Just before Christmas I took delivery of a WikiReader a small, handheld device that has the entire contents of Wikipedia stored on it. It’s a simple little thing – basically a souped-up version of those little electronic dictionaries that have been around for years. Hit the search key, type in a search term through the touch-screen keyboard on the black and white, 7cm square screen and it will display a list of options for you to select the right Wikipedia entry.
I decided to road test the device during the family Christmas. Obviously Wikipedia is always changing, but it seems to be stable enough for most articles (and you can order updated memory cards). In fact, it was a massive hit and saw near continuous action on the sofa. Whenever anyone had a question about a TV programme that was on, or an actor on the screen, or a word they needed the meaning of, or details of a place they were reading about in the paper, the cry went up to ‘pass the Wikireader’. Based on this experience I think the company in question may have a bit of a hit on their hands.
All this has helped my thinking around the endless speculation about Apple’s iSlate. If the device turns out to exist and if it is some kind of all-in-one tablet that provides access to a range of multimedia – e-books, films, music etc – then it could have a real place on the sofa. Who wants to get off the chair and head upstairs to log on to use the PC or fish the laptop out of the briefcase? The iSlate will just sit on the arm of the sofa. In our house at least, the WikiReader has shown the way. The next step in computing is to the sofa.