[FoRK] The form factor is the application, part N (tablets, keyboards, couches, etc...)

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Jan 20 10:40:50 PST 2010

Jeff Bone wrote:
> I've said for ages that "the form factor is the application" --- and 
> apropos tablets, while I have been a big cheerleader for years on that 
> front I've also been skeptical that they'll replace e.g. laptops and 
> other keyboarded devices.  I've said they'll generally be read-mostly 
> devices, as you can't get away from the efficiencies of keyboards for 
> text entry-intensive applications.  (Nb., convertibles and devices 
> that can be used w/ external keyboards get around this, of course.)
> Here's an input-UI innovation that might render that point-of-view 
> re:  text entry and tablets incorrect:
>   http://www.i4u.com/article30088.html
> Basically, the corner-anchored radial virtual keyboard design allows 
> for thumb-typing ala texting w/o requiring stabilizing the tablet by 
> putting it down.  Given how fast some folks can learn to enter text on 
> tiny smartphone keyboards, this might well allow the larger devices to 
> be practical for real text entry.  I doubt it'll suffice for e.g. 
> development purposes, but it might work well enough for e.g. e-mail 
> and document creation purposes.  We'll see...

Perhaps, have to use it for a while.  It is hard to get away from a 
keyboard.  Palm/Blackberry style keypads are really not bad.  Most 
people think they would be terrible before using them, however you just 
have to get it by using them.  Touch screens just don't have the tactile 
feel (no keys), although the tactile feedback (on keypress) from the HTC 
Hero Android phone is very nice and helps.  It seems like, at least in 
one mode, that this would be a great application for voice.  English 
words should be fairly easy, while there should be a separate mode that 
supports geek-speak for any character: dot bang left brace right bracket 
carret star hash pipe...  I'd like a combo mode: type or speak words 
(privacy vs. hands free), speak special characters so I don't have to go 
find them in a layered interface.

> (Seeing this brought back some vague recollection of seeing this kind 
> of thing in some Apple patent application...  anybody have similar 
> recollection / pointer to same?  Obviously, these guys were unaware of 
> any such IP.  Back to barriers to entry... ;-)
> Similarly, this next gizmo, while clearly being a piece-o-crap, 
> suggests some intriguing possibilities for the use of on-screen 
> display of applications on large, fixed screens  at some distance --- 
> e.g., the living room setting:
>   http://www.usbgeek.com/prod_detail.php?prod_id=1219

App for your smartphone (i.e. a real one with a keyboard) for a buck.  
Bonus: 3D mouse, web cam, microphone.
> Cool stuff.
> jb
> PS - despite being an iPhone user since the initial launch, I still 
> can't type well enough on its virtual keyboard (in either landscape or 
> portrait) to make it tolerable for anything but the most trivial text 
> entry.  So much so that I nearly traded it for a G-1 when they came 
> out, but application lock-in prevented the transition.  My kingdom for 
> an iPhone with a slide-out physical keyboard....
While using a upc (micro pc) a few years ago, I researched and tried a 
couple Bluetooth foldout keyboards.  I have an uber-geeky belt pack 
(Civilian Labs, Gear Harness) where I can hold a PC, bluetooth keyboard, 
spare battery, charger, and WWAN USB dongle in a pack about 6"x4.5"x3".  
And it has a leg strap so I could even run with it if necessary.

The keyboard I liked best was a Think Outside Stowaway Seirra Bluetooth 
Keyboard.  I see there is (or rather was) a slimmer version without 
function keys.  Not ideal, however it allowed handheld / full desktop 
mode switching pretty well.  I traveled, programmed, wrote, and took 
notes at a few W3C meetings with it.


More information about the FoRK mailing list