Om Malik: What Makes a Cloud Computer?

Om Malik has been checking out the new class of ultra-net-mini-sub-low cost portables, most specifically the HP 2133 Mini-Note and thinks that they are a “genetic experiment gone wrong.”  He sees some pluses but mostly he sees minuses and he lists a spate of features that he feels should qualify a device in this category.

  1. Instant On
  2. Doesn’t generate too much heat.
  3. Minimum 5 hours of battery life.
  4. Must feature at least four communications options: WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth & Wireless Wide Area Network connection to, say, an EVDO or HSPA Network.
  5. Less than three pounds (Batteries included).
  6. Screen size of 3.5 to 8 inches (wide-screen proportioned)
  7. The primary function of the computer should be cloud-based activities that can include everything from listening to live music, reading blogs and watching videos. Writing research reports or cranking out spreadsheets isn’t the primary purpose of these machines.
  8. It should cost no more than $300. This isn’t a computer; it’s a communications device. It should really be an on-the-go device. It is a device for the moments when your cellphone isn’t enough, and laptop is too much. An iPhone should qualify.
  9. Its innards, ports should be geared for Internet-based activities — from making calls on Skype to consuming RSS feeds — though it should be able to handle external peripherals.
  10. In the future it should move away from the keyboard and have a touchscreen interface that allows one to sift through large amounts of data (or web pages) quickly, as cramped keyboards and touchpads can be hard to use.

I can’t say that Om is far off and his list of specs make sense, especially when it comes to price. I think we’re a ways off from seeing that consistently, although a few are trying to make that happen. The most interesting spec he lists though is number 10. It makes Om’s ideal device sound very much like a UMPC.  It raises the long term question about how this class of devices is going to play with Windows 7 and its multi-touch environment. Will they stay away from touch screens and stick with Linux and the Windows XP environment (as long as they are able to) or are we going to see development that actually puts touch screens on these devices in the future? I’m not holding my breath for the answer to that question, and if nothing else, the rise of the ultra-net-mini-sub low cost portable class has proven that the market won’t either.