The official unveiling of the new series Vaio P from Sony today shows some interesting design choices. The tiny computer has design elements that would make it very familiar to use for anyone who has experience with a smartphone.
First off, what’s the Vaio?
In the mess of classifications that exist for portable computers, the Vaio falls between the netbook and the laptop. Most people would call it a notebook, but Wikipedia claims it’s a “subnotebook”… though I’ve honestly never heard ANYONE use that phrase before so I’m going to ignore it. And I refuse to use the phrase that Sony has invented to describe it, which is “Lifestyle PC”. So, notebook it is!
The Vaio P is an 8-inch notebook PC with a full keyboard, two-button mouse and internet optimisation. It’s not going to be able to handle anything particularly taxing, but it’s great for typing and web connections on the go, and you can surf the web, browse pictures and stream video no problem.
So what are these new design elements?
The newly announced Vaio P has several features that you’ll be very used to if you use a smartphone (or high-end feature phone):
– Two-thumb use. Check the pic below, and you’ll see the trackpad and mouse-buttons aren’t down on the keyboard like norma – instead they’re on either side of the screen. This encourages people to hold the device in both hands, and use both the mouse and the keyboard with their thumbs like with a QWERTY smartphone.
- Accelerometer and gestures. The screen on the Vaio is small enough that you might have to rotate it to view a “tall” image or document. And the device will oblige by automatically re-orienting the screen so you can see it better. It is also using “gestures” as a control mechanism, including “shaking” the device to browse forward through pictures or pages of a document.
– GPS and compass. This is the first Sony notebook that has built-in GPS and digital compass, which are two features that have become standard on current smartphones.
What we think?
This release is symptomatic of a growing trend within computer and mobile phone design, which is that the lines are now REALLY blurred when it comes to classification. At what point does a fully tooled feature phone become “smart”? When does a mobile phone turn into an internet tablet? What’s the difference between a small internat tablet and a Mobile Internet Device? There are so many different categories now that it’s become slightly absurd. There really only seems to be one real distinction any more. If it takes phone calls and fits comfortably into your pocket, it’s a mobile phone. Any thing larger is some flavour of computer.