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Summary:

On the way home from my business travel last night, I chatted breifly with James; I hadn’t had a chance to to see his Vulcan FlipStart demo, nor had I really seen the Samsung Q2 with a thumboard. I’ve seen both now, but in our conversation […]

Vulcan_flipstart_thumbboardOn the way home from my business travel last night, I chatted breifly with James; I hadn’t had a chance to to see his Vulcan FlipStart demo, nor had I really seen the Samsung Q2 with a thumboard. I’ve seen both now, but in our conversation last night we hit upon people’s desire to have a keyboard integrated with a UMPC. Our discussion is worth a mention, considering the new device announcements.

James said something that bears repeating and commentary; I mentioned that the thumb-board in the Q2 isn’t a compelling feature for me. The 1024 x 600 native res sure is, but a thumb-board; not for me personally. James mentioned that the FlipStart thumb-board is usable, mainly for brief bits of text input. There’s the key right there: brief text input. He said for a a few sentences, a smallish keypad is fine but, (and here’s the kicker) for a few sentences, you can likely ink them just as fast, assuming you’re relatively proficient at writing. So where’s the real need for a small, integrated keyboard on a UMPC? I’m not sure there is one. For short bits of text, I can ink them nearly as fast as I can tap them on a small thumb-board. For longer bits of text, I’d want a full size keyboard; integrating such a beast would eliminate other mobility advantages of the UMPC class, so I don’t want to see that either. Thoughts?

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  1. I’m in the market for one of these. I work for a company but I also do consulting and I am usually on the road when clients need help. I carry around an X60s which isn’t big but I would prefer something even smaller. Right now I can use utilities like logmein.com from my smartphone, but its inconvenient on that screen to work with. So I’ve been toying with whether or I want to get a Q1, OQO, or Flipstart. Now seeing the flipstart, I’m leaning toward the OQO Model 02. I’m concerned about ordering one before they are shipping though. So beside email typing, there are times that you are remote controlling or running command lines that don’t lend themselves to inking.

  2. I have being saying that and Steve at Carrypad too. In such small keyboard the maximun you can get is around 30 WPM and that’s exactly the speed of any normal person handwriting.

    That tiny integrated keyboard could be useful for password, it’s useful for hot keys, it’s useful to make “DONOT-HAVE-KEYBOARD PEOPLE” happy but from the point of view of usability it’s as good as your handwriting. But, you don’t have that option in the Flipstart, that’s one of the reason why I do not think that this device is going to be a hit. The contrary, I think that this device is going to be the biggest marketing fiasco of this year. It wont be able to compete against the OQO 02 which include a digitizer.

  3. One thought: Quick entry of alphanumeric passwords when browsing.

    XP Tablet Edition 2005 had a dictionary powertoy to add those random strings in, so they’re get recognized when written. Vista doesn’t. Small keyboard helps (although yes you could use a SIP).

    I know, nitche idea. I agree, useless for the most part (and not asthetically pleasing). The OQO’s is at least better than the Q2’s split thing.

    -arebelspy

  4. If Dial-keys or a similar app hits, then my answer is no. Speaking of which… HUGO!!!, where’s the follow up to the tease from last week?!?!

    If nothing like Dial-keys exists then yes, I need/want one and I like the Q2 style since it is like my Nokia 6820 phone.

    It is needed for things like URL entry, logins to web pages and quick text stuff (folder/file renaming) or whatever.
    I do need something like that.

    I am getting better at inking each day so for longer postings like this, inking is fine and better suited for the device.

    For longer posts or articles or docs or scripting, etc, I have to use an external keyboard.

  5. raffi, unless you are using a DOS program at full screen. I have not run in a case where I can’t use the on screen keyboard to type commands. But I agree with you, if you are using MTTY or those kind program probably an integrated keyboard will be helpful. But if you can have the best of both world in one machine that would be the option, in another words, I would go with the OQO 02. But that’s me. I really do not need keyboards unless I want to write a very long text and with a normal side keyboard I can reach easy 55 to 60 WPM, the double of what I can reach handwriting.

  6. arebelspy, you can add any word to your dictionary using the TIP in Vista. But you are right, I have not seen any tool to edit your custom dictionary. But… I have not tried the one for XP.

  7. Dave Haupert Friday, March 9, 2007

    That’s a good question- as a long time PDA user from before there were keyboards to now where they are quite common, I have gone full circle. I used to love graffiti, wrote a small Words per minute gauge app for the ‘Pilot’ back in the early days and got my handwriting speed into the 30ish pretty consistently.

    But when I got my first Treo device, I realized I could not only type slightly faster, but I was more confident in the data entry- it didn’t seem as ‘chancy’ to write, and I barely have to make corrections, etc. To me that makes input far less stressful.

    I’ve been looking at all of these devices and watching with great anticipation of someday biting the bullet when I find the perfect setup. To me the OQO2 seems dangerously close, but at it’s price I don’t see it being cost-justifiable for me personally.

    That being said, I’m actually wondering if a device like the new Toshiba phone (g900 or e900?) could suit my needs. Since it has the touch screen, 800×480 res, a slide out keyboard, and WM6 (which supports hi res’ much better than WM5 for it’s app, supports native office documents, and has a much improved Remote Desktop app), I’m wondering what I wouldn’t be able to do on there that I would want to on a mobile PC. And hoping it comes in at 600ish US dollars if and when it ever comes to the US. That’s like a third the price of an OQO.

    So that’s what I’ve been wondering!

  8. Hanno Zulla Friday, March 9, 2007

    I own a Nokia N800, which could be described as the next-best-thing to a linux-based UMPC, and used to miss a keyboard for it. So I bought a bluetooth keyboard and was surprised to find that I hardly ever use it.

    The keyboard is handy when I try to write a longer email on the device, but that’s the only reason to use it so far.

  9. Michael Venini Friday, March 9, 2007

    For me there are two reasons, why I would want a thumb board on my UMPC.

    1. Games.

    With having a keyboard, I now could be able to program keyboard buttuns to a bunch of games.

    2. I like to have as many options ad i want

    I don’t care if you could use the on screen keyboard or not. I want the option, of not having to write ink, or tap on the screen. By having a keyboard it provides me with the abilty to chose what I want to use to input with. I’m really getting tired for all of the people who say “UMPCs DON’T need keyboards. You can do everything on the screen.”

    If you don’t want to use the keyboard, then don’t use it. But by having it, it now allows all the people who wanted a UMPC, but whould not buy one because the lack of a keyboard.

    Everybody different, just because you don’t need a keyboard, doesn’t mean I don’t need or WANT one.

  10. Steve Paine Friday, March 9, 2007

    @Ctitanic.
    “I have being saying that and Steve at Carrypad too”
    Have you read my keyboard speed test posts? Or my review of the PepperPad 3? The split keyboard is absolutely wonderful on that. I’m very pro-keyboard and I disagree with you quite strongly on this point. For a certain target customer, the keyboard, thumboard, qwert board is more natural than writing on a computer screen and its certainly not just for tapping in a password. Speak to Gen-SMS for a start.

    @joe blogs.
    Here’s a few things to think about.
    1) You don’t have to take hands from the side of the device. They keyboard is right there. Taking one hand from a device creates a huge weight on the other hand due to fulcrum and even pressure on the screen from the pen. Its uncomfortable for many mobile situations.
    2) You don’t have to lose screen space to an on screen input panel. There’s only 480 pixels height on most UMPCs. Its bad enough already without having to lose 25% to an input panel.
    3) You don’t have to worry about teaching your device.
    4) You don’t have to worry about learning the ‘tricks’ of handwriting (or having the correct drivers or avoiding ‘vectoring’ or having/paying for software that even supports it or learning how to write an ‘ampersand’ or ‘at’ character)

    Handwriting and on-screen input is for a certain type of customer and thats not the customer that Samsung are likely to be going after. Touchscreen is fine. Wonderful. Don’t mis-understand me. But handwriting on a screen is probably not a high-priority worry of Samsungs.

    Quik stat: On the PepperPad I reach about 55% of my normal typing speed. On the screen using handwriting its about 30% of the speed and I don’t have to balance the device in one hand or lose screen space. On the Fabric keyboard I was at 55% of my normal typing speed in the first 10 minutes of using it.

    The only drawback of keys on the frame is the physical design challenge. It means that you end up with rather a wide device. Its the reason that the PepperPad looks a little strange.

    So as you can see. I’m very very happy to see that qwert board and its the first think i’m going to hunt down next week.

    Regards
    Steve.

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