Kno debuts at D8, a GIANT Courier-like dual-screen tablet

Kno, formerly known at Kakai, formally unveiled their dual-screen tablet at D8, and it is BIG! No, I mean, literally big, as in this guy holding the Kno is not a hobbit. On the plus side, the guys at Kno are serious about pen input.

As shown at D8 with additional details from Barron’s, the Kno sports a pair of 14″ widescreen displays held together by seat belt-like fabric straps. It weighs 5.5 pounds, is equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth (no mobile connectivity), and runs a Linux-based OS with support for Office documents and PDFs. They also plan to have a laptop mode and on-screen keyboard for text entry. No mention of handwriting recognition, but they promote pen input as being essential for learning; the Kno is aimed at the student market. No word on processor, but it runs NVIDIA Tegra, so it’s ARM-based. Battery life is expected to be 6-8 hours. Target price is under $1,000.

First, I want to commend the folks at Kno for taking pen input seriously and putting together a package that hits several key mobility points. That said, are you kidding me with the size of this thing? My own personal, daily-use Tablet PC is a Toshiba Tecra M7 with 14″ widescreen that weighs nearly six pounds, and I’m in slate mode on it most of the time. Trust me, using a device this big in slate mode is problematic enough with a single screen. I cannot imagine a dual screen device of that size and weight being the least bit practical.

Yes, it is a lot lighter than the usual combination of paper-based books and notebooks the Kno would replace. It should work great in a bookbag, but in use, it’s like a notebook of legal-sized paper. Why is that a problem? Do a search on “legal notebook”. Notice how they don’t make notebooks loaded with legal-sized paper. There are plenty of legal notepads, which offer one legal-sized page at a time, but not notebooks. A single-screen slate this size is like working on a legal pad. A dual-screen slate this size is like working on a notebook that no one uses. That should have been a red flag.

Also disappointing is the fabric-based hinge. Makes it impractical to use unless at a desk or flat surface. If you’re standing or sitting at bench, you’d need to use both hands to hold it. Just to hold it. No pen input unless you fold a screen back or let it flap in the wind (sorry, guess they figured that out). Furthermore, in their demo, they used a stand to hold the Kno up at an angle. Excellent idea, so why isn’t that part of the design?

Sorry for dumping on the Kno parade like this, but based on my own experience working with a tablet this size and weight every day, I feel compelled to point out the critical flaws in this initial structure. Also note that the Courier project started off (presumably) as Codex by Ken Hinckley, which was two OQOs on a moleskine. That’s a good size for a dual-screen tablet. The enTourage eDGe with its 10″ screens and 3 lbs is, I feel, about as big and heavy as one can go. Dual 14″ widescreens at 5.5 lbs is way too much. Again, I like everything else they’re trying to do with it, but none of that matters if the device is too cumbersome for people to use. If the Kno folks cut down the size, then I can worry about the other stuff.