By Evan Ackerman
Always Innovating has taken a completely different approach to the burgeoning (and some might say cluttered) netbook market with their Touch Book tablet laptop… thing. Really, it’s a tablet computer that uses an 8.9″ touchscreen, but you can also use it with an attachable (more like, dockable) keyboard and touchpad that essentially turns it into more of a laptop.
There’s more besides the versatile form factor that differentiates the Touch Book from a netbook, though. Firstly, it’s always on, like a cell phone. No booting up, no shutting down, and it’s all solid state, so there’s no noisy fans. Somehow it manages to keep itself on for 10 hours with a single charge, thanks in part to a battery in the keyboard half as well as the screen half, although the entire package still weighs under 3 pounds. As you might expect, it has b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth, plus an accelerometer and 3 external USB ports.
The only potential downside is that the Touch Book was not engineered to run Windows. It’s not just that it doesn’t come with Windows, it’s that Windows won’t work it. At all. Except maybe mobile versions of Windows. It unsurprisingly runs a custom distribution of Linux off of an SD card, which should easily provide enough functionality to do more or less everything you’d want to do with a mobile computer (web browsing, media, and light document editing). If you’re not happy with that, they’re also working on an Android version.
The Always Innovating Touch Book should be available sometime this month for $300, plus an extra $100 for the keyboard… It’s not a powerhouse compared to other netbooks in the price range, but it really speaks to what the core principle of a netbook is (or should be): flexible, mobile, inexpensive, basic computing.