Friday, May 4, 2007

The OQO 02 Represents a Tidal Shift in Computing

I don't think I have ever been this excited about a product...ever. Well, maybe that R2D2 remote control robot that I hounded my parents for for Christmas back in 1980 comes close. But those were the foolish antics of a child. I'm now a grown man yet acting like a child waiting for Christmas to arrive. Why?

There are a lot of reasons: It's sexy. It's cool. It's beautiful, no doubt. But the biggest reason is because it represents a tidal shift in computing and tidal shifts don't happen that often.

The computer industry has seen one other such shift and that was in 1984 when Apple introduced the first Mac. Remember that Super Bowl ad when the Mac was first introduced? The Mac ushered in an incredible change to the nascent consumer-oriented computer market. The excitement that the first Macintosh created back in 1984 was unique because it changed how we think about computers and how we relate to them. The computer was no longer for geeks and hobbyists. It was about fun and how everyday people could use one.

In the years since 1984 I haven't experienced anything remotely similar to the charge of excitement I felt when the original Mac rolled out. Yeah, we had the IBM Peanut (don't tell me you don't remember the Peanut). Yeah, we had the first Mac Luggable (the 16lbs. behemoth pictured at right that I still have tucked away in my garage). Yeah, we had the Palm. But nothing, not even from Apple has come close to that original excitement.

But I'm telling you that the OQO Model 02 is giving me that same level of excitement. It is exciting because the OQO represents that rare and significant shift that only occurs once every 20 years or so. The OQO model 02 is changing how we view and relate and ultimately how we're going to use computers. To date, we have been tethered to the desk. Our entire computing experience confined to the the desktop on which our monitor and/or laptop rests. Yes, the laptop is transportable but only from one flat surface to another. It is not mobile.

Our computing experience has not really changed since the first PC was introduced in 1981. 1981. 26 years ago. It has been 26 years that we have been tethered to the desk. Longer if you consider the first Apple and the Elf build-it-yourself kits. 26 years of innovation, yes. 26 years of incremental improvement, to be sure. But it's been 26 years focused on a singular computer use case: sitting at your desk.

Now along comes the OQO: A full featured, connected desktop computer, that fits in the palm of my hand. The OQO is the first desktop computer that I can literally pick up like a mobile phone and go on my way. The OQO isn't just transportable, it is ultra mobile. Its diminutive size means I can carry it with me all the time. I can have my entire desktop with me all the time. All my work files. All my media. All my email. All my contacts. All my client data. All my software. All my bookmarks. My entire computing experience is with me all the time. Having your entire computing experience with you all the time opens up exciting new use cases for computing. These are use cases that we have never seen and that have never been possible until today and that is exciting. Imagine how everyday things, things we take for granted, change...

" That presentation file isn't on my Blackberry and my co-worker really needs it right now to close the deal. I wish I were back at the office." No problem, you have your desktop PC and all your documents right there in your pocket. Find the file, edit it if you need to and send it right from your OQO. Isn't it nice not having to remember to sync?

"Oh no, the client called and said their servers went down. I better rush back to the operations center to restart them." Or, I can open a remote server terminal window on my OQO and login into the servers directly and take care of the problem.

"I'm going to be fired. I have a Skype call with those investors in 3 minutes and I'm stuck in traffic because that tanker truck hit the overpass and melted it and now I have to take this ridiculous detour." Thank God you can Skype in from your OQO and no one will know the wiser.

"Are you enjoying the Salmon darling? Hold on... What's that? What do you mean I checked in the wrong file and now the site is displaying pictures of the release party?!" Good thing you have your OQO and your entire development environment right in the palm of your hand. Comment out that easter egg line, recompile and repost right from the OQO then it's back to Salmon with wasabi ginger sauce.

I think you get the picture. The significance of this anytime/anywhere computing is so monumental (and I don't use that word lightly) that it is almost impossible to foresee all its implications. These examples only show how a small form factor device like the OQO will radically change the ways we already use the PC. The ultramobility of these devices will also usher in entirely new use cases for PC computing. New applications. New user interfaces. New computing experiences are waiting to be discovered.

What does it mean to our productivity, our interactions, how we work, play, socialize, entertain, relax when the PC is with you all the time. Think about how much time we spend behind our monitors now. How will those experiences change? What is the next killer app for these devices (and believe me there is one waiting to be discovered)? These questions excite me and for the first time, I (almost) have the product in my hands that will allow me to explore them.

Why am I so excited about my OQO? Because I can't wait for the future to arrive. The chance to be that guy who fixes the website and averts a crisis while at Aqua. Who restarts a downed server for the client while at the bookstore. Who forwards the presentation and saves the account while at the movies. Who wouldn't be excited to be that guy?


Alex said...

I look forward to hearing your comparisons of this device compared to the Q1. I went with the Q1 because I thought 7" was as small as I could go in screen size. But it must be nice to have a 'pocketable' device such as the OQO 02.

neil balthaser said...

Hi Alex, Thanks for the comment I haven't yet received my OQO 02 -still backordered.I love my Samsung Q1P as it fits nearly all my needs perfectly: small, mobile, powerful, quiet. I'm getting the OQO mainly because it is smaller and I want to explore those new use cases that arise out of this smaller form factors. I will definitely update this blog once I've had a chance to use the OQO for a bit.

Alex said...

You should check out Hugo Ortega's blog. He was a Q1 user and now has an OQO.

Anonymous said...

what about the sony ux? the current models 380 and 390 have all that the oqo does and also run on actual intel (faster) processors, can handle vista aero without problem (dedicated graphics), and include fingerprint reader and multiple cameras. and size/form factor is smaller than oqo, except in depth, and there the difference is less than half an inch. sony has been out with ux for over a year now. not saying sony is better than oqo (i don't know), but wondering how oqo changes the field if sony didn't already? (i know, sony doesn't have built in ev-do, but you can get a usb ev-do adapter from sprint or verizon for free and run Rev A ev-do; the oqo's built-in ev-do from both only runs Rev 0, which is slower -- there is a ces interview with the marketing vp from oqo back in january on the web in which he is asked that question and answers it.)

Al Iverson said...

The Sony UX series has an awful keyboard. Tried it at a few stores. Could never stand using it even for thumb typing on the train. That, and Cingular as the data service provider, were huge turn offs for me. Love the solid state drive, battery life, and speed (potentially beats the OQO on head to head tests).

I ordered an OQO 02 last week.

I wonder if the Sprint data service and reception will be good enough to allow use of Skype? I'm a huge Skype user currently. I've used Verizon and found it to be just at the low end of tolerable, bandwith-wise, for Skype.

neil balthaser said...

Hi Al, thanks for visiting my blog. I have not tried the UX but I hear it is zippy. Unfortunately, I also hear a lot of complaints about its keyboard as well.

Regarding Sprint on my OQO 02. I just signed up for it yesterday and *love* it. It is fast and extremely easy to use. I highly recommend it however your mileage may vary depending on your Sprint EVDO coverage. I'm in the Bay Area so coverage is very good.

I will be doing a full review of the 02 shortly. My review will focus on initial impressions, and user experience/use cases.

Let me know what you think of the OQO 02 when you receive it!

Anonymous said...


Re Sprint, glad to hear it's working well. What average speeds are you seeing? I tried a Verizon model last weekend in New York at RCS (they have them in display), and was surprised to get 1.2Mps according to the website testers I used. Since both Verizon and Sprint in this unit are Rev 0, and not Rev A, that speed surprised me (assuming it was a good burst moment). Wondering what you see with Sprint on the OQO. Thanks.

neil balthaser said...

Hi Anonymous: I get around 700-1000kbps on average. I can get higher but that's the average. Of course, I'm in the middle of Silicon Valley so coverage is pretty good :-). My wifi went out the other day and I was able to do all my work over VPN quite easily using Sprint. I have no qualms with Sprint on the OQO.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply re Sprint. Yep, that sounds identical to Verizon. Since Sprint is cheaper service, that helps cement the choice. One last question. Any thoughts/experiences re whether it's worth the extra $100 to get Vista Ultimate instead of Vista Business? If so, why?

neil balthaser said...

Hi Anonymous: Re: Sprint. Google SERO and you'll find instructions from tnkgrl outlining how to get $10 off your monthly Sprint broadband plan. I did it and it works great.

RE: Ultimate vs. Business. I prefer Business. I have Ultimate on another machine but truthfully don't use the games and Media Center functionality. Business suffices for all my needs and it's less expensive. You can always upgrade to Ultimate if you find you are needing Media Center and games.