Walking around Shibuya today I noticed a new item that is hopefully the harbinger of things to come in the emerging field of handheld Internet devices. The Sharp â€˜em.oneâ€™ (Japanese site) is a 4.1cm x 7cm unit held horizontally, similar to the Sony PSP which has become a ubiquitous item among high school and university students here in Tokyo. The styling is also somewhat similar as well although it appears to have a bigger screen.
Even though the unit is very slim at only 1.8cm thick it contains a slide-out qwerty keyboard and two navigation controls, one is similar to a cell phones center navigator, the other is more like a very small joystick, used for controlling the mouse. It also comes with a stylus for touch screen functionality. The slide down keyboard can also slide out to the right to reveal only the navigation controls for simple browsing, a clever idea since it is much more natural to hold it this way.
As for the OS, it runs Windows Mobile 5.0 and has wireless LAN capability, claiming 3.6Mbps Internet wireless transfer in its promotional material. Whether there is a way to connect to 3G phone networks is not clear however. Browsers included are Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile, which will be good news for some as there is a huge community of Opera users online.
Not solely an internet device, the em.one also receives television signals, allows viewing and editing of Microsoft Word and Excel files, syncs with Windows XP, Vista, and 2000 and contains a 1.3 megapixel camera on the back of the keyboard.
The em.one is available only in Japan at the moment and runs for around 40,000 yen if you opt for the two year hosting plan, close to 100,000 if you donâ€™t.
Iâ€™ve recently been hoping to find such a device as they can make web based business much more mobile, freeing one from constantly being in the office. No word yet on when the unit will be released stateside.
Thereâ€™s an interactive promotion video here, itâ€™s in Japanese but still gives you a nice idea of the product. This device is hopefully the first of many.