"We have become used to interacting with computers on their terms," says Ken Ocheltree, manager for the next-generation mobile equipment at IBM research. "The MetaPad is about allowing people to use their computers everywhere and access them the way they need to." IBM's new 9-oz portable MetaPad prototype is a "computing device" that transforms in seconds into a handheld, desktop, laptop, tablet, or wearable computer, without having to be rebooted. It is different from today's handhelds because all of a user's data and applications remain inside the core, eliminating the need for '"synching" among multiple devices. In also runs multiple operating systems that share the same data, allowing users to run any application they want. "It's smaller than the original Palm Pilot, but it's as powerful as a laptop," says Ocheltree. The device is about the size of a .75-inch-thick stack of 3-x-5 index cards. Making the MetaPad small meant pulling the power supply, display, and I/O connectors out of the computer core, leaving an 800-MHz processor, a 10-Gbyte hard drive, 128 Mbytes of memory, data, and the applications. Components removed from the machine become accessories, allowing the individual users to decide how they want to use the device. The display is 800 x 480 pixels. "We can use a touchscreen with pop-up keypad as the interface," says Ocheltree. "We could also use a folding keypad, and we've even considered using electronic ink." You can now separate the computer from how you use it, he says. Computers force us to store e-mail addresses in one place in one application, notes about a given topic somewhere else in a palm pilot, and a telephone number in yet another place, he adds. By transforming without having to be rebooted, the MetaPad saves its user from having to access different tools in different ways. "We organize things differently than computers, so it's unnatural to interact with them the way we do," says Ocheltree. For more information, go to ibm.com.
April 08, 2002