It is my belief that no one wants to carry around a backpack full of gadgets that only do one thing. You can get a cell phone that also lets you read your mail (awkwardly, but you can) and listen to MP3s. Or you can get a good MP3 player like an iPod, but now you're carrying a cell phone AND an MP3 player. Then there are e-books. Are you going to carry around a third device just to read books?
What if you could carry around a cell phone and a second device that was like an itty-bitty computer that would let you: read your email; play mp3s; watch videos; do your homework/office work on standard applications; and read e-books. And it's in color.
Hmmm. No brainer?
Well, everything is a tradeoff.
Sony's e-Book reader is not sexy, is locked into their store, is B&W although it can--in a clunky way--play MP3s and display B&W jpgs. On the other hand, the battery has good life--it could probably exceed my 10 hour mark, and you can--with some messing around--download PDFs and read those, as well as html. It's also under $400. Oh, and let's not forget that the screen and text resolution are amazing, so it is a pleasure to read on the device. A picture of it is at the left.
But, isn't there anything else available?
What else is is there? Ultramobile PCs. Two of the sexiest are the OQO model 2 and Sony's VAIO Ultramobile. Both are basically very small PCs. Sony's also includes two cameras (yes, two). Both the OQO and Sony UMPCs have optional high capacity batteries which will bring the battery life up to 8 hours for the OQO and 6 hours (or more) for the Sony. They run a regular operating system with regular applications. You can use a full-sized bluetooth keyboard and mouse with either one, to basically give you a computer--and there are super-cool foldup bluetooth keyboards you can take along with you, if you want. However, both also include a very tiny, thumb keyboard if you don't want to carry the extra piece.
Both have large hard drives and a decent amount of memory (RAM). They can run MS Vista if you're inclined toward Microsoft's latest OS release. But they are much more expensive than a regular e-book reader...however...if you could buy one of these and NOT buy an MP3 player, portable DVD player, laptop, and e-book reader, wouldn't you come out ahead, anyway?
Well, whatever. The downside is that they both cost over $1,200. But they will do everything your laptop can do--and if you are into IP telephony--you can use it for that, as well. So you could very well get away with one device, or at least your cell phone and this device to: play mp3, watch videos, read e-books, do your work/homework, do emails, surf the web, or anything else you want to do.
Plus, they are really, really cool.
In case you doubt me, here are some pictures...
First, Sony's Vaio UMPC. It's got two cameras and 4.5" display. It weighs 1.2 lbs, and is 5.91" x 3.74" x 1.50". It has 512Mb RAM (there may be a 1GB version soon) and a 30GB hard drive, which means lots of room for books. Builtin wireless networking and of course bluetooth for big keyboards and mice.
If you don't like the Sony, there is the OQO Model 2. The model 2 weighs 1 lb and includes a 5" display, a 60GB hard drive and 1GB RAM (memory). Okay, it doesn't have cameras (much less TWO cameras like the Sony Vaio) but it has a much larger hard drive and more RAM, which means better performance. The Vaio is reported to be a little less snappy, but I haven't played with one so I can't confirm that.
Of course, you get all the standard jazz of wireless connectivity, a ethernet connection, bluetooth for external keyboards/mouse, and you can run all your standard software.
With both UMPC, you can download and read e-books from any source you choose (they don't lock you down to one e-book store). You basically have a computer in your pocket.
While these devices might not be the ultimate--they are certainly worth looking at, because they mean you *might* be able to reduce the number of things you have to carry around with you. And you know what? I might just give up my MP3 player in exchange for one of these beasties because I would have the power to do it all--almost.
Is this the future, or at least a step in the right direction? Maybe.