The creators of the litl webbook have designed everything, including the hardware, software and operating system, to make it easy for users to blend “lean-forward” web-based content with “lean back” TV-like viewing of photos and other digital content. Aimed at every member of the family, the litl can be used as a regular laptop and the display also flips through 180 degrees into easel mode, which allows it to stand upright like a digital photo frame.
Specifically targeting home users has allowed the litl to shed much of the business oriented stuff that other operating systems need to include to be a “jack-of-all-trades.” Virus protection, updates, installs, plug-ins, backups, and drivers are all handled automatically while the user is asleep.
To ensure the litl was easy to use the developers sought to simply the user interface. To do this they focused on interactions with content, such as photos, mail and websites, instead of interactions with computer hardware. As part of this approach the litl uses what its creators call, “continuous partial attention.” This refers to the fact that monitors and status indicators, (current Wi-Fi signal strength for example), will not be onscreen at all time, but will be monitored in the background and will only be brought to a user’s attention when necessary.
This focus on the task at hand is also evident in the litl using a full screen for a given task at any one time. Gone are the multiple windows and cluttered desktops we have become so accustomed to. Also gone is the reliance on obscure symbols that must be learned. Although the interface might use a well-known icon here and there, the user interface generally relies on text because it doesn’t require learning any additional knowledge.
This simplified approach obviously wouldn’t be feasible when dealing with more complicated tasks, but for the range of home entertainment and information tasks the litl is aimed to deal with it could provide a user experience that doesn’t scare off even the most technophobic members of the family.
The litl doesn’t boast the most impressive specs on paper, but the specs it does have obviously been tailored to meet its aims. The obvious case in point being the litl’s 12.1-inch display featuring a 178-degree viewing angle that allows a group of people to clearly view the screen at the same time. Meanwhile, for an even more social experience, the litl webbook also offers plug-and-play connectivity to large screen, HDTVs by way of an HDMI output port.
With only 2GB of flash memory the litl can’t be used to store massive amounts of data. Instead the litl is designed to pull not only content, but also applications from existing web-based services, such as Google apps, Flickr and YouTube. This content is displayed as “channels” that can be flipped through using the wheel that is built into the litl’s hinge, or by using the optional remote control.
Other features include a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, webcam, mic, and speakers. The litl’s GPU can playback H.264 video at 720p on a connected HDTV, while an integrated handle makes it easy to pick up and carry around.
Looking at those specs you’d be forgiven for thinking the litl was more than a little overpriced at US$699. But what users are really paying for is the simplified package that the litl offers. People who aren’t really that techno savvy and generally rely on friends or family members to keep their computer updated would probably find the no muss, no fuss litl worth the extra money. Anyone with a little more experience would probably be better off sticking with a regular netbook for half the price.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning