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A $200 Tablet?

A recent blog post on TechCrunch discusses their plans to try for the construction of a $200 tablet for light browsing with a modified Firefox 3 (in a special kiosk mode) and VOIP thanks to Skype. Now, we’ve heard rumblings of low-cost, touch-based computing devices before. Remember concept stuff from the XO-2 which was supposed to be the second OLPC? The idea was to have it be an ebook-style device with dual touchscreens and a sub-$100 price tag. Shortly following the announcement by the OLPC guys, some researchers from Maryland and Berkeley showed of a prototype ebook reader that responded to hand-generated movement like opening and closing the leaves to advance the displayed pages. While the dream of a lightweight, $200 tablet seems a little far-fetched, the blog post does show that some serious thought went into this. They are very insistent that the proposed device run a stripped down version of Linux that will boot right into Firefox instead of a traditional desktop. From there, the plan is to have a special start page with “large buttons for bookmarked services” linking to sites of great interest and/or utility. With this in mind, it stands to reason that SproutCore would be an excellent way to build this start page. By designing the startup page as a SproutCore application, the whole experience can be constructed in a completely customized way while still maintaining whatever parts of the traditional application experience are desired. Furthermore, SproutCore apps can be cached can be automagically and transparently upgraded as well as cached on the client so that basic functionality can be maintained even in the absence of a WiFi link. After a little bit of thought, I think that the main interface (with the big buttons) should be a draggable grid of icons so that a user may reposition applications according to their preferences and usage patterns. Additionally, there should be a basic configuration interface allowing users to add or remove sites from the startup page. After that, anything else seems like an added complication even if it’s really, really interesting.

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