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ARM-based Linux tablet converts to netbook

Mar 2, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Always Innovating announced an open-source Linux netbook that boasts a detachable touchscreen tablet and 10-15 hour battery life. Running OpenEmbedded/Angstrom Linux and Mozilla's Fennec browser, the Touch Book weighs less than two pounds, offers WiFi 80211.b/g/n, and uses the Texas Instruments OMAP3-based BeagleBoard design.

(Click for larger view of the Touch Book )

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup showed the Touch Book at the DEMO09 show, and will ship in late Spring, says the company. Its Touch Book appears to be the first netbook based on TI's OMAP3x platform. The system board is a modified version of TI's hobbyist BeagleBoard, which incorporates an OMAP3530 system-on-chip (SoC), the fanciest model in TI's OMAP35xx portfolio of processors based on ARM's superscalar Cortex-A8 core.

Internal memory specs were not offered, but the device is said to provide 8GB of microSD storage. The Touch Book's 8.9-inch touchscreen offers 1024 x 600 resolution and support for 720p HD video in full screen, says the company. The Touch Book is also said to provide 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, accelerometers, and audio I/O.


The Touch Book (left) and its detachable touchscreen computer (right)
(Click on either to enlarge)

The device is touted for having two internal USB ports, in addition to three external USB ports and a micro-USB connection. Stated Gregoire Gentil, founder of Always Innovating, and former CEO of Zonbu, which introduced one of the first netbook-like consumer devices with its Zonbook, “I hate having dongles hanging from my laptop — I often end up disconnecting them accidentally — so we opted to put the USB inside.”

The keyboard and touchscreen each has its own battery, but the keyboard half appears to have the more powerful pack. As a touchscreen, the Touch Book offers three to five hours of battery life, says the company, moving up to 10 to 15 hours in the full netbook configuration.

Designed by independent designer Fred Bould, the netbook offers a variety of physical configurations. Like the Elonex One educational netbook, it offers a removable standalone touchscreen, and with its magnetic backing, can even be placed on a refrigerator for use as a kitchen computer. (So much for the advice about never bringing a magnet near your PC!) When connected, the display can be flipped over backward so the keyboard part acts as part of an “inverted V” viewing stand (see image at end of article).


Touch Book, rear view and closed
(Click on either to enlarge)

Like the underlying BeagleBoard, the Touch Book is an open source design, with all schematics posted under the GPL. The schematics may be found in this PDF, says Always Innovating. Built from the OpenEmbedded automated bitbake build system, the netbook's Touch Book OS distribution uses a variant of the Angstrom Linux distribution, says the company, and “was designed with the help of a vibrant open source community.” According to the vendor, developers will be able to load other Linux-based distributions on the Touch Book, including Google Android and Ubuntu. In fact, the company claims that Windows CE can run on the device as well, likely thanks to a Beagle BSP announced last week, “though we would not recommend the latter,” they add.

The Touch Book offers a “3D touchscreen interface” that incorporates Mozilla's touchscreen oriented Fennec browser, says the company. Fennec, which reached “second alpha” stage in late December, is designed for mobile and touchscreen devices on x86 and ARM processors running both Linux and Windows Mobile.

Specifications listed for the Touch Book include:

  • Processor — TI OMAP3530 600MHz
  • Internal memory — N/A
  • Flash — 8GB micro SD card
  • Display — 8.9-inch touchscreen with 1024 x 600 resolution; supports 720p HD video
  • WiFi — 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth — Bluetooth radio
  • USB — 6 x USB 2.0 (3 x internal, 2 x external, and 1 x mini-USB)
  • Audio — speakers; microphone; headphone
  • Other features — QWERTY keyboard; 3-dimensional accelerometer
  • Dimensions — 9.4 x 7 x 1.4 inches (with keyboard)
  • Weight — 2 lbs (with keyboard)
  • Operating system — Touch Book OS Linux (OpenEmbedded and Angstrom)


Touch Book in “stand” mode

Stated Gentil, who says he is the “creator” of the Touch Book, “The Touch Book is perfect for these tough economic times because you can use it as a netbook computer, a hand-held game machine, or a video player.”

Availability

The Touch Book is expected to ship in late Spring, and will start at $300, says Always Innovating. Interested buyers may now place advanced orders, here.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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