Keyboards, Phones and NetBooks

Some people wondered why I stayed with my Sidekick despite still not getting my contacts back and all the troubles the network had. The answer is easy. They keyboard is so above any beyond any other phone, I can type a good 50 words per minute on it. (Its amazing how fast my thumbs are on this thing)  Which in turn allows me to answer emails quickly and accurately.  I dont lose any productivity when Im on my Sidekick compared to sitting  in front of my desktop or full sized laptop.  To me, thats money in the bank.

Thats not to say I never stray and try new phones and alternatives. I do.  I have tried any make and model of phone, with slideout keyboard, touchscreen, you name it. None match the sidekick.

Recently I bought a couple netbooks for my kids.  The kids love them.  I cant type of them to save my life.  Trying to pop over to check and respond to some emails is a frustrating experience.  Maybe I could learn to get used to them, but the keyboards are so small, it takes real concentration to try to touch type.

All of which got me thinking. Im not the only person who has mastered their phone keyboard. Regardless of model.  Plus, like most of us, I have an investment in “conforming” to the typing platform of my phone.  Texting is so popular, we quickly become productive typists on our phones. So rather than creating an entirely new “typing platform” like most Netbooks do, why not create a line of Netbooks that merely are an extension of our phones ? Do Netbooks need, or should they even have Keyboards ?  Why not a “monitor” that can travel and be tethered via bluetooth to any and all manner of phone ?

I would love nothing better than to be able to take a nice monitor with some PC/Netbook like features that pairs with my SideKick.  Less to carry. Less cost.  Just as I can send the sound to an external device, why not allow me to connect from my phone to the monitor , using my phone as my keyboard and even have the option of using the storage on my phone as the hard drive ?

Am I the only one who would prefer this approach ?

24 thoughts on “Keyboards, Phones and NetBooks

  1. In the future our phones will be our primary computers. You will drop them into a cradle when you come home and use it that way for a bigger screen. You’ll wireless stream movies/tv shows from your phone to your television. You’ll sync your phone with your refrigerator to know what you need to pick up at the grocery.

    But this is probably 5 to 10 years down the line. What you’re talking about is a good intermediate step. I like it.

    This is why I think Microsoft has made a MAJOR mistake by not putting more focus into Windows Mobile. They had a huge headstart on all of the competition minus palm. And now they’ve let Blackberry, Apple, and Google blow past them. In the future when your phone is your computer, where does Windows fall into this? If you don’t need a desktop or laptop computer, where does Microsoft get its money from? Do they go back to being a 3rd party software company? Creating Microsoft Office for Android? Or focus entirely on the video game industry?

    Comment by mateo2 -

  2. Mark, why doesn’t somebody come up with a tablet PC that’s made to fit in the radio compartment of a car? Equip it with Clear wireless and go about your commute streaming Pandora or using Google maps. The app development based on a dynamic nature would be amazing! Google maps could adjusting its feedback based on live data about road conditions and where you are, find the best cafe within 5 miles and alert you to traffic difficulty… and you could develope a new social network for people in their cars! so you could have the carpool experience without the hassle! ;-D

    Comment by nathanlindley -

  3. Mark – I wrote this on my blog back in March, I whole-heartedly agree with you on this concept. It is coming, I can promise you that.
    I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day regarding the future of business computing. One of my biggest frustrations as a small business owner is the disconnection of information between all of my electronic devices. I have two cell phones for starters, one that is used for business and one that is used for personal calls, plus a laptop and a desktop computer. This number has actually gone down from two short weeks ago, when I actually had 2 cell phones, 2 laptops and 1 desktop computer.

    I have gone as far as configuring file sharing between the computers, so that’s less of a hassle than it could be, but why can’t we have just one device that stores all of our data, keeps track of all of our contacts, stores and connects to emails, plays music, takes pictures, and everything else our little hearts desire. Think about how great it would be if I never had to upload pictures from my camera to my computer for editing, or just because my camera’s memory stick was full, or how nice it would be to have all of my phone contacts with me at all times, on one device.

    I imagine a world very soon where we have one device, not much bigger than an iPhone or a Windows Smartphone, that I can carry everywhere with me and stores all of my information. I can envision my home office, with a nice big 24″ monitor, full-size keyboard, wireless mouse and speakers, but no computer… that’s right, no computer. I just take my all-in-one device, throw it up on the desk, and quietly observe while it connects wirelessly to all of the paired devices in the room (over bluetooth, WLAN or whatever, why do I care?) and away I go. No boot cycle to wait on, no mini-tower sitting there collecting dust, just peaceful computing, with everything at my fingertips just the way it was earlier in the day when I was at the office, or when I met with a customer and needed a presentation last Thursday, or when I was at the bank the other day and needed my tax id number.

    Now, there are those who will say they need to seperate their business and personal data. I can see a need for that on some occasions… I repeat, on some occasions, but not many. How about this wonderful device supports profiles, that let you load a different set of contacts, pictures, and data for your personal life versus your business life, but any more seperation than that is way too much in my opinion.

    Until this wonderful device is invented, I’ll continue to carry my two devices, 1 laptop and use 1 desktop at homebut, I’ll be thinking about how good things will be in the future.

    Comment by bdevault1 -

  4. I think it is quite a good idea for the short-term. Really, what you are looking for is a keyboard that you are used to – along with a screen that is big enough to be able to actually use/enjoy.

    It really is just a matter of time until we have little devices that fit in our pockets and are sized like phones – the difference is that every “form-fit”, that have gotten used to will be there. So, there will be a “perfected” laser projection keyboard that will project out of it (or maybe it will be tethered to our thoughts so that we can just “type” instantly by thinking something – even though that is still a bit sci-fi) – and there will be a projection image that looks like it is 15 or maybe 22 inches in front of our face (or projected onto a wall – or shot wirelessly into some pair of sunglasses that we can wear) so it will be adequately sized like a laptop/desktop monitor – and the sound will be good and wirelessly link to our audio devices, etc. Also, it will most likely have a small video camera on it that shoots out what you look like to the person on the other line – so it will be mobile video conferencing (similar to what most netbooks do).

    This may still be 5 or 10 or 15 years away – but it is closer than we all think since most of these technologies already exist – and when the bandwidth becomes ubiquitous – this will all be relatively inexpensive.

    Comment by jasonhfisher -

  5. Why don’t vendors put s Sidekick like keyboard (small, Qwerty, meant for thumb typing) on a tablet pc? I don’t know why all the hype and interest around notebook pc’s with the small keyboards that are hard to type on. I’d rather use my smartphone or regular laptop than one of those. What I want is a device that is just a flat screen with a thumb keyboard at the bottom. Throw in a scroll ball like my blackberry has too. Price the device like a notebook. Needs wi-fi of course and it would be nice if you could tether to your cell when out of wi-fi range. Samsung makes a device (Q1 Ultra Premium) with most of these features, but it costs too much (around $900, or 3x the cost of a notebook).

    Comment by lahartmp -

  6. HTC has some interesting devices (their European site). I’m not much for the keyboard of my TouchPro; the TouchPro2 looks like a much nicer keyboard, staggered keys, etc.; but the phone is a monster on a leash (so it appears).

    As for Netbooks, I have an Asus 7″ screen, awful typing. But the 10″ w/chiclet keyboard is fantastic, for me. I can type faster on that keyboard than on a standard keyboard (and I’m not a small guy).

    Been thinking about the new Hero, but I’d like to wait to see if they come out with a slideout. It’s just nice to have that option.

    (I’m rarely w/o my Asus 1000HA. It’s my eReader, my Church books, my business… love it).

    Comment by cerockstar -

  7. How about a touchscreen the size of a netbook screen that syncs to you phone for typing. The touchscreen netbook gives you all of the benefits of a netbook except for typing, as for syncing it sounds a lot like from the comment section that the best mobile typing device is the one anybody started using 2-4 years ago.

    Thus, by enabling bluetooth people can use whatever they like and by making it a touchscreen the device is not worthless without your phone.

    Comment by benmacleay -

  8. Phone as a wireless keyboard? Absolutely count me in!!!

    Comment by David Crandall -

  9. I’ve always thought the next step would be those roll up keyboards they’ve been working on. Hook that up to a phone and it would be sweet.

    Comment by sytycd -

  10. Mark, I travel seven to 15 days a month. These days I leave my laptop at home unless I think I am going to need to edit a PPT (I have an iPhone). I can type 39 wpm in landscape mode. I love traveling light but wish that the phone would connect wirelessly to the hotel TV and Internet keyboard. I see that happening sooner than a new device emerging. – steve

    Comment by Steve Rubel -

  11. I have to say I disagree. I’m in love with my new little Netbook from Acer. Everything from its red color to the keyboard. I type by touch and don’t have a problem. Of course, I am not a giant thumb typist. I text, but I’m no biggie for it. But the beauty of market segmentation is that we can all be happy with specialized products.

    Comment by katetheprofessional -

  12. Mark: The AirMouse app for iPhone gives you control of keyboard/mouse functions of a netbook (or whatever) on the same WiFi network.

    cdansby: Dish Network has an iPhone app that works with their newest receiver… you control everything from the phone via WiFi.

    From MC> I hate the IPhone keyboard. Way too many mistakes on it when i try to touchtype

    Comment by rogben -

  13. You’re not alone, Marc. Ergonomics are why the Sidekick keyboard is so great. I should know, my team of fanatical product managers spent hours working with Sharp to perfect the spacing of the keys, the height of the “popples”, and optimizing the distance either thumb might have to travel to reach a key. No other phone manufacturer I worked with put that amount of effort into miniaturization of the QWERTY keyboard. And the result is that Sidekick users send over 6000 IMs per user per month – more than any other customer. They can do that because their hands won’t cramp up in agony.

    As for the monitor idea, I think it opens all sorts of ideas. Like what not include a small, foldable projection screen (phones from Korea have built-in projectors already)?

    From MC> Congrats Leslie, you guys did an amazing job. You working on the same project for anyone else ????

    Comment by gearheadgal -

  14. This is kind of related but I always wondered why cable providers couldn’t come up with an phone app where you could bring up the menu and change the channels straight from your phone. That way you wouldn’t have to change the channel while you surf around your cable menu and it provides a better keyboard for search options. I’m surprised it took so long for TV remotes to add a full keyboard (VIZIO is doing it with their new product line) because of all these new internet ready products and widgits that are including with these new TVs. If your going to have Netflix built into your tv you better have a easy way to search through it, seemed pretty common sensical to me but TV remotes and search options never caught up. I have a VUDU box and feel that their model is doomed for failure solely based off of their remote that navigates through an alphabet with a scroll wheel. Terrible idea.

    Comment by cdansby -

  15. Have been looking forward to a dockable phone – where i can have a combination of the apps and files on my phone along with ones in teh cloud become my desktop when i dock it with a full size keyboard and monitor at my office or other destination.

    Comment by interpolate -

  16. Holy cow, that would dive me crazy. I’ve been typing on computer keyboards for over 20 years. I just recently got a phone with a keyboard on it and I truly, truly hate typing on it. I constantly mistype, and correcting mistakes is even worse than typing in the first place. I also got a netbook recently, and while I make a few mistakes on it, the adjustment to it has been trivial compared to my phone. At 185 wpm on a conventional keyboard, I don’t think I’m ever going to be satisfied with a phone keyboard.

    I know that laser projection keyboards exist. If they could put one of those into the phone, I would probably not hate using it so much. Or, if the voice recognition software was better, I would use that instead. Typing on that thing is a nightmare. Considering the comments so far, I’m wondering if *I* am the only one who *doesn’t* prefer this approach.

    Comment by slogmeister -

  17. Did you try the G1? The keyboard is almost identical in layout to the Sidekick, though the keys are a little less bumpy:

    Comment by Kevin Marks -

  18. I would love not having to carry a laptop around with me. Like you I have gotten to the point where I can type very quickly on the keyboard of my T-Mo G1 “google” phone.

    Comment by fml99 -

  19. I love the iPhone keyboard. I wish the applications on my computer responded with suggestions as well as the iPhone does. I don’t even try to hit the right key and the iPhone responds with the correct suggestion most of the time. If I worry about hitting the correct letter every stroke it isn’t as enjoyable, but if I just type away it’s awesome.

    Comment by pixelpete44 -

  20. I’ve gotten so used to my iPhone virtual keyboard, I use an the TouchPad app to control the iMac & MacBook Pro in the office.

    Comment by chetyeary -

  21. Imagine having Google Wave on your phone and your Kindle. If you are logged into the same Gmail account, you might be able to see what you are typing on the phone on the Kindle as you type it. It’s not real tethering, but it might be good enough. If you use an Android phone and substitute an Android powered ebook reader for the Kindle, this might not be too far off.

    That’s an interesting comment about the feel of the Sidekick keyboard. Right now it seems like the phone market views keyboards as an item on a checklist. You have one or you don’t, the quality doesn’t matter much. It may take a couple of years before quality keyboards are commonplace.

    Did you know that a lot of the same people that came up with the Sidekick came up with Android?

    Comment by brucemcl -

  22. I’d go for it in a heartbeat. I love the keyboard on my Nokia N810. Since its not a phone, I pair it to my phone to send texts and do mobile browsing. Of course the N900 will eventually eliminate my need for this set up. But I would absolutely use a smart phone tethered to a larger screen/better audio output device.

    Ideally, it would be a flexible display that you could fold up into something really light and portable.

    Comment by tamarin2087 -

  23. Hey, have you tried the palm pre? The keyboard is setup almost exactly like the sidekick. Same type of buttons and everything. The only difference with the keyboard is that the buttons themselves, although the same type, are a little smaller and closer together. But I think you could get the same functionality. Plus the palm pre’s operating system is amazing!

    Comment by Dustin -

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