Say hello to the webbook

We don’t often talk directly about our business activities on this blog. But once in a while something happens that rightly deserves a mention.

Our Open Source consulting business, The Open Learning Centre, has been very busy of late. We’ve been working with a household name hardware manufacturer and a very well known high-street retailer to deliver a really exciting and innovative product to the consumer market.

Say hello to the webbook (click for a very big image).

The Elonex webbook

The webbook is manufactured by the UK electronics company Elonex and is being sold exclusively by The Carphone Warehouse.

The webbook is a high specification UMPC that has a 1.6Ghz Via C7 processor (x86), 512Mb of RAM and [currently] an 80G HDD. The screen has a very usable 1024×600 resolution and it has the usual assortment of USB, LAN and an SD socket, plus built in WiFi too. We have setup a blog specifically for the webbook here so users can get access to all the latest news, tips and advice. Be sure to add it to your feed reader.

The really cool thing about the webbook is the software. The webbok comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu 8.04.1, Hardy Heron, and some new software written especially for this application that delivers broadband connectivity over 3G Mobile networks.

With Ubuntu you get pretty much everything you will ever need included right out-of-the-box. You don’t need to go out and pay several hundred pounds to get legal copies of a word-processor, spreadsheet and email client. The webbook comes pre-installed with the fantastic applications suite and the Evolution mail and calendaring client. Web browsing is provided by the most excellent Firefox 3 and there are many more high quality and fully functional applications provided on the hard disk. A couple of examples are The Gimp for photo editing and Pidgin for Instant Messaging. Of course you also have access to Ubuntu’s on-line software repository where there are literally thousands of other programs and applications to choose from. And they are all free and are not “demo” or limited functionality versions either. Open Source gives you freedom, not restrictions.

The 3G communications software called Wader (GPL licensed, and funded by Elonex) was written by Warp Networks of Zaragoza, Spain. Their knowledge of this specialised area of communications technology and Python programming is superb and the chaps did a fantastic job to get the software ready for production in what were ultimately very tight time-scales. We have plenty of plans for new features and enhancements, and as the software is open source, community involvement is welcomed and encouraged. We will be communicating more on how to get involved shortly.

For anyone interested in Mobile Broadband, or just getting their mits on a webbook for that matter, the proposition from Carphone Warehouse is very attractive indeed: simply take out a contract (with Carphone Warehouse) for 3G Mobile Broadband with either Orange, T-Mobile or 3 and you get the webbook for free! Or, you can just buy the webbook outright. If you are in the UK, there’s probably a webbook near you now. They are available on-line or from their many high street shops.

Our role in this was to work with Elonex to get the right software packaged and delivered on time to Carphone Warehouse. We introduced Elonex to Canonical in London (now can you guess where I am?) who are the commercial enterprise behind the world’s most popular Open Source Operating System, Ubuntu. We orchestrated the 3G development track with Warp Networks and carried out testing as the code was being produced. And we coordinated and managed the packaging and development of the software bundle as a whole.

Here’s the other side of the webbook:

The Elonex webbook