Info Appliance Offers Nice Touches, but It's Costly


For years, there have been sporadic efforts to create a digital device that would be simpler and more reliable than a personal computer, yet large enough and capable enough to carry out the most common tasks PCs perform.

The movement for such "information appliances," which I supported, was especially strong in the early and mid-1990s, when computers running Microsoft Windows were far more complicated and crash-prone than they are today.

Several companies tried to build desktop and laptop-computer-size information appliances, but none of the designs captivated the public, and they cost almost as much as a cheap PC. The movement lost steam by

2001, when both Microsoft and Apple Computer were producing better-designed, more stable PC operating systems.

Information appliances actually did arrive, but in a different guise -- the smart cellphone and the advanced personal digital assistant, or PDA. These hand-held devices are gradually accumulating the hardware power and software selection needed to do most core PC tasks, like Web surfing, email and even document creation.

Now, however, a small Massachusetts startup company is making another go at the full-size information appliance. The company, Pepper Computer, is launching a slick-looking tablet device called the Pepper Pad, which it hopes will attract PC users and nonusers alike as a simple, convenient tool for using the Internet, playing digital media, keeping a journal and more.

The idea is to offer something as convenient and simple as a Web-connected PDA without the complexity and security problems of a PC. The rugged device even has a tiny, built-in keyboard that can be used for thumb typing. It also comes with desktop software that lets users wirelessly synchronize the Pepper Pad's contents with a Windows PC (Mac compatibility is in the works).

In my tests of the Pepper Pad over the past few days, I found it mostly did what was promised, but it isn't quite as easy and intuitive to use as its makers claim. Many of its built-in programs offer limited functionality and seem rough around the edges. And, at $799, it costs more than some laptops and much more than a basic desktop PC.

formatting link

Reply to
Monty Solomon
Loading thread data ... Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.