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in your pocket which is more than capable of reading the live version of Wikipedia, would you really want to carry an outdated version around as well?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