By Anthony Vittal
I spent ten days in Germany in January, where almost everyone is using technology with a vengeance. TV shows on cell phones. VoIP phones in small villages enabling phone calls to the USA for €0.02/minute (about 2.68¢ per minute). Free secure WiFi (or WLAN, as they universally refer to it) even in small hotels in the boondocks. Interactive GPS directional systems that interact with the traffic control systems on the Autobahn to provide advance warning of road hazards and suggest alternative routes.
I was prompted to write this column by seeing the extent to which small form-factor devices have been adopted by German businessmen, such as the elderly banker I saw, sitting in a Hamburg hotel lobby, typing away on his Euro-style ultraportable. Some examples of Ultra Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs) available here, running either Windows XP or Windows Vista:
- Model 2 of the OQO, about which I previously have written, is now available, with more RAM, more disc storage, more data ports, all for about the same price as the original model. The OQO is the world’s smallest fully-functional Windows XP or Vista PC. Where else can you get a full-featured Windows computer the size of a paperback book with a 1.5 Ghz CPU, a 60 GB hard disk drive, and 1 GB of DDR2 RAM? The OQO also offers built-in EVDO (Sprint or Verizon) or UMTS/HSDPA 3G wireless access to the Internet in addition to the built-in WiFi (802.11abg) and Bluetooth transceivers.
- For something with a little more design pizazz, there is the Sony Vaio UX Series of microPCs with touch-screen technology. Available with either a 40 GB hard disk drive or 32 GB of flash RAM for storage, the UX Series uses Cingular’s EDGE network in addition to 802.11b/g WiFi for wireless network access.
- Like the Vaio UX devices, the Samsung Q1 UMPCs offer touch-screen technology driven by Windows XP Tablet. They otherwise are comparable in features, except that the Q1 does not offer Centrino processors (using mobile Pentium or Celeron processors instead) and does not offer WLAN capabilities beyond the 802.11b/g WiFi. It also offers a solid-state “disk drive” to eliminate the power drain and shock sensitivity of a normal had disk drive.
- For something more robust, there is the ruggedized Switchback UMPC from Black Diamond Advanced Technology in Tempe, Arizona. Measuring 7.5" x 5.5" x 2", it weighs 3 pounds, but is available in a magnesium housing and is reinforced with rubber isolators. This UMPC meets or exceeds military specifications for shock, extreme temperatures, vibration, and humidity. The Switchback will run any of Windows XP/CE/Mobile or Linux on an Intel Celeron M processor running at 1 Ghz.
These UMPCs, however, highlight a general problem we all have today—the exponential growth in the volume of information we need to manage and store. I will write more about this in my next column. For now, know that Seagate has developed two new devices, each solving a different aspect of the problem.
- If you are using a Treo or other PDA as your phone and a UMPC, you are limited by the fact the devices will only manage 2 GB of additional RAM, found in a minSD card. Enter DAVE—an acronym for digital audio video experience—which focuses on the intended use for this 10 or 20 GB device. Stated simply, it offers 10–20 GB of additional storage, linked to your PDA via Bluetooth and your PC via Bluetooth or USB. Expect to see DAVE on the marked in the second quarter of this year.
- FreeAgents are a line of pocket-sized portable storage devices, offering up to 750 GB of storage to folks who want to carry their applications and data with them, but not their computers. These devices contain both a drive and a software stack to manage and encrypt files, which are handled using VPN technology. Seagate claims that FreeAgent devices will not leave passwords or data traces on the computers into which they are plugged.
Finally, you may wonder how you can protect your devices against thieves, since they are so small and attractive. Consider LoJack for Laptops, which works on the same principle as LoJack for cars. The company claims a 75 percent recovery rate. Better than nothing.
More in my next column. Until then, the future approaches ever faster.
J. Anthony Vittal (firstname.lastname@example.org) is in private practice with The Vittal Law Firm based in Los Angeles, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics.