“The original version of the OQO had a lot of gotchas,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group of San Jose, CA, which advises companies on personal technology products. “It was incredibly small, but it was also painfully slow. The new one is a decent machine. I had Vista up and running on it pretty fast, and it performed just fine.”Better performance was one of three specific goals emerging from complaints lodged by users of the OQO 01, according to Rosin and Jihye Whang, OQO’s director of product management. “It needed to really feel like a notebook computer,” says Rosin. “It had to be a full Windows Vista device, and it had to run applications in a really snappy way, without hesitation.” The OQO 02 runs standard Windows programs from the Firefox browser to Adobe Photoshop, and it has enough processing power to run two 1,920-by-1,200-pixel external displays when plugged into its docking station.
Users also pleaded for better ways of connecting to the Internet, says Whang. The OQO 01 could connect only at Wi-Fi hot spots or via a Bluetooth connection with a networked mobile phone. The OQO 02 includes faster 802.11g Wi-Fi circuitry and can also connect to Sprint’s EV-DO network, a broadband data service available in most of the same locations where Sprint operates its PCS phone network. EV-DO carries data at 400 to 700 kilobits per second–not as fast as home DSL or cable Internet connections, but much faster than previous generations of cellular data networks. “We’re getting closer and closer to true broadband speeds,” says Whang.
Finally, users demanded a better screen and keyboard. The five-inch-diagonal touch screen is six times brighter than its predecessor, says Whang, and it incorporates a few new tricks, such as the ability to zoom in on an area of detail and to scroll vertically or horizontally with the brush of a finger along the screen’s border, eliminating the need for a mechanical thumbwheel like those on many PDAs. The 58 keys on the OQO 02’s redesigned keyboard stick up higher than the OQO 01’s keys, giving thumb typists more tactile feedback to confirm that they’ve struck a key. The keyboard is also backlit for nighttime operation.
The OQO 02’s keyboard is indeed “much more usable this time,” in Rob Enderle’s estimation. And while the device is slightly larger and heavier than the OQO 01, carrying it is “still a hell of a lot easier than lugging a laptop around,” he says.
But in the lighter-than-a-laptop category, the OQO 02 could face competition from other handheld devices, such as Sony’s Vaio UX Micro PC, Nokia’s N800 Internet tablet, and Motion Computing’s LS800 Tablet PC, as well as an entirely new category of handhelds, the so-called Ultra-Mobile PCs, or UMPCs. Samsung, Medion, Asus, and several other manufacturers have begun to produce these book-size devices, which look like small tablet PCs and are all based on a reference design unveiled by Microsoft in 2006 under the name Origami. The devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and are operated solely via a touch screen (although at least one UMPC includes a slide-out keyboard similar to OQO’s). So far, they’ve been marketed not as office appliances but as entertainment devices enabling users to browse the Web and access videos, music, and photos.