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The Superbook.

A great many of us are walking around with a very powerful computer in our pocket: The smartphone. Today’s high-end models boast more CPU power than laptops, and many times more than a vintage super computer.

But no matter how powerful your smartphone is, it’s hard to harvests its potential for productivity. Today, the vast majority of smartphones are used as very, very efficient entertainment devices. I suspect that the main reason is that their screens are too small to be used efficiently for non-entertainment tasks that typically take more than 30 seconds to complete, like writing documents, computer programming, and creating presentations. All the tools to perform such tasks are in fact available for your smartphone, but using them is a pain.

The screen size problem is to a degree solved by tablets and phablets, the latter often accompanied by a stylus pen. But a high-end tabled and phablet will set you back as much as a high-end smartphone, and suddenly you’re walking around with two dreadfully expensive devices that only differ in screen size. Also, while a large screen is helpful, tablets and phablets lack one of the key1 productivity features: A physical keyboard.

What this basically means is that what you really need is a laptop. The powerful-and-productive-yet-still-mobile-device laptop segment is currently being filled by ultrabooks form-factor laptops: portable and powerful, with a large screen and a physical keyboard. But a high-end ultrabook is even more expensive than a state-of-the-art smartphone. So now you need to carry your precious smartphone, and the freakishly valuable ultrabook with you.

But what if it was possible to buy a cheap, ultrabook-sized computer shell with a large screen, and a physical keyboard? The shell comes with no hard drive, CPU, RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or any other of the usual ultrabook features, but simply connects to your smartphone over USB to utilize all its hardware and software. Andromium Inc. might have a solution for us. Let’s hear what Andrew Jiang, co-founder of Andromium Inc. has to say:

Personally, I think the Superbook sounds like a super idea, despite the lame name. But Andromium isn’t the first company that have tried this. ASUS has tried twice, first in 2012 with the PadFone, then again in 2014 with the Transformer Book V. None of the attempts turned out to be raging successes.

Andromium has been able to get a bit of traction with their Superbook, though, with a successful $2,952,508 Kickstarter campaign, and a further $400K+ (and growing) being raised from pre-orders. With the correct skills, right timing, and some luck, Andromium might be able to create the product ASUS never really managed to make.

The Superbook currently only exists as a prototype, and based on my previous experience with pre-ordering non-existing hardware, I’ll sit on the fence for a little while longer. I threw a lot of money on the Jolla Tablet, but that project failed miserably, and the tablet was quickly discontinued – or “sold out” as the failure is described as on the Jolla site. I got most of my money refunded, though, so it wasn’t a complete catastrophe, and after having played with the Jolla Sailfish OS 2 for a couple of days in August, I’m kind of glad I never got my tablet: It would have ended up as an expensive paper weight.

Two years ago, I also pre-ordered a Navdy, a “groundbreaking driving device projects information directly on the road ahead enabling drivers to Look Forward© while staying connected.” Since I pre-ordered, very little has happened. The information flow was pretty good just after the crowd funding campaign had successfully finished, but over time it’s pretty much dried up. The website has been changed so that it has no information at all about the actual device, and the blog hasn’t been updated since last year. There is some activity on their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, but it’s mostly just posting of generic pictures, and very little useful information.

So even if The Superbook is far from the most expensive gadget around, I’ll wait until it’s possible to order an actual, real Superbook before I part with any money. But if it turns into a proper product with a few favorable reviews, I’m getting one. If you’re more of an early adopter2 than me, though, I’m sure the guys at Andromium would love it if you joined their 30,000+ campaign backers, and placed a pre-order.

Footnotes

  1. Pun very much intended
  2. Early adopters are “social leaders, popular, educated” according to Wikipedia. That’s you, isn’t it?

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