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Openmoko's WikiReader

Dec 28, 2009, 18:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nathan Willis)

"Openmoko, the company that first gained attention for its Linux-based phone platform, launched a new pocket-sized open source product in time for this holiday season, the WikiReader. The WikiReader is an inexpensive ($99), low-power, 4-inch square touchscreen LCD display device pre-loaded with the text of three million Wikipedia pages on a microSD card. In the smartphone era, skeptics might dismiss the device as woefully underpowered, but to the open source community the more pertinent question is what else can it do? Unboxed and unconnected

"Physically, the WikiReader is distinctive; its square shape is easily hand-held, but stands out from mobile phones. It is white, which suggests the industrial design of e-Ink book readers, but the hardware interface is minimalist: power button on top, and three hardware buttons on the front, "Search," "History," and "Random." The screen is a monochrome LCD display with 240-by-208 pixel resolution and no backlight, but it is also a capacitive touchscreen, used for the on-screen keyboard when searching, selecting links, and scrolling through articles.

"The device is very lightweight, slim, and at this size easily fits into a shirt pocket. It is available for purchase directly from the WikiReader web site, and from Amazon.com. The housing is not particularly tough, however, more akin to remote-control-quality plastics than the sturdier-walled materials on a cell phone or GPS unit, so the careful buyer might keep on the lookout for a padded PDA case of some sort to absorb abuse."

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