The Oqo: Please, can I have one, please?

Farpoint Group –

I'm a gadget freak. I love electrical, electronic, and mechanical toys. I used to take clocks and other expensive objects apart when I was little, and the put them back together. I became an engineer at least partly because I noticed all of the extra parts in the things I took apart and decided I could make a contribution to more economical designs. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Apart from that, I'm just fascinated with technology, which is the real reason I became an engineer. Of course, being older and a good deal more practical, I tend to favor toys that add to my productivity or otherwise make work easier or more fun. For the record, I do buy the pure toys as well. I have a 40 GB iPod I got a few years ago. It's cool. And it's still in the box; most of the fun stuff is.

On the more practical side, I've been using a notebook (OK, originally a laptop) computer since 1988. I got one of the first Windows CE (today, Windows Mobile) devices, a Casio Cassiopeia, at COMDEX in 1999 when it was announced. My personal mobility strategy is to augment the desktop rather than replace it, so my notebook is in fact optimized for mobility - small and light are more important to me that desktop-class performance. I currently use an IBM X40, although it's due to be replaced later this year. Anything less than three pounds in on the list. I'm currently using a Treo 650 in place of a PDA; smartphone hybrids of cell phones and PDAs are clearly the key direction now, and once again Windows Mobile is at the forefront. Still, today one needs both a notebook and a smartphone.

Or do you? Consider one of the truly great toys - I mean, tools - announced in recent years: The Oqo 01+. I first mentioned this product in these pages over a year ago - it's a full Windows PC in a PDA form factor. It can also run Tablet PC software as well. (I have mixed feelings about the whole tablet concept; there ain't nobody or nothing that can recognize my handwriting, including me. Believe it or not, I block-print when I take notes.) The 01+ is based on a 1 GHz processor with 512 MB of memory and a 30 GB hard drive. The display is 800x400, and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built in. It's got a sliding micro-keyboard and all of the standard PC convenience and connectivity features. This is by far the coolest business toy ever. I want one.

So, let me plead: please, please can I have one, please? For something like this I'll clean up my room, take out the garbage, walk the dog, and wash the car. Please? I'll even be good.

But will I spend my own money on one? We have a long-standing policy at Farpoint Group of actually buying the products we use. Yes, we have lots of things that companies send us for testing and evaluation, but if we use it in production, we pay for it. This is the only way to avoid conflicts of interest and even being accused of having an opinion for sale. We do not, and we never will.

But the Oqo is about US$1,800. While well within my budget for the next notebook (I'll spend up to US$2,500), I'm not sure this product can replace a small notebook. I wouldn't want to type reports on that keyboard (I've filed columns on the Palm, but after 1,000 words or so, my thumbs do indeed get pretty tired). My over-40 eyes probably won't last long with a 5-inch display. And it's too expensive to replace a PDA and doesn't have the wide-area wireless capabilities of a cell phone. And at almost a pound in weight, it's too heavy to replace a phone anyway, even if it had a wide-area radio.

Still, it's one of the most interesting products I've ever seen, and a great engineering achievement regardless. It will find a home with many travelers, and in lots of vertical applications as well. It's on my Christmas list. But it's not yet ready for a place in my personal arsenal, at least not if I have to spend my own money on it. And I probably do.

This is my last regular column for wireless.itworld.com, but I hope to become an irregular contributor. It's a been a great pleasure working with the folks at ITworld.com, especially Jodie Naze, who's made my job easy, in addition to being one of the nicest people on this planet. In closing, I wish you all the best with your wireless and mobile endeavors, and thank you for your support over the past three years.

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