Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Netbook/UMPC hybrid from Sharp

CHIBA, Japan--Part Eee PC, part Samsung Q1, the Sharp NetWalker comes off like a computer with an identity crisis.

It's also a little bit puzzling. The NetWalker is dressed up like a super-petite Netbook, weighing less than a pound, with a 5-inch touchscreen and a measly 512 MB of memory and wireless LAN. It's got a pretty robust battery life--up to 10 hours, according to Sharp--and runs Ubuntu. There's a Firefox browser, Thunderbird for e-mail, a Twitter app, and some open-source programs for word processing and reviewing spreadsheets, so you can perform some normal PC functions on a screen larger than an iPhone or Blackberry, but smaller than the increasingly standard 10-inch Netbook display.

The way you use it though, is more like a UMPC. Holding the NetWalker with two hands, you type with your thumbs. And on the right side above the keyboard is an optical pointer that, when you run a finger over it, functions as a mouse.

The price is a more Netbook-like $500, but it's unclear how consumers will respond. It's only been available here in Japan for a couple weeks, so there aren't any solid sales numbers yet to offer any picture of how customers are reacting to it. But history shows that just hovering somewhere in between two established categories of computing is an easy way to turn off a lot of potential buyers.

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