Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is Mobilis dead?

Short answer is a big YES. Long answer is, unless Encore Software (who makes Mobilis) is able to reduce the price of the device to around 5000 INR, it simply won't have any takers. This is not the only way of revival though, there are many more steps that need to be taken and I am enlisting them here.

The first thing to note is a comparison of Mobilis with other contenders of low cost laptops in the current market. I have just compared with what I have with me (HCL MiLeap L and Mobilis). I have not put up the other contender, ASUS Eee PC partly because I myself have not used it personally and partly because specs wise its comparison with Mobilis will look even worse ;) [because of accessories like integrated web cam].

Comparison Chart:

  HCL MiLeap L Mobilis (basic model)
Processor Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900 MHz Intel XScale @ 400 MHz
Architecture x86 ARM
Cooling Fan Yes No
Memory 512 MB (DDR2) 128 MB
Storage 30 GB HDD 128 MB Flash
Ethernet Yes (In built) No (USB based can be used) *
WiFi Yes (In built) No (USB based can be used) *
Bluetooth No (USB based can be used) No
(size, resolution, touch)
7", 800 x 480, no touch screen 7.5", 800 x 600, touch screen
Touchpad Yes, pretty usable No, not required
Keypad Yes, pretty usable Yes, hopeless design
Battery About 4 hrs 30 mins About 6 hrs
Weight 1.44 Kg about 600 grams
OS Linux (Ubuntu) Embedded Linux (Montavista)
Price (INR) 17,000 20,000 +

* Not every USB device can be used. The driver support on the installed OS is very bad.


The first thing one notices from the above comparison chart is that for less, you are basically getting more in case of MiLeap! Granted that Mobilis sports a fantastic touch screen, with a slightly larger screen and resolution. But then MiLeap has 512 MB RAM and 30 GB storage as compared to paltry 128 MB each of RAM and Flash storage!


What else is wrong?

  • The price needs to be competitive (it should be priced around 5000 INR, any thing above is expensive for this device) with other ultraportables that have come up in market. What I think Encore should be doing is build a reference design and then sell the design to OEM manufactures and charge them some percent for each unit that is sold. This way the OEMs do not have to pay a hefty amount at the beginning (as in the case of simputer), and Encore will also be benefited in long run.
  • On board flash memory needs to be redesigned so that it is expandable easily.
  • OS used is another major issue. Montavista is actually a commercial vendor and you pay up a lot for their licensing fees which adds up to the total cost of the device. The development toolchain for OS is also not free, it costs another 5000 INR! And I have no idea why the old 2.4.x kernel is still being used on the device. Driver support from Motavista is absolutely useless, as compared to any modern Linux distribution. I guess Encore should look at some community supported OS like Ubuntu mobile and port it on their platform instead of using Montavista, which just adds up to the total cost of the device, and also provides a very crippled environment.
  • The worst design in the whole Mobilis tablet is the keypad. It is simply not usable. It has to be redesigned, and should look attractive and easy for a user to use it.
  • WiFi and Ethernet port should be inbuilt, and should not cost another 5000 INR to get them fitted!


I guess, I have made my point. Good luck Mobilis.


PS: If anyone at Encore Software does read this, I at least hope that they take this post seriously as I still use my Mobilis!

1 comment:

ravi2904 said...

Hi Ganesh,

You seem to be one of those rare unfortunates to own a mobilis.

The suggestions given by you are actually everyday talk in encore, it is just that their engineers are not capable of doing it. That is why you see the antique features like 2.4.x kernel.
In I.T., the technology advances so fast, that you cannot play the same old tune for two years !!

Recently I purchased a UMPC for 35,000 with following features:
7" display with touch screen, 1 GHz speed, 768 Mb RAM, 30 Gb HDD, bluetooth, WiFi, USB 2.0 (Mobilis has 1.0), VGA out, full qwerty sliding keyboard with windows XP home edition. All this with 6 hrs of battery life, works on car charger adapter ! At 4,000 INR extra you get a GPS module !

Encore should stop dreaming about "innovation" and wake up to the reality, it is high time. I don't know why vinay is distributing money every month on this.