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OpenMoko launches WikiReader

OpenMoko launches WikiReader

OpenMoko's offline WikiReader brings the joys of Wikipedia to the disconnected - although might be a few years too late.

After leaving the smartphone market earlier this year, the team behind the ambitious OpenMoko FreeRunner open-source handset have latched on to another project: the WikiReader.

A rather more bite-sized plan than the FreeRunner, the WikiReader is a neat, palm-size gadget which exists for one reason only: to provide basic access to collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia on the move.

A hands-on demonstration of the device can be found over on Engadget, but the general gist is this: a simple low-power device with a monochrome touchscreen - sadly not eInk - and a microSD card reader which stores the articles, all powered by a pair of standard AAA cells. Unlike the FreeRunner project, the WikiReader features no communications capability whatsoever - it's a completely offline device.

Although the microSD card can be removed and placed in a memory card reader to receive updates to its cache of constantly-changing Wikipedia entries, OpenMoko is clearly aiming for the technologically inept demographic with the simultaneous launch of a subscription service: a Wikipedia-by-mail system which sees subscribers receiving a new microSD card with updated articles on it by post twice a year for a $29 fee.

While it's a neat idea, it's possible that the device is being launched a few years too late: ignoring the whole Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cachet to the thing, the device is being launched in the day of the ubiquitous smartphone with near-unlimited access to the Internet. When you've probably already got a device in your pocket which is more than capable of reading the live version of Wikipedia, would you really want to carry an outdated version around as well?

Scepticism aside, it's a neat device - and is available now from the online store for $99 (£62).

Tempted by the thought of an offline pocket-friendly Wikipedia, or are your eyes lighting up at the potential hackability of the device? Are you struggling to see the point? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

8 Comments

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Bauul 14th October 2009, 14:52 Quote
Sounds like someone thought "Oh those old people with no access to the web! How will they read Wikipedia? I know, an offline version!", completely missing the point that many older people don't want or need to read wikipedia, they're probably happy with the big encyclopedia they've had on the book shelf since the 70s.
mi1ez 14th October 2009, 15:20 Quote
pub quizes in mineshafts? Can't see this catching on, no.
Sir Digby 14th October 2009, 15:53 Quote
I feel happy for knowing who Toyo Ito is without having to google him.
Scootiep 14th October 2009, 16:28 Quote
"When you've probably already got a device in your pocket which is more than capable of reading the live version of Wikipedia, would you really want to carry an outdated version around as well?"

That right there says it all. Almost everyone has some sort of access to the interwebs and those that don't most likely can't afford something like this let alone have the ability to access the updating service. This is a novelty gadget at best.
jjsyht 14th October 2009, 18:03 Quote
I would love to have that app on my iPod touch
fodder 14th October 2009, 18:49 Quote
Nice idea, but seriously, when would you use it if you have a newer phone?

I use my G1 mostly for Wikimobile (excellent wikipedia app), Elsevier 2.0 and MedSearch. Rarely use the browser to access info.
frojoe 15th October 2009, 11:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjsyht
I would love to have that app on my iPod touch

There's this, but it takes up 2 GB which could be a problem if you have a smaller touch:
http://collison.ie/wikipedia-iphone/index-new
REMF 19th October 2009, 10:11 Quote
great idea if i could just buy the microSD card and stick it in my nokia n900...................

http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=33094
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