Saturday, 14 July 2007

Back to the future.

The burgeoning UMPC field is such that today's awesome new device is tomorrow's old hat. To think that I was at the BETT show in January and struggled to find even a choice of devices illustrates how fast things are moving right now. I'm put in mind of the increasingly ubiquitous 'Shift Happens' presentation that is doing the rounds at the moment.
I was at a Mobile Learning event at Microsoft Campus in Reading last week which was 'mixed' in terms of value for me. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect was the presentation by a senior Microsoft representative elucidating the varied features and improvements inherent in Windows Mobile 6. Not entertaining, I hasten to add, for the content; but rather for the fact that the presentation completely bombed, crashed and died for technical reasons. Despite my obvious sympathy for anyone suffering technical problems whilst giving a techie presentation, there is something slightly smugly satisfying about this happening at Microsoft's supposed centre of excellence. A fact not missed by my neighbour who, on his Apple ibook, had a distinct ironic smile playing on his lips throughout.
Anyway, back to the future. Is it still UMPC? What about PDAa and EDAs? Well the answer is clearly 'That depends what you want it for'. There was much at the mobile learning event to persuade of the value of the PDA type device as a solution for the learner, but I'm interested in freeing the teacher.
I have to admit to a slight rise in pulse rate when I saw the latest offering from Samsung at the Microsoft event.

The Samsung Q1 Ultra

This has Qwerty keys on the housing that can be used relatively easily and make this device something that will definitely attract the PSP generation. Importantly, it also has cameras facing fore and aft (you'll remember how important this was to me) and is a fully functioning computer (also important). It is also extremely portable - more so than the Tatung M84A - and I gather that little rubberised bump-covers for the Q1 are now beginning to appear on e-bay.
HOWEVER, where the 7 inch screen and dinkiness of these little devices may appeal to the minimalists amongst us and will certainly turn on the teenagers, I mustn't forget the teachers and my original purpose. Because of this, the Tatung M84A is still winning. This is because of the perfect combination of mobility and screen size. I (and I suspect teachers) will want to be able to see a document page and easily read the text on it, whilst also using 20% of the display for the handwriting recognition/keyboard application. This is why 7 inches is too small and a PDA will never adequately solve the problem.

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