Every now and again there’s a big change in the kind of electronic devices that businesses and consumers want to buy. Usually a firm markets something that breaks the mould, or reshapes an existing product to allow it to fit previously unseen situations.
Laptops have been around for a long time. The first ones were more luggable than portable. Closer to fitting a handle to a normal desktop unit! I remember taking a laptop home from work to provide remote support over a weekend. If you’d put a 1999 Toshiba Tecra into a plastic bag, it would have fallen through the bottom of the bag as soon as you lifted it!
When Asus launched the Eee PC this time last year, there was a sudden demand for their cut down handbag-sized subnotebook or netbook. Out of the blue, it was acceptable to use a device with a small 7” screen, solid state drive (if you drop it you don’t wreck the hard drive), built-in wifi, integrated camera/mic and a simple set of bundled software (OpenOffice running under Xandros Linux on the majority of models) that you’ll use but not add to.
(I’m a particular fan of the Eee PC 1000H, which squeezes in a very usable 10.2” screen (screen resolution of 1024x600), built-in bluetooth and a keyboard 92% of the size of a normal laptop. Good performance, good size, but still small enough to carry around - though it does have a proper hard drive.)
The next stage of development is to move beyond wifi, and bundle 3G-like services with netbooks. So rather than being limited to locations with wifi hotspots that you can (afford to) access, you can take advantage of the ever-increasing 3G coverage. But without having to permanently tape a 3G USB dongle to the laptop case!
So netbooks are now starting to be sold with 3G data subscription bundles. Just slide in the SIM card, take out a new mortgage and off you go. And here we get to the point of this post.
Vodafone UK are sending “LiveGuy” around the country wearing a lurid red sweatshirt. If you spot him and you say the magic phrase (lots of clues online as to his location) he’ll hand over one of the four Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbooks [deep voice] “with built-in mobile broadband from Vodafone” he has to give away each day of his tour.
But if you’re reading this in Northern Ireland, don’t get too excited. You’ll not need to know the winning phrase. His UK tour doesn’t involve getting any ferries across to visit a city near you. Vodafone wimping out from visiting us.
The quick online conversation went:
alaninbelfast: @vodafoneliveguy Not coming across to Northern Ireland? Shame on you. Your tour's not complete! We do have Vodaphone 3G in NI!
vodafoneliveguy: @alaninbelfast you're not willing to cross the seas to get a free netbook? where is your dedication? Only the strong willed succeed.
alaninbelfast: @vodafoneliveguy Only the lazy and excluding lose sales and generate bad publicity :(
Maybe we’re technically backward on this side of the Irish Sea? Cave dwellers with no electricity to recharge the batteries of their laptops. Maybe he wouldn’t understand our accents when we talked to him.
Has Northern Ireland been sidelined again? Or am I just falling into the trap of playing the victim card all too easily? No doubt you’ll tell me in the comments below ...