January 10, 2010

More on Que! (more what!?)

Well, there is more information coming in about Plastic Logic's Que (what!?) device. Just taking the ones from Engadget that I've been going through as a starting point, here are the sources and my impressions:


My first impressions

People love thin! Who can complain about that? Not the same sort of trade-off arguments we could have about display or device area. Thin is great....providing it doesn't bend or break due to that thinness.

Despite Engadget stating:
    "the 1 second-ish page refresh rate makes it pretty usable"
I have my doubts. 
In the videos I've seen it looks a bit on the slow side and not truly interactive. There were times while waiting for an update when I thought they hadn't hit the touchscreen.
The increase in display area is working against them and they have quite a few bits to render every time the screen changes all it's contents. But that is an area that they can work on optimizing in their software, and improvements in low-power mobile processors, flash and memory will all work in their favor, so I expect to see some improvements in this area over time.

Images and grey-scale graphics (see Magazine cover from in-depth hands-on video link above) look really good from what I've seen.

Recovering vocabulary
Maybe it will herald a new era for the recently maligned word "Plastic" where it becomes an acceptable, indeed sought after characteristic. 
         "It's great. It's so .... plastic"
         "It's so plasticky, it's great"
I wonder if we could design an eReader such that people marveled at how "paper-like" it felt (to read and to write on!)?

The "glass bottle full of ink" design-speak hasn't got me convinced that a piano-black glossy finish is the best for the bezel/body of the device. It's a magnet for finger prints, and we'll see how it fairs for scratches, especially if someone takes the device on the road in their bag.

Home Key out of place
From the video showing it's use in landscape mode I propose that they have the home-key in the wrong corner (assigning that turning clockwise to landscape mode is the "best" direction to turn it). The reviewed accidentally hits it a few times while holding the device and typing and sends him back to Home, out of his work, and places in Portrait mode. Locating it at top-left would be better in my mind, being less likely to be hit by accident and still "OK" to be pressed deliberately every now and again.

Plenty of space
With that big display and nice resolution there is plenty of screen real-estate and it's a luxury to have so much on-screen at a glance. 

Business documents in PDF or office formats look good, and no scrolling-and-panning to see it all. Even that big spreadsheet will be readable...

The UI looks pretty nice, but as they say: "the proof is in the pudding", so I'll have to wait to get the chance to use it to form a real opinion.

Rough Edges
I thought a saw a bit of roughness around the edges in the touchscreen operation, with touches not recognized, or gestures not interpreted. They openly talk about "spurious touches" which doesn't inspire confidence!

Apple has set a very high-bar in this area with the iPhone, and everyone is still chasing them even after years have passed.

It may take a bit more work to refine it's operation, but they should get there....maybe the first buyers will have some frustrations, or firmware updates will iron out any kinks in first versions.

If they do really get to a "light touch" touchscreen stage, then they may need some smart gesture recognition software and "palm/hand rejection" algorithms, as casual, unintended, touches could become very annoying.

Also, they force landscape rotation for some features, and force portrait for other, with no ability for the user to rotate contents. That is something I would allow the user to control (with or without accelerometer) and won't be surprised if they add it via software in the future.

SD missing
I am personally more and more coming to rely on SD (Secure Digital) as a convenient "sneakernet" way of moving Gigs of content around, fast and efficiently. 
I have SD slots in my phones (microSD), cameras, various laptops, various eReaders, even Nintendo DS via an adapter that converts micro-SD to Nintendo slot.

Small and light. No need to carry cables, no Host vs. Slave problems (USB!) no need for broadband connectivity (mobile, 3G, WiFi or otherwise) or the need to use something like Bluetooth (which I have on few devices) and no restrictions while flying or out of coverage, and off-course no charges.

Even "Mister Minimal" himself over at Apple has caved after a long wait and newer Macbooks have an SD slot!

So, I think the omission of an SD slot is an error that they should fix ASAP. It just works too well and is too convenient to be ignored. Most micro-SD cards (and mini also) come with a converter to full SD size and so no problem there. Provide a full-sized SD card slot and be done with it.

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