In the time since my last post, Apple has introduced two retina iPads and an iPad mini. There have also been a number of small portable computers entering the market. The Raspberry Pi, for example, but also several ARM powered Android devices that plug into a television or monitor’s HDMI port. The PC on a stick. One of the newest iterations of these, the Dell Wyse Project Ophelia, is already being marketed as a device that lets the user connect to remote services. As one ZDnet commenter put it: “it’s the ultimate RDC – a pocket USB stick that turns any monitor into a zero-client RDC portal“.
The beauty of Android 4.x is its native support for keyboards and mice. I recently rooted my 1st gen Kindle Fire and installed Jelly Bean 4.2.1. I plugged in a USB OTG cable, connected it to a powered usb hub, and had a pseudo-laptop within a few seconds. Of course, Android is no Linux (regardless of the kernel) and is not optimized for desktop use. Or, to put it another way, the user interface more closely resembles a mobile phone, and carries with it all the associated benefits and/or drawbacks thereof.
This is a neat trick to pull off, but it’s still more cumbersome than a laptop. I can’t imaging throwing the Kindle Fire into my carry-on with a powered usb hub, keyboard and mouse. The geek factor is there, but it’s just not convenient or efficient. The Android stick pc’s solve part of the portability problem, but you’re still going to need that keyboard, mouse, and–big deal here–display. Plus you’re depending on your hotel or conference room to have an accessible hdmi-enabled display and reliable wifi. Neither of these things are a given.