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MOBILITY Products for 2010

Originally posted January 19th, 2010, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The theme of the presentation Apple has scheduled for January 27th is reported to be "Mobility Space." Everyone seems to be mobility maniacal these days. As I observed the product introductions at CES 2010 and Detroit Auto Show 2010, I was motivated to share some tidbits on some key high-tech mobility products.

You have to be living in a bomb shelter to miss the buzz surrounding the expected intro of the Apple iSlate this month. At CES, there were many slate or tablet products shown. Two in particular caught my attention. The first is enTourage dual-screen eBook and tablet netbook. One screen functions as an eBook and the other a fully functioning touch-screen netbook. Check out these video demos.

Another interesting product is the ION iTYPE, a full-sized keyboard that you snap your iPhone or iPod Touch into. The company claims that it turns the mobile devices into an ultra-portable computer, though it might require a "jailbroken" iPhone 3GS to work as was the case with other attempts.

If you need a quick, bus powered backup option for your MacBook Pro with an ExpressCard/34 slot, Wintec Industries has a Solid State Drive (SSD) integrated with an ExpressCard which they call FileMate SolidGO. It's faster than bus powered FireWire 800 "roadie" backup solutions.

None of the current 4G broadband modems work with Mac OS X. However, Sprint has starting selling the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot which DOES work with Macs. It is a small 3" by 3" battery powered "WiFi base station" with 4G wireless broadband access. You could easily take it with you on vacation or business trips. Or you could put one your car creating a moving WiFi hotspot.

Using it with a MacBook Pro, we measured download speeds as high as 4.5Mbs (SpeedTest.net) which is 3 times faster than the fastest download speed we measured using Verizon's 3G broadband cards. However, for some reason the iPhone was painfully slow measuring only 92Kbps download. That was odd since the Nexus One phone clocked 1.5Mbps downloads using the Overdrive. Hmmm.

Shifting gears, many of the newest mobility products are designed to be used with your car. I thought I was on the cutting edge in 2006 with the iPod connected to a cable in my MINI Cooper's glove box. I was able to select up to five different playlists using the radio station buttons. I could control volume and track selection with buttons on my steering wheel. The 2010 MINI features navigation (w/real-time traffic info), bluetooth phone communications, AM/FM/Satellite radio, USB-based iPod integration, and multi-layered OBC with trip computer -- each of which responds to voice commands.

Then there are the various automobile iPhones apps. There's Viper SmartStart that will start your car while you are in the house so it's warmed up before you leave for work. I received an email from MINIUSA this week telling me about their MINI LINK iPhone app. Now I can keep track of all the local members of the MINI Cooper Club -- at least those with iPhones.

If you are addicted to text messaging, at least three companies will be shipping an auto accessory that will vocalize your text messages through the car's audio system. It also lets you vocalize your response which it converts to text and transmits.

If you are concerned about having your car stolen, Escort, the company known for radar detectors, now makes GPS-based vehicle-recovery system that will even call the police. Or maybe you are just afraid of losing your car in the local shopping mall parking lot. In that case you can either get the Auto-Finder directional antenna for $99 or just buy the "Find My Car" app for your iPhone for 99 cents.

I'm not sure it's a good idea, but now that Sirus and XM have merged, they will soon be offering live TV broadcasts for your car. I hope that's intended for passengers.

I can't end this article without mentioning at least one significant automobile shown at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. After all aren't automobiles the original high-tech mobility product? Audi rolled out the e-tron. It's an R8 looking coupe with electric motors in inside the hubs of each of the rear wheels generating a total of 3,319 lb-ft of torque. Yikes!

In a recent documentary, I learned that way back in 1897, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche came up with the idea of putting electric motors in each wheel of a car. The theory was that it eliminated the power loss experienced by routing the power from a centralized electric motor through transmission and differential to each driving wheel. Furthermore, he added a gasoline powered generator to his original electric car, thereby creating the first hybrid car he called "System Mixt."

Now for the Porsche/Audi connection: Dr. Porsche also helped engineer the famous Auto Union racing cars in the 1930s with a power to weight ratio so radical, they could induce wheel spin at over 100 miles per hour. As you may or may not know, Audi is the only survivor of the four original car companies who merged to form the Auto Union. There is talk that when Volkswagen/Audi completes the merger with Porsche this year, the Auto Union name may be revived. (No extra charge for the historical trivia.)

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copyright 2009 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"