Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What a Tablet Computer Could and Should Be

With all the hype over Apple's iPad and the feasibility of having your own custom-made touchscreen tablet computer, I think we deserve a better user experience of how we can acquire and interact with a touchscreen tablet computer (which from here onwards we will refer to as tablet computers to save on tongue twisting effort). We will not discuss the usual desirables, like durable and eco-friendly parts and components, fast responding user interface, smooth graphics, and high fidelity (that's oldspeak for hi-fi) sound, they should be standard features.

Below is a list of proposed improvements every tablet computer could and should have:
  • Have Dvorak keyboard layout as option
  • Make Internet access via Wi-fi AND Bluetooth easy
  • Fast, compact, standard compliant web browser
  • Open standard video and audio support
  • Text-to-speech book and news reader built-in
  • Must be social network agnostic
  • Interface port
  • No cellular phone capability
  • Use BSD operating system instead
Below are the rationale for the proposals we have above.

Have Dvorak keyboard layout as option
I have to commend Apple Store for ease of customizing iPad when you buy it online, but why don't they include alternative keyboard layout like the Dvorak? It's supposed to be just a software, many Dvorak users yearn for a tablet computer with this feature and given the capability of the processors and memory capacity of current generation tablet computers, it's a lame excuse, rather than a justifiable omission of feature.

Did you know that the fastest typist in the world used this keyboard layout? Even Apple's Steve Wozniak prefer it

Make Internet access via Wi-fi AND Bluetooth easy
Tethering, that summarizes the feature I wish every tablet computer should have. 3G network-capable cellphones are prolific nowadays that when Wi-fi internet access isn't available, the cellphone should come in handy with this capability, hopefully most if not all cellphones would simplify the tethering process.

Fast, compact, standard compliant web browser
Firefox and Opera (albeit closed source) have mobile browsers for every mobile platform I've seen so far, I hope more lightweight web browsers also come into play, like Links, Lynx (the home page pointed to by Wikipedia seems dead), and W3C's Amaya. Usual computing tasks like word processing, spreadsheet and presentation can be augmented by likes of Google Docs, making the browser one of, if not the most critical application on the tablet computer.

Open standard video and audio support
Ogg, Vorbis, Theora, Dirac, VP8 come into mind when open standard multimedia and audio-visual features are concerned, ensuring that we have free, open source and standard compliant audio and video formats that no single entity can render obsolete, while giving everyone access to audio-visual information.

Text-to-speech book and news reader
The tablet computer should have a built-in all purpose text-to-speech application, with books and news rendered with DAISY format markup, making the tablet computer accessible also to the visually impaired.

Tablet computer must be social network agnostic
Contrary to popular belief, I think it's more practical to have no social network-specific application built-in within the tablet computer system. By that I mean no likes of Facebook and Twitter-specific apps because when these things become passe, their icon will just clutter the display.

Interface port
The tablet computer should have data gathering capabilities provided thru an expansion slot to connect barcode readers, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, magnetic stripe card readers, or smart card readers, and other data capture facility.

No cellular phone capability
A tablet computer is not a cellular phone and no cellular phone should look like a tablet computer, if we have to explain any further, please look at the picture of making a phone call via a tablet computer below:

Uncool phone

Use BSD operating system instead
This may seem political rather than technical for some, but compared to zillions of options for Linux (to be more politically correct: GNU/Linux) distribution, you have only three (yes 3 because DragonflyBSD is a spin-off of FreeBSD) choices for free and open source BSD operating system, and they are all equally viable to be your tablet computer's operating system: NetBSD (the all portable), OpenBSD (the all secure), and FreeBSD (the all reliable). Who's to say that Apple's iOS does not actually have strains of FreeBSD under its skin? Besides, given the way a Linux-based OS is built, you have more of a Frankenstein monster than the thoroughbred system in place.

Isn't that cute? What every Linux-based operating systems visually are, disparate parts patched and hacked together, hoping it won't fall apart

What every BSD operating system symbolically are, gracefully fast. Talk about a system that kicks!

Given that we have a multi-function tablet computer at our disposal, here are some drawbacks with a muti-function device:
  • When one or more functionality isn't working properly, our perception of the whole product is already affected.
  • When a multi-function device is stolen, we have lost all benefits in one swoop (lost and found departments don't seem to work like they used to).
Provided those drawbacks, I think tablet computers are here to stay, and hopefully most if not all my proposed improvements would make it in the mainstream for the benefit of the user.


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