to say, you would hate to know just how many slate users spend most their life looking for a keyboard. In this case I believe the slate user would spend most their time spending time as a slate user. Nice!

Another feature is the internal specifications. Some features that spring to mind are not the features often associated with Tablet PC. For instance, on the handle there is a two-part switch. One click forward activates a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Scanner, and one click back activates an Infra Red Scanner. This obviously isn’t designed to meet consumer needs but it does talk very nicely to Vertical Market needs. The other neat feature is the inclusion of a digital still camera facing away from the user. What is cool extremely useful is that the Tablet screen also becomes the viewfinder for taking the photo. The obvious implications of this in the medical environment are that a nurse or doctor could take photos of patients (and their related wounds) and take notes using some specifically designed software. This can improve functionality and has obvious implications on overall productivity too.

One of the features that Rob Bushway pointed out, that is really significant, is the use of the flush mounted screen. The reason this is so crucial is that as a Slate Tablet User, one normally spends most of their time leaning on the glass. If there is any sign of ridges or valleys where the screen resides then the user experience becomes instantly compromised. Many of you may have not have had much Tablet experience to date but a flush mount screen certainly is something you would appreciate on slates….trust me.

So my first experience with the C5 has been a rather positive one. Whilst it is most certainly targeted at the Medical Arena I can really see some of you carrying this around as the ultimate Slate PC. I don’t know the final hardware specs, or the “pretended” battery life. All I do know is that if Motion wants me to spend a few weeks with one of these I would be happy to put it through its paces, especially when you consider that the pen and ink experience is exceptional too. Craig Pringle has added: "For the record all of my interactions with Motion Service and support home been positive and have been through the NZ distributor i-toyz, who do a great job."

Now the FlipStart. Regrettably I did not spend much time with the FlipStart but I did manage to capture lots of people’s reactions as they approached James with the device. Up front it obviously gets the WOW factor associated with anything big, dull and cumbersome, i.e. “WOW, that’s really average!” It isn’t that the function is lacking, but more so, the finish that first strikes everyone as the most unappealing feature. The machine is thick, heavy, thick and did I mention heavy!?!? The other WOW factor is that James Kendrick, who I got to know really well this week, is the FlipStart’s number one fan.

As James battles through the same issues every few minutes he also impresses me as he begins to present features and benefits not already found in other similar devices. The battery life he claims is exceptional; and the QWERTY keyboard is rather functional when used primarily with your thumbs, but “I wouldn’t like to touch-type on it” said fellow MVP Craig Pringle. The mouse pad seems to work very well and is a rather disproportionately large size, which becomes a benefit in itself. The best feature is found however when you close the lid!

When the user closes the Vulcan FlipStart what they are instantly faced with is the future…wrapped up in retro clothing. Let me explain. Many of you may have heard of Windows Vista SideShow. SideShow technology is based on rendering, or displaying if you like, local information (stored on the device) on an easily readable external format. The format is usually a screen that provides the user a window-like view into a sleeping notebook’s data. Through SideShow a user can look at photos, listen to music and read freshly received email without the need to even boot the PC. What Vulcan has done is NOT use SideShow but they have rejuvenated existing technology and provided the same window into the sleeping FlipStart. So what can you see? Well rather remarkably a user can see emails (and read them) and calendar events (and read them) and contact details (and read them). You get the point.

So what do I think of the FlipStart? The FlipStart is the best notebook like UMPC available in the 4” – 5” range. It’s QWERTY-ness and effectiveness in which it renders its mobility features is truly amazing. I can see why James is so passionate about this device as it truly reflects the power of a mobile PC device. What was missed however was the ability to let user naturally interact with either Pen or Touch. This to me is where future computing lies and any company that gives me anything less than a touch screen has missed the mark. Since being introduced to Pen and Touch my productivity has felt more intuitive, I have been able to function more easily and at the speed of thought. I no longer feel a lag in my thinking and in fact I have witnessed a spike in my own processing of information. So Vulcan would need to introduce touch, and possible a convertible feature in the screen to make me more convinced.

So sorry I could not shoot the video I promised but I am sure you realized just how busy I have been this week. I still can’t believe Bill Gates looked at me! So as I sit in the Tacoma Airport departure lounge, with my Samsung Q1 and 8 cell battery bank plugged in, I can’t help but think that UMPC is right on track. I’ll be offline for the next 24 hrs (mostly in the air). But I will be back bigger and better than ever (mostly due to all the eating I am about to do). LOL

I will miss you Northern Hemisphere…you’ve been good to me!


Anonymous said...

Hugo sounds like you had a blast and got to see up coming products. Hopefully when you get back you can soon talk about what you got to see and talk about what MS is up too with the Tablet future. Well have a good trip back you where close to my nieghbor hood well not really unless you consider South California close enough LOL. Also have you heard anything on the Blackberry Windows Live Search program? I have that running on the Blackberry I have been using this device for two weeks now. Its a great device; I had the Apache 6700 but changed to the Blackberry very stable and useful but have been trying out programs that work with search and mapping software.


Sean Tan said...

Quote: "What is cool extremely useful is that the Tablet screen also becomes the viewfinder for taking the photo. The obvious implications of this in the medical environment are that a nurse or doctor could take photos of patients (and their related wounds) and take notes using some specifically designed software"

That does sound useful. But I don't think they will be implementing anything like that for a while. It would be too expensive for hospitals to give a C5 to all nurses. Perhaps Doctors would buy their own since they probably have the money. If there were limited numbers available in a hospital, nurses wouldn't want to share it around anyway. It may start a fight over who gets to use the C5! :)

Hugo, have a safe trip home! Don't they have the computers with internet in planes now?

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi HG,

Close to you is really defined as anything in the Northern Hemisphere for me. I was actually "reall, really" close to YOU, if you ask me.When you consider I am usually 20+ hours away then I was close, wasn't I.

Regarding phones I do not know. Why don't you jump on James McCutcheon's blog. He is a fellow MVP, fellow Aussie, and Mobility Expert. Let him know I sent you and let him know I said "hi."


Hi Sean,

I tried to get the internet on the plane but Singapore Airlines, the last to have it, have recently dropped it, so regrettably I had to go without!

In regards to your comment I think you make SOME valid points. Where I think you and I both were coming from is that the C5 alone will not transform people's lives, there isn't that much of a value add proposition is there! I think that using the screen as a viewfinder can be extremely useful. So in my defence let me explain. This is no useful as a still cmaera but useful as a productivity tool. Take away the need to replace or incorporate a camera and replace it with the need to work with images on the fly with a specifically built application on the C5. This then oupled with the hardware becomes the magic ingredient...not the camera or even the C5 alone.

I thought it d a lot of potential but when it comes to budgets and monies I am afraid it will once again fall in the hands of the Bean Counters. LOL

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