Arno, our Software Development Manager tipped me about the Pandora. This is not the awesome music service, nor is it some kind of doomsday device in the possession of a Bond villain, it is rather an open source handheld game console.
It has a touch screen, a 600 Mhz ARM CPU, a keyboard, game controls, wifi, Bluetooth and ten hours of battery life. It was originally meant to be the ultimate portable open source gaming tool for hard core gamers to run old emulated games as well as home designed games.
A small distributor took on the task of designing the device from the ground up as well as taking on the financial risk. They listened to the input of thousands of forum users and funneled this into their design. The small group of seven people coded, designed the boards, designed and selected all the parts and sourced all the materials from companies the world over.
That such a small group could come up with, design and source an impressive device such as the Pandora is really a sign as to how "flat" the world is because of the Internet and access to manufacturing capacity. The device hasn't shipped yet(indeed Arno has been waiting for one of the first 3000 for a year or so). But, once it does it would be a huge achievement.
You can check out a video of the interface below(it is narrated by EvilDragon who has a German accent and totally makes me think of Bond movies once again).
The device itself sells for about $330 and if it lives up to the promises could be a credible alternative to Eee PC's or the Iphone as far as a portable communication and Internet device goes. It runs Ubuntu and you can run FireFox and Open Office on it also, this coupled with its portability, the hug me I'm open source factor and the extra gaming capability make it a very interesting choice.
Of course the history of PDA's, smartphones and portable internet tools is littered with a lot of things that showed a lot of promise but died. My dad loved his Psion 3, a friend of mine swears that the Nokia Communicator is still the ultimate device even though it is a gray brick, the Apple Newton is a well remembered flop and I personally have a box around here somewhere with some Palms and Handsprings in it.
I currently use a 9 inch Eee PC(coupled with a Nokia) as my portable connectivity tools but the battery life is annoying, the start up is not fast enough and it is just too big to take absolutely everywhere. I did take the Palms everywhere but I can not surf the internet on such a small device. The Kindles look are too wide. Blackberries are annoying to surf with. As for a regular smart phone: I've rarely ever held one for more than a few minutes without wanting to chuck it against a wall in frustration. I could opt for an Iphone but somehow I'm turned off by the 50% gross margins on the devices and I don't like the fact that when I touch the touchscreen it doesn't give me any feedback. So I guess that with regards to portable devices I'm rather fickle and hard to please.
I think I'm typical in that respect. Something that accompanies you everywhere makes for a much more difficult choice than any other regular consumer electronics device. This is what makes this "portable communication device" market so hard to crack. But all sorts of devices are converging and improving and maybe soon there will be another gadget for me to try out. I'm really rooting for Pandora and hope it will be as promised. And I'll totally get one too(if they add a GSM chip, start making it in different colors, surround it with Kevlar, etc.)
I am one of 4000 of the first batch - I hope - I already paid for it. The project seems already running for over 2 years now, pre-orders started last September. Almost every day now there is some new movie or article that another program or driver is ready. Waiting should be over in about 6 weeks. I hope the little gem lives up to it's promises.
I will of course be happy to show you the end result when it finally arrives.