Since the summer of 2008 my mobile computing experience has improved tremendously thanks to my netbook, iPhone, and Kindles. My netbook was a tiny lightweight marvel on my recent trip to Oregon, and I used it to daily process and post photographs, blog entries, and short video clips. But I don’t like to use it for reading or web browsing at a restaurant or even at home, preferring something more the size of my Kindle.
My Kindle seems ideal for reading novels and long internet articles I’ve saved with Instapaper. Its larger non-backlit screen is far easier on my aging eyes than the iPhone. But as a web browser the Kindle is an abomination. Throughout my long trip to Oregon, I never used the Kindle, instead using the iPhone when out on the town or trail and switching to the netbook in the hotel rooms. But I would have enjoyed having something the size of the Kindle with the iPhone’s browsing prowess and computing power when out on the town and also here back at home around the house.
I’ve hacked my Apple TV to attempt to get decent couch surfing, but that flopped. The hacks make the Apple TV hesitate and stutter and I have not found a nicely-sized radio frequency keyboard with trackpad or trackball. I have a Gyration unit, but grabbing its gyroscopic mouse to navigate and also trying to balance its accompanying keyboard is a pain. Since the only real use I’ve made of the Apple TV hack has been to watch Leo Laporte’s streaming video webcasts on the Apple TV, and Apple has improved its Remote application on the iPhone to provide improved control of the Apple TV, I’m tempted to dump the hack to improve the unit’s performance.
So I’m excited by the prospect of an Apple Tablet, which is probably coming in 2010. If it is the size of the Kindle but has the multi-touch interface of the iPhone and can run iPhone applications, I’m sold. Obviously it will have WiFi, but the unknown is the cellular connection. Will it have a WiFi-only version, like an iPod Touch, and also a subsidized 3G version like the iPhone? If so, I might opt for the WiFi-only option. I envision using it most around the house for couch surfing and sometimes at a WiFi-enabled restaurant. It would be far more convenient to have a 3G cellular connection for it, but I’m not willing to fork over another $70/month to AT&T or some other carrier for that.
I’ve written before of the similar CrunchPad unit, but as its rumored cost rises to that of a netbook and with its singular focus on web browsing at the expense of the power of iPhone-style computing applications, I’m leaning toward paying what will no doubt be a high premium for an Apple Tablet’s greater power and flexibility.UPDATE: 3.5 months later the CrunchPad project went belly-up and then became the JooJoo. I decided to wait for the Apple tablet, in the meantime using my netbook for occasional couch surfing.