Dell Mini 5

February 20, 2010

Engagdet has an interesting article on their first impressions of the Dell Mini 5 prototype.

Dell’s puzzled the world for quite some time with its outlandish Mini 5 — at first glance it’s just another Android-based MID, but a quick fiddle with it reveals the full-fledged 3G phone inside.

The MID (Mobile Internet Device) is a form factor that has been tried before, but the MID as a modern concept was announced by Intel in 2007. They are mid way between a smartphone and a fully functional laptop or Tablet PC.

They are designed to provide entertainment, information, location based services, communication and sharing. In this day of social networking, twitter, facebook; they are aimed at individual for personal use rather than corporate use.

This of course doesn’t stop learners using them for learning.

So what of the Dell Mini 5? According to Engadget, the Andorid powered device will include:

…a five-inch 800 x 480 capacitive touchscreen, Snapdragon QSD8250 chipset (with CPU clocked at 1GHz), Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS and WCDMA radio.

WCDMA means that it can use internet on the move (read 3G). At this time, no idea if the Dell Mini 5 will have phone capabilities. Update: As noted in the comments, “Actually, we did report that the Mini 5 does make phone calls, and that the call quality is satisfactory on both ends.”

It also comes with a camera:

The main camera offers five-megapixel pictures of reasonable quality, along with decent 640 x 480 video capture but with slight rolling shutter effect (aka “jelly motion”). The accompanying camera app has a wealth of settings for both modes: scene, white balance, brightness, contrast, and resolution. Extra settings for photo mode include flash, self-timer, multi-shot, shutter sound, GPS location and flicker adjustment, whereas video mode has options for video format (MPEG-4 and H.263).

The device has a on screen keyboard for text entry, though as it has Bluetooth, you probably can use a Bluetooth keyboard for dedicated text entry (as you can do with a Nokia N95).

This device allows for both content consumption and content creation. Two key features of any device that learners use for learning. With WiFi and 3G this means that the learner will have the connectivity to access learning resources on the move or in college (if you have a student wireless network). It will also allow for real-time communication via the VLE or a social networking service of some kind, eg Ning or Twitter.

So will learners actually buy a device like this?

Hmmm, well you can ask the same question of Apple’s iPad that has a lot less capability.

Learners (especially in FE Colleges) have not really bought into devices such as the iPhone; though I am surprised by how many have the N95 and N86. They prefer full size laptops over micro-laptops. Having shown and tried devices such as the Nokia N810 with learners, they thought it was “okay” but preferred other mobile devices and “proper” laptops for serious text entry.

The Dell Mini 5 sounds like an exciting innovative device, however I am not sure if these MID devices will be taken up and used by learners in large numbers.

Would you buy the Dell Mini 5?

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The Netbook is Dead

December 30, 2009

Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February; a small form factor PC running Xandros (Linux) with a 7″ screen.

There had been small laptops before, but they were usually around £2000, the Asus EeePC was less than £200!

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Before long, lots of other companies had jumped on the bandwagon, Dell, HP, even Sony started offering a cheap netbook. Notably Apple didn’t!

In November 2008 we recorded a podcast on the impact of the Asus EeePC and other netbooks; this was at the height of their popularity.

However it wasn’t long before the honeymoon was over. Only in March I was writing about some of the issues I had had with the very small netbooks.

Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keyboard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size.

It was also back then we started to see the feature creep and added functionality with newer netbooks, in the same blog post I wrote.

However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

We also started to see rising prices too. But the devices were popular with learners and practitioners. At most e-learning events too they were awash with netbooks.

However here we are two years after the launch of the Asus EeePC and the netbook is effectively dead, or will be dead soon!

The BBC reports that:

Rising prices and better alternatives may mean curtains for netbooks.

The small portable computers were popular in 2009, but some industry watchers are convinced that their popularity is already waning.

“The days of the netbook are over,” said Stuart Miles, founder and editor of technology blog Pocket Lint.

There are now no netbooks with 7″ screens, very few with 8.9″ screens, most are now coming with bigger screens, at least 10.1″ and sometimes larger. The original netbooks came with small flash based drives, often 2, 4 or 8 GB. This was fine for browsing or word processing, but not sufficient for video or audio. So manufacturers started putting in large traditional hard drives. HP pulled Linux from their netbooks back in February, and that was down to consumer demand, consumers wanted Windows and couldn’t handle or like the Linux OS. In my experience, though I did like Xandros, I found the SUSE on the HP netbooks difficult to use and (bizarrely) unreliable. One of the big issues with the netbook was that it was underpowered which meant it was unsuitable for internet video; as a result manufacturers started putting in more memory and more powerful chips.

The netbook as envisgaed by Asus and imitated by others, is now effectively dead. Most netbooks you buy now are effectively normal laptops, maybe a little smaller…

So what does this mean for learners and learning?

A fair few learners did buy netbooks, but many more bought traditional laptops, as they preferred the “better” user experience over the netbook. Netbooks for most users were as a second computer; learners were more likely to have a single computer and needed something more powerful. Netbooks often did not have the power to deal with media-rich learning content. However the death of the netbook means that there is not the choice that learners did have.

Or is there?

Newer technologies can result in more choice. For a lot of people I know the iPhone has replaced their netbook, and with the introduction of a large iPhone-esque Tablet device by both Apple and Microsoft in 2010 we may have a new style of netbook, a tabletnetbook!


Dell enters the fray

May 29, 2008

From BBC News

Dell is joining the burgeoning ranks of companies offering cut-down laptops, called netbooks, aimed at the developing world and general consumers.

The laptop was shown by Michael Dell to the editor of website Gizmodo at the All Things Digital Conference.

Read more.

Dell enters the fray...

Dell is the biggest PC maker in the world and the fact that they have entered the market shows how big and how serious this market is to PC makers.

For a lot of consumers this is their second computer, their main computer is a desktop machine which sits at home. The micro-laptop (umpc) format allows them to have a second computer which is very portable. Though similar or slightly more expensive “proper” sized laptops are available, it is the extreme portability of these laptops that are one of the main attractions. The fact it has a proper keyboard is another feature which other UMPCs and portable devices lack and it would seem people like a proper keyboard – even if it is on the small side.

From an e-learning perspective this is a device (format) which I know learners like (from our MoLeNET experiences) and I would suspect that a lot of learners in FE will start buying (or will be bought) these computers. At a price point not much more than a gaming console (or even less) it might be seriously considered as a present for someone attending an FE College.

Also with the growth of student wireless networks in FE, this will allow internet connectivity which turns it from a “dumb” computer to a connected internet device. Even in those institutions without the bandwidth for a student wireless network, those learners may consider getting a 3G USB dongle.

Already I have “caught” a learner in our Library, using an Asus EeePC with a Three 3G USB dongle for learning!

Thanks Gary.