The 17h user experience

Saturday was a rather unusual day. Sometimes one stays up late as things swirl around in one's head - I woke up at around noon, I got up but then went back to bed, and actually got up for real at 21:00... I fell asleep again after 5:00. I think it was one of those days when one needs to offload some stress, so I ended up lazing online for what appears to have been around 17 hours. Let's see what kind of applications went into this session:

  • IRC
  • Browsing news/portals
  • Web 2.0 services (blog, sig editing)
  • Web forums
  • Gaming
  • Movies

Apparently a device that can handle all that needs to be pretty powerful. It needs a comfortable UI and good ergonomy to be pleasant through the extremely long session. It needs to be convenient enough so you can take it to bed. I find my new IBM laptop to be a such superdevice: with its 2.0 GHz Intel processor etc, it should have plenty of power, even for the latest games (if it had decent 3D), and actually I think this kind of a full blown laptop is one of the most ergonomic computing devices. The screen can fit lots of stuff at its 1400x1050 resolution. When I sit in my arm chair, legs resting on a smaller chair and all my body relaxed, there is little strain from the use of this thing. It is just superb - the device fades into the background and I can concentrate on the application with no limitations.

I must confess that this is not the whole picture: for 1 hour I went to my old desktop (with 1.2 GHz AMD CPU from 5 years back), for the gaming part of the session. The desktop is not the more powerful device here, but it has the gaming-oriented 3D hardware, and runs a Windows installation (my laptop only has Linux) with Homeworld 2, a RTS from 3 years back. It also has a 2" trackball which is closer to what a regular mouse can do than the little joystick+buttons combo on the laptop.

The point here is that a regular laptop is quite a killer for this kind of casual use, as long as you don't leave your home. You can carry it around with a bit of effort, just replug cables etc. It's also a nice tool if you have to go somewhere, such as your office, though you must give some thought to how you actually are going to carry it. (But it's fairly easily done even if you are say, going by bicycle or inline skating.) The new mobile devices are really going to have a run for their money. It is true that you could just casually bring a UMPC or a carrypad from one room to the next, but the user experience is going to be much more limited, so I really wonder if many consumers will want such devices for these scenarios.

You could run all of the above applications with say, a Nokia 770. (3D games of course would not run on it, but you could easily enjoy Mahjongg or something for an hour and beyond.) However, it would be no fun to do it for hours on end. Movie playback is a bit choppy. The screen is a tad small for browsing. For IRC and web services, the absence of a keyboard makes it slow going for discussion and productivity. The point of this kind of a device is not that it is nice and enjoyable to do all the stuff - though even the 770 has a huge advantage over s60 smart phones - but rather, the mobility. You can do it anywhere easily, not just 10 meters from your bed, but in the bar, in the store, or on the opposite side of the globe. Ubiquitous, powerful connectivity and processing capacity.

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