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RogerS's Avatar
Posts: 772 | Thanked: 183 times | Joined on Jul 2005 @ Montclair, NJ (NYC suburbs)
I met Reggie in Berlin before the Maemo Summit, and he was working on his presentation, What Users Want (which will be posted soon, btw). I looked over the notes that Krisse Juorunen of Internet Tablet School had sent him and made some suggestions. I thought about how the tablet is being used today and how it might be used -- which was exactly what Ari Jaaksi asked a group of Maemo users the next evening.

I ended up putting my thoughts down on paper (unable to use the hotel's power converters with Nokia's AC-4U battery charger!). I hadn't put in for a speaking slot, so making notes was just a way to keep my head in the topic while Reggie was working on his slides. He didn't finish till 4 a.m. on Thursday night, so I kept writing. Here is what I wrote up but didn't say at the Maemo Summit:

What more do we want?

In Ari Jaaksi's talk at OSiM World, he characterized the reception of the 770 Internet Tablet as people asking, "What is this PDA that doesn't have PDA functions? What is this phone that isn't a phone?"

No one had seen a mobile device like this, explicitly designed for internet use: a full computer without a keyboard, without a hard disk, which fit in your pocket and was light enough that it didn't act like an anchor.[1]

A computer you could use standing up. This was cool, but what was truly revolutionary was that you could surf the internet while on the move. This was so startling, sensible and incredible that all you had to do was use it this way once to understand why you'd want such a tablet. It was nearly two years when I walked twenty blocks down Seventh Avenue in New York on my way into the office, all the while browsing and, but I remember it like it was this morning.

This was real surfing, the real web and not the pseudo-web found on cellphones, web pages at full width, without any sideways scrolling.

As it happens, I belong to the first generation of kids who grew up with computers[2], and the upside of growing up under Moore's Law has been a sharply honed appreciation for the marginal cost of production of electronic goods.[3] In general this means we know we don't have to wait long before we can afford some new feature. But a little-understood side-effect is a widespread suspicion of paying for certain things electronic, especially if the vendor erects artificial barriers around them. Who would pay for email today? Or IM? Or believes that we should have each paid a penny to Unisys every time we used a GIF graphic? After "this long" -- which is measured in seasons, not years -- we don't want to pay for something really useful based on the logic that somebody or other happened to think of first and we owe them.

That is why the second Internet Tablet, the N800, seemed to me to be revolutionary too -- now we could have face-to-face voip calls, visual IM sessions lasting hours if we wanted, untethered from our desks and sidestepping the venal pricing schemes for similar services using cellphones which telecoms wanted to put into effect that were already five to six years out of line.

Likewise, the N810's built-in GPS could enable radically new location-based services -- Where in the museum are all the students on this field trip? What is the painting I'm standing in front of and what does Wikipedia say about it? -- that are conceivable only when you combine the full internet, a full computer and carryaround size.

So I want to note that all three devices have legitimate claims of being revolutionary.

I marvel at that, but that's not what I will expect from Nokia with every new device.

As a strategy, Nokia can't do better than to add applications that take full advantage of its superior screen. We've been told about the coming high-def camera connectivity, which fits this thinking. Likewise, the 800-pixel-wide screen could show more map detail than any GPS screen when Nokia first released its GPS package and then built that technology into the N810. That's the right kind of thinking.

I read over at Tabletblog something Thoughtfix suggested. He said he wanted a bridge app between his camera and blog (and online photo sharing sites) -- something to crop, rotate and color-correct images on the fly. I second that. Anything that facilitates camera-to-web flow makes the Internet Tablet more indispensable.

Stop and think about it. It's not just because of the big screen. The NIT fits into this flow because it's a computer. It has the processor and memory and programmability, way more than anyone can stick in a camera or cellphone. Take advantage of that.

When I'm asked what I want in the tablet -- what users in general might want -- I think about what apps on the desktop will acquire a whole new dimension when untethered from the desktop. Basically I'm just looking for a lesser version of the liberating effect we first experienced when the 770 untethered the web.

So, obviously, I think about e-books, since the most infamous requirement for their success, as Michael Kinsley so memorably put it, is that you can take your reading with you to the john.

Now, of course, FBreader gives us this already, it being probably the best engineered open-source e-reader around, providing the longest list of formats read and the greatest personalization of presentation.

But you can't buy any of tens of thousands of e-books sold by Amazon or Sony for reading on their black-and-white e-Ink devices. Something like one million Sony Readers and Amazon Kindles will be sold this year.

Imagine that -- people paying $359 and $400 for a monochrome, slow-drawing, essentially single-use device just because they like to read.

Nokia -- which was so far-sighted in 1998 that it participated in the creation of the first e-book format -- ought to be hounding Amazon harder than it ever did eBay/Skype to put its proprietary software on the Internet Tablet. All that will do is increase book sales at Amazon, increasing the number of potential customers vastly, and why should that interest Jeff Bezos?

Me, I'm only interested in being able to read Dave Barry's new book, Science Fair, while I'm stuck in my third doctor's waiting room in two days, as I was recently, but that's not even in the realm of possibility[4] if I can't get it electronically because getting to a bookstore is impossible for me these days.

For that matter, I'd like to be able to keep reading that book while I'm driving to and from these doctor's offices and ferrying the kids hither and yon.[5] Text-to-speech counts for double, too -- I get my book and it's something that needs more computer than the cellphones can manage.

Build on your advantages. That's the best expression of what I'd like to see coming from Nokia.

[1] There were "web pads" before the 770 -- WiFi-equipped, touch-sensitive, disk-drive-free tablets, usually running an embedded Linux, like Screen Media's FreePad. But none of them light enough, small enough and inexpensive enough to be indispensable when you walked out the door.

[2] There were fewer than 10,000 computers in existence around the world when I first learned to program as a schoolboy, 85,000 when I bought my own first computer. That put me in the first .01 percent of computer owners and a user of the first .001 percent of computers.

[3] See The Law of Computer Entropy.

[4] Actually, Science Fair's release date is October 14, so that's another reason.

[5] On the level of Samantha, Sangeeta and Lee, voices from RealSpeak TTS, Callie from Cepstral or Heather from Acapala Group.
Read the full article.

Last edited by RogerS; 2008-10-07 at 17:35.

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Text-to-speech can't really work on a tablet until Nokia or someone develops good voices for use in Linux. It apparently takes a lot of work to develop a decent voice rather than the computer-tinged voices that are so common even in Windows. But there are a few good voices in Windows, good enough that for a moment one can even get the illusion that they might be human. I recently purchased one called Samantha, and I am finishing Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White using Samantha. I recently finished Pride and Prejudice using Samantha as well.

In fact, text-to-speech is the main reason I ever run Windows these days, but I like text-to-speech enough that I tend to permanently keep one computer in Windows. (I also use it for watching Netflix instant movies.)

As you might be able to tell from my literature choices, I love Project Gutenberg, and am not so attracted by Kindle or the Sony Reader, because I don't like to pay. However, the magic of being able to download a current book while sitting in a hospital waiting room, which I recently did using my Centro, was amazing. Unfortunately, it was an audiobook from, which didn't work in that situation because I didn't have headphones with me. But something about it was fantastic anyway.

The whole world of audio and text has not made the next logical jump, which I think is where the real future of books on computers lies. Why do I have to choose between audio and text? Why not scrolling text, with audio? That is great, and in Windows, I can get that using TextAloud and a good Windows voice. In many cases, I actually PREFER a computer voice to a human voice, because I can't get a human voice accompanied by scrolling text!

I understand that there are excellent voices for Macs, too, by the way. I have heard demos that sounded fantastic. One user said his Mac sings to him.

I still dream of being told bedtime stories by Marylin Monroe, or getting the current news from a Walter Cronkite in his prime. I think that such voices will become available, but perhaps not for five or ten years.
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Visual IM for HOURS untethered? What kind of battery are you using?
RogerS's Avatar
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Yes, I agree about the quality of Samantha [um-m, see footnote 5].

And certainly the disparity between Windows and Linux TTS is well noted; I guess that means that UMPC's have this feature now and NIT's don't.
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Originally Posted by geneven View Post
Text-to-speech can't really work on a tablet until Nokia or someone develops good voices for use in Linux.

But there are a few good voices in Windows (...) I recently purchased one called Samantha

I love Project Gutenberg, and am not so attracted by Kindle or the Sony Reader, because I don't like to pay.
I understand that there are excellent voices for Macs, too, by the way.
As you see it's a business problem. You get enough Windows and Mac customers willing to pay for a good voice, but this is harder to get in Linux.

I also hope the Linux mobile context (with many commercial players in addition to Nokia) helps creating this market, or changing the business model in a way that makes feasible to offer those very human voices.
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Originally Posted by RogerS
A computer you could use standing up.
The above is exactly what I like too. What's funny though is that almost everything you then listed up is of no interest to me.. I don't do most of those things with a computer, not at the desktop and thus that's not what I was missing before the computer I could use standing up arrived.. (the N800).

I use it all the time, but I have very little interest in e.g. location "services", or such things. (The only non-desktop thing I do with it is navigation/mapping, but that's not what I've understood as 'location services' which seems to me to be more of some people's business model for finding places to shop or eat.)
-- Metalayer-crawler delenda est.
-- Current state: Fed up with everything MeeGo.

Last edited by TA-t3; 2008-10-08 at 11:40.
RogerS's Avatar
Posts: 772 | Thanked: 183 times | Joined on Jul 2005 @ Montclair, NJ (NYC suburbs)
Originally Posted by TA-t3 View Post
(The only non-desktop thing I do with it is navigation/mapping, but that's not what I've understood as 'location services' which seems to me to be more of some people's business model for finding places to shop or eat.)
You're right that the only location services ever talked about being monetized are based on getting advertisers to pay for listing them when they are near your location.

I may be in a minority of one, but I'm using the term to mean any use that depends on GPS (or any location-approximation method) -- maybe to order information like restaurants or shops in a more meaningful way to you than alphabetization (eg, proximity) but also to initiate agents that get you other kinds of info, like the two examples I suggested.

Basically, if we don't begin to use location services in this broader way, it will eventually mean only the more-limited uses you identify.
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In an earlier post I suggested that distinctly new social behaviors resulting from mobile-device technology awaits applications based upon users' physical location, i.e., finding the location of assenting users' devices.

Re: Whither the revolution?

We should not forget that social networks are the drivers of revolutions (to say the very least). Clearly, Nokia makes fine stand-alone NITs, like my N800. But all current devices fall short in a key social feature necessary to drive a (capital "R") revolution: mobile device interconnectivity. By that I mean enabling two or more arbitrary NITs to selectively connect without requiring intermediating servers, routers and so on.

Nokia and Apple products are quite designerly, but it is more than mere rumor that people are inclined to connect in the local, physical space (as opposed to the dated concept of Internet space). Nokia, polished designs are not sufficient. Make them connectable, networkable. Do that well and you will witness a true Revolution!
Without effort I can think of a half-dozen new and compelling applications that devolve from location-aware devices. One of which could pay for the reduced cost of the attendant devices' broad market penetration and requisite infrastructure. Obviously, a free community-wide, wireless system's infrastructure has to be subsidized either by taxes (the community pays) or by commercial applications out of which are derived beneficial public applications (such as, but not limited to, community mesh networks).

Objectively, it is fascinating to me that Nokia, with all its technical prowess, masterly design sensitivities and market presence, apparently can't see the forest for the (individual) trees. (Clearly, this viewpoint derives from the industry's historical predisposition to view the comms device as a personal [individual's] fashion gadget.)

An alternative view -- -- is that individuals tend to spontaneously form dynamical communities through their (often fleeting) interactions. By adding a new multimedic mode to human interactions, we increase the dimensionality of possible social phenomena. That is, we add an entirely new space to social interaction and, magically, the resulting unexploited space (a pre-ecosystem) fosters an explosion of innovation.

Anyone interested in further information, refs., biblio, etc., need only message me.

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