Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
Given that venture capitalists generally are not as excited about young companies that sell atoms as opposed to bits, companies innovating in hardware are a rare species at DEMO, the long-running technology startup parade. At this year's spring conference, two companies introduced new devices. The plainly named Always Innovating introduced the Touch Book
, a new entrant in the netbook category while the vowel diversity-challenged Avaak introduced the Vue personal video system
designed for remote surveillance of a home. Both products cater to an increasingly mobile society that demands digital access on the go and share some similar characteristics, but the states of the market they address could make a major difference for them.
Always Innovating's Touch Book is a lightweight touchscreen computing device that will sell for $299. It's two signature features are a detachable keyboard – enabling the netbook to transform from a traditional clamshell to a "pure" tablet – and exceptional battery life of 10 to 15 hours on a single charge. The versatility of the hardware make the design one of the most appealing consumer tablet computing devices to date although the need to put the battery and processing guts behind the screen results in a thicker top half than one would find on most notebooks of similar size.
Still, one can use the device to casually surf the Web on the couch using the new mobile version of Firefox, show photos as a digital picture frame, or even attach it to a refrigerator using the magnetic backing that the company has put on the tablet. It's a fine collection of atoms, but there's one Atom you won't find inside the Touch Book.