Up until my younger brother disassembled it, one of my cherished possessions was an Alphasmart Neo. Powered by AA batteries, this keyboard-sized word processor was a handy way to take notes in meetings where I wouldn't be allowed to open a laptop (or lacked a table to put the laptop on.)
The Neo came to mind again today when news of the Hemingwrite crossed my desk. This gadget wants to pick up where the Neo left off and be a portable word processor with weeks of battery life.
Sporting a 6" E-ink screen, the Hemingwrite has Bluetooth, Wifi, a 78-key keyboard, storage for a million plus pages of text, and not much else.
The mechanical keyboard is designed to offer a satisfying tactile feedback when your fingers hit the keys, and thanks to the Wifi users will be able to sync their work with their favorite cloud apps (Evernote and Google Docs integration will be supported, at a minimum).
It's a pretty cool idea and while I am not sure that it will have much market success, the prototype looks great:
I have yet to see one in person myself, but according to the website the switch on the right above the keyboard lets you turn the Wifi on and off, while the switch on the left lets you choose one of three local folders to store your work.
As you can see from the fact that a prototype exists, the Hemingwrite has been under development for some time. It only broke cover in September, and really only started getting attention last week when it was selected as one of the finalists for the Engadget Insert Coin Contest. (I heard of it via MobileRead.)
The Hemingwrite will be on display with the other finalists next month at Engadget's conference, Expand NY. I plan to be there and get a first-hand report.
So what do you think?
I think it's a pretty nifty idea, but as I sit here writing about it I can't help but remember that the Alphasmart Neo can do pretty much the same thing (aside from the wireless connectivity) . What's more, the Neo weighs less and can be had for under $30 on Ebay.
I'm not trying to poo-poo the Hemingwrite; I think it has a much more practical design than the Fusionwriter I wrote about a couple weeks ago. But I also don't think there is much of a market for the Hemingwrite, not when there's a cut price competitor (not to mention the comparably priced and more capable laptops on the market).
I would buy one, in a heart beat. But I also know that I don't really have a use for it.