Rumored Samsung Gloria - some smartphone designs just won't work in tablets

Reports indicate Samsung may release a tablet with a smartphone-style slider keyboard - an interesting idea, but also an ergonomic nightmare.

A report on the French site Blogeee.net (also covered by Boy Genius Report and Laptop Magazine) hints that Samsung is working on a 10-inch touchscreen Windows 7 tablet with the codename Gloria to be released next spring. That isn't too unusual in and of itself (though it isn't often that a device's codename will get a Laura Branigan song from the eighties stuck in my head). What's unique about this report is that the Samsung Gloria will include a piece of hardware common on smartphones but so far never seen on a tablet: a slider-style keyboard.

Despite the interesting concept that the Gloria (if it actually exists) offers up, I can't see it succeeding. Although the idea sounds good in theory, it doesn't make much sense from a practical perspective.

If the keyboard remains parallel to the screen, it will create a single surface for viewing, typing, and interaction with onscreen objects. That doesn't sound too different from most tablets. However, when a physical keyboard is used with most tablets, the tablet is almost always in a stand/case to mimic a more traditional computing arrangement. That allows for effective touch-typing and screen viewing and maintains a generally good ergonomic position. When an onscreen keyboard is used, a tablet is usually positioned at a slight angle that preserves a similar effect – even so, the positioning can add ergonomic stress and isn't usually comfortable for extended typing sessions.

With a slide-out keyboard, the device would be very awkward to use at an angle and such use would result in horrible positioning and a lot of tiring (and likely damaging) motions. If placed flat, the positioning might be better for the hands and wrists but would put a lot of strain on the head and neck, which would have to constantly be angled down to view the screen.

The only possible decent ergonomic option would be a keyboard that could slide and be extended at an angle, which would require some type of mechanism to keep the screen upright. But, if you're going that far, you might as well create a design similar to Dell's new Inspiron Duo line of notebook/tablet hybrids. You're essentially aiming for the same goals, but you're doing it with a design that has a lot more moving parts and stress points that could be prone to breaking.

Overall, this isn't a design that's going to function well and probably won't handle the wear and tear of extended use well. For Samsung's sake, I hope that this turns out to be just a rumor or a prototype that never sees the light of day.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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