Category: "Tablets and Slates"
Pepper Computer is showing off their Pepper Wireless Pad at CES. It looks like an interesting addition to the tool kit of those leading the TeleInterActive Lifestyle and others wanting to web surf from the couch while using the Pepper to channel surf at the same time. However, their approach to software is reminiscent of the defunct 3Com Audrey, as described by C|Net.
The Audrey was a great wiki(Internet appliance). And it was the tool I used to get my parents, both in their 70's, onto the Internet, so that they could stay in touch with family and friends when they moved to SF from Pennsylvania.
One reason that the Audrey failed, and one reason for misgivings about the Pepper, is locked-in software. The Pepper is a linux based tablet, slate or pad computer. [They call it a "Pad", others might like the term "tablet" or the older term "slate".] They've written their apps in Java, using the Mozilla framework (a.k.a. Gecko Runtime Environment). The Pepper is not due until the Spring 2005, so we can't be certain until then, but from their web site, it appears that...
- There seems to be no way to install additional software [unless downloaded from Pepper] nor any command-line interface or GUI to the underlying OS. (MontaVista ™ CEE 3.1.1) The spec sheet contradicts the marketing in that a "Customizable & extensible user experience available" is promised. Let's hope so, as the Audrey also only allowed new software from 3Com downloads.
- The Pepper Desktop 2.0 (interestingly enough also available for MS Windows) seems to provide standard and enhanced web-browsing, email, IM (AOL only) and media tools.
- The collaboration software, available for download in the spring with more in the summer 2005, appear to allow for collaboration primarily with other Pepper users.
Why use open software to build a closed system?
Hopefully, the above is more marketing than reality, and Pepper will provide a more open approach to user add-ons and customizations. Otherwise, I fear that this neat looking device will fall into the same pit of disuse as the Audrey, and other Internet appliances.
Engadget recently posetd their impressions of this Pepper, and had also posted earlier about the Pepper Pad 2, which is not on the Pepper website. The only difference between the two seems to be that the 2 has 802.11g, while the Pepper has 802.11b WiFi. The Pepper 2 was promised for "around $800" when announced, the Pepper is $899. Perhaps, just speculating, the fall from 802.11g to 802.11b is for price reasons.
BTW, my parents still use the Internet - through a laptop now. The mouse and the touch pad gives them problems both physically and intuitively. If I can add Y!M rather than AIM to the Pepper, it might be the next device I try for them. A touchscreen is much more intuitive than a mouse.