Google Planning To Add Multitouch To Chrome OS [?]

chrome_os_logo2-thumb-550x308-20421There has always been speculations about Chrome OS coming on tablets in multitouch versions and by now it is the logical thing for Google to do if they want to stay relevant. The rumor about a Google tablet was floated along with the claim that HTC will be making it. Now it seems like Google does have something in the development. Why else would a senior official get nervous when asked about multitouch in Chrome OS and fumble while giving an evasive answer.

During an event at Google HQ, Senior Product Manager of Search, Anders Sandholm, was asked this question directly and in reply he said – “I can’t… I mean… right now we are targeting netbooks, that’s what we’re focused on, but I expect it to work well… we expect it to target everything up to desktop computers. Chrome OS will be built for a specific hardware setup.” He couldn’t dropped a broader hint that something was indeed up in that area.

After all, it is clear that Google has to go up against the iPad like all other manufacturers who want to sell companion computing devices. And these companion devices are increasingly taking the shape of flat, touchscreen enabled slate devices. So to compete, Google has to step in against the Apple iPad sooner or later. In the mean time, they are focussed on coming to netbooks as fast as possible.

The Chrome OS is all set to be a unique approach to computing whereby everything is relegated to the cloud and all you need is a the Chrome OS device and the Internet. But while Google makes the Internet a great place to work and live by, Apple’s offering is right now the most polished and personal way to interact with that same Internet. So this should be an interesting fight to watch.

Asus Eee PC T101MT Specs Found

Asus T101MT specs at CES 2010First there was the T91 from Asus in their Eee PC line. It was probably the first ever ‘convertible’ in the netbook segment. But that was single touch, slow and needed to run Asus’ own ‘touchgate’ UI on top of  XP to become a useful tablet. Then came the T91 MT. That was basically the multitouch version of the original T91. It probably now sells with Windows 7 onboard, taking care of the multitouch needs.

Now it seems like Asus is about to bring out another such device in the Eee PC line. This one will apparently be called the T101MT and it was first spotted when it appeared at the FCC’s for the mandatory approval before operating in US territories. After that little stint, there was darkness around the device, until now. The T101MT is basically the 10.” version of the 8.9″ T91MT that was released last year.

The T101MT was shown off at CES 2010 by Asus, which is what any sensible tech company will do. Nevermind Apple ditching CES as usual. That is a an exceptional case. Asus has recently, like most other companies, taken an interest in touchscreen devices and its interest showed much earlier than most other companies. What and how Asus plans to market to sell this product is not very clear right now. They will probably zero in on the value for money crowd, which is the target clientele for the Eee range anyway.

The T101MT seems to have 2 different versions: Starter and Home Premium. They vary on memory (1GB vs. 2GB), storage (160GB vs. 350GB + 500GB cloud storage) and probably on the OS as well — judging by the names. WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and a 35Wh slim battery seems to be standard across the models. Pricing is Unavailable at the moment of writing.

Entourage Introduces Dual Screen eBook Reader Cum Netbook Device

enTourage eDGeEntourage is not a very well known company. In fact, if you go to their website, you will see that they have only one product there. But this one product is quite something. It is called the eDGe and it is at once a netbook and an eBook reader. The idea is simple and hence quite brilliant.

Many of us have taken to reading eBooks on a regular basis and the readers that we use are quite good at the job. The e-Ink screen makes sure that they last really long. But the eBook readers themselves don’t do much else. So you are stuck carrying around an extra device all the time.

The main thing that we need on the move is connectivity to the Internet and productivity in the form of viewing, editing and exchanging documents. A lot of us carry netbooks for that. But a netbook will not last through hours and hours of reading. The screen just uses too much battery for that.

So this company has combined an e-Ink screen with a fully functional netbook featuring an LCD screen. And they are interconnected so that you can view images in full color while reading a book, for example. You can use either or both screens at the same time and battery life is suitable for all day long trips. If you use only the reader screen, you will get more than 16 hours of usage and the netbook part is rated at 6 hours of usage. So over all, with regular mixed use you should get about 8-9 hours of battery life.

It is currently on pre-order and the arrival date is February 2010. The price is $490 and for the things it does, it is worth it. The LCD screen is multitouch and the netbook runs on Android.

Acer Timeline 11.6” Ultraportable Tablet Convertible

acer_aspire_1820Rumors have been flying around a lot lately that Acer’s Timeline series of CULV toting ultraportables are going to have a convertible tablet amongst their ranks very soon. So far, we have had images of such a device from various sources but so far they have all seemed like a normal Timeline device.

However, there were the images of a device with a swiveling screen that suggested the existence of such a device but no live images were available of the device.

This status quo has now changed, thanks to an active Italian blog. They have managed to go hands on with the device and put it through the paces. It is understandable that such an opportunity had to have been brief but they still managed to glean quite a bit of information out of the device.

The device itself is quite powerful and slim, when compared to the Atom-powered netbooks. The Acer Timline 1820PT is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CULV processor, humming away at 1.20GHz with 3MB cache. There’s 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM and Intel GMA X4500M HD graphics. Price is of course not available but from the looks of it, you can easily expect it to be at least around $550 and most probably around $600.

But that is mainly because it has a multitouch 11.6” screen and a 1366×768 resolution. The (comparatively) powerful components also warrant for some of the extra cost.

However, this is not the first time that someone has tried to make a tablet out of a netbook device. The Asus Eee PC T91 was the first such device but it wasn’t multitouch. It was only last week when  Asus announced a new and upgraded version of the T91 called the T91MT. Whether this trend catches on is yet to be seen.

Skytone Alpha 680 Android Netbook

Skytone Alkpha 680 PromoGoogle has been developing the Chrome OS for netbooks and Android was meant as a mobile OS for next generation smartphones. However, manufacturers are seeing the Android platform as quite a stable and robust OS that can easily power a small device that does not have the power or inclination to run Windows XP.

The problem here is of course that Android was never meant for something like a netbook. Even placing it on an MID like the Archos 5 is something of a stretch. But that is not going to keep manufacturers from experimenting with this exciting new platform.

The Skytone Alpha 680 has been built along those lines of thought and it runs on the Android OS. However, Skytone either did not have the budget or the inclination or both for decent UI customization. As a result, the OS does not seem very user-friendly.

Thankfully, the 7inch device does have a touchscreen that can be folded over the keyboard and used like a mini-tablet. That way, it is much easier to think of it as a smartphone that cannot make phone calls. The device is not likely to sell very well though because there is not built in networking feature on it. Even Wi-Fi needs to be bought as a separate adapter.

There has been a smattering of Android experiments on netbooks and quite a few manufacturers have surely flirted with the idea. But Google has jolted them all out of their musings by reminding them that a great netbook OS is coming very soon to the world and it is called the Chrome OS and not Android.

Sharp’s NetWalker PC-Z1 Netbook

sharp-netwalkerSharp displayed their extremely small Netwalker PC-Z1 netbook at CEATEC Japan this year. It is nothing like the smallest of small netbooks that you have seen so far and it is more like an MID with a keyboard or a so-called UMPC.

That said, its 5inch screen and tiny keypad has a way of making you interested in using what seems like a perfect miniature. Since this is Sharp you are dealing with, the aesthetics are pretty good and the 5inch screen works quite well. Also, it does not have a touchpad and make do with its touchscreen and a built-in ‘optical mouse’ instead. The main idea here is to surf the web and edit a few documents. So you are not expected to need anything else.

Performance wise it would not match up to a ‘full-sized’ netbook with an Atom processor because it uses an ARM 800MHz processor. So it is more like the iPhone than an Eee PC.

This is a very noticeable thing when it comes to smaller devices that are almost handhelds but not quite there yet. They almost always go for ARM processors and that’s because ARM is the only company that can give them good power efficiency without completely decimating all hopes of processing power.

Much as Intel might try, it is indeed very hard to compete with someone like ARM in a segment that the latter dominates. Intel would love to pretend that Atom is a great choice for small devices such as the Netwalker but that is quite far from the reality at the moment.