December 12, 2010

Since the iPad was released, there’s been much excitement about add-on keyboards using either Bluetooth or its dock connector. (So far, only Apple’s Keyboard Dock has taken the latter approach, and it’s not a particularly travel-friendly item.) The iPad helped inspire me to write an ode to to the old Stowaway keyboard originally developed by ThinkOutside.

So far, variations of most keyboard-case combos have met with pretty poor reviews due to the mushiness and membrane-like quality of the keyboard. The ZAGGmate, though, offers individual keys. They would also be mushy enough to earn the ire of any reviewer if they were on a notebook, but they’re an improvement over most of what’s out there as well as, of course, the existing screen-based keyboard . While I’ve seen some people sail along on its smooth surface, I find myself making at least as many errors as I do on the iPhone’s keyboard. Perhaps that is due to less frequent use.

The ZAGGmate allows the iPad can be stored  inside its aluminum housing to protect the screen. However, this leaves the back of the device unprotected. ZAGG, of course, will be happy to sell you an Invisible Shield to fix that problem, but you can also throw the combination in a standard 8” netbook slipcase for further protection. The makers of the ClamCase have updated their site to note that its product will be shipping soon. At least until then, though, the ZAGGmate is a great companion for the iPad, which I have taken to use at conferences due to its long battery life and variety of note-taking applications.

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March 18, 2009

image It’s paradoxical that Apple will support a wild array of devices in iPhone 3.0 but, at least as of yesterday, the company did not announce general support for external keyboards via either the dock connector or the HID Bluetooth profile. I’ve blogged before that a small folding case enclosing a keyboard and an iPhone/iPod touch would be a popular accessory and provide a competitive response to other smartphones that include a QWERTY keyboard. The iPhone software will be in an even better position to capitalize on such a keyboard once mail and other applications are available in a landscape orientation.

I believe that external keyboards are something Apple hasn’t yet supported as opposed to doesn’t want to support. However, there may be hope for one even if Apple doesn’t support them generally. Here’s how it would work. You purchase the keyboard and when you plug it in to Apple’s dock connector, it pops up a special writing application custom-developed for use with the keyboard. When you’re done writing, the app could take advantage of the new in-app e-mail or copy and paste functionality to transfer the text elsewhere. This is similar to how the now-endangered landscape-orientation mail writing applications work today. Of course, it’s all a giant kludge, but one I’d be willing to endure.

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April 30, 2008

Earlier this week, I got some brief hands-on time with the HP Mini-Note. While I only typed on it for a minute or two, I came away impressed. Without question, the keyboard is a highlight of the product. It feels more than generous at 92 percent of full size. And with its flat profile and thin gaps between keys, it may be best-looking keyboards on any computer.

In fact, HP definitely has an opportunity to either shrink the keys or expand the screen to 10″ as I was surprised at how small the 9-incher seemed. The bezel, while not as big as that on the 7-inch Eee, still looks abnormally large. Also, while the screen resolution on the Mini-Note is very high for a nine-inch screen. I’ve seen some reviewers say that text is too small to read. It’s definitely small, but I wasn’t squinting. Perhaps I would on some Web pages.

While the Mini-Note is only a bit more than an inch thick, its small footprint makes it look a bit chunky. And of course the entire profile is ruined if you add HP’s extended battery, which adds what I call “the goiter effect.” Finally, while the side-mounted trackpad buttons were in an unfamiliar position at first and could turn off some prospects at first glance, using them didn’t seem awkward. I can see a lot of students falling in love with this little guy.

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February 25, 2008

Ryan Block has posted about his experiences with a  shipping Optimus Maxmus and comes away frustrated by its lack of practicality. I’d gotten hands on myself late last year at the Wired Store 2008 on Greene Street . It offered a chance to compare Guitar Hero III and Rock Band head-to-head, see how well you like your Lenovo in leather, and even pick up a few free magazines.. Probably the most disappointing product I saw there was the Epson MovieMate projector with integrated DVD that was in a tiny home theater area. the speakers sounded hollow even in the small room they were set up in.

The Optimus Maximus struck me as a tank with disco lights. I too found it hard to type on but chalked it up to it being a pre-production version. Apparently, that wasn’t the cause.

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