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Control Tablets Are Coming

Professionals in the custom electronics integrator space that have followed portable computing platforms over the years always looked at these devices as potential control devices for our clients electronic estates. The ultimate mobile control product would be one that is:

Easy to navigate with a scroll wheel or by touch screen, not just the use of an easy to lose stylus
Quick to respond to touch activated commands
Windows compatible to run a wide range of home control software applications
Easy to read with a colorful and sharp screen
Mobile with a great range of wireless coverage
Cost effective
Easy to program (if necessary)

Over the years our company, cyberManor, has seen a number of products that meet some of these criteriabut not all of them. As a result, most of the Windows-based control tablets were an intriguing solution when you first used them but any compromise in the above criteria rendered them more as a home control novelty that you could demonstrate to impress your neighbors but not your own family that had to use it everyday.

Fortunately, the wait for the ideal, cost-effective home control web tablet may soon be over. Until this year most of the available home and A/V control touchscreen control tablets were made by manufacturers in limited quantities and running a proprietary operating system. These touchscreen tablets are graphically attractive, easy to use (if programmed properly) and reliable, but often cost from $3,000 to $6,000 each.
Origami-compliant computers, the standard name given to the next generation of ultra-mobile computing platforms defined by Microsoft, Intel, and Samsung that can run touchscreen-based versions of the Microsoft XP or Linux operating systems, have the potential to become the ideal home control touchscreen solution. Over the last few months we have been testing one of these platforms from Samsung (the Q1 model) running the Exceptional Innovation Life|ware home control software. Our experience to date makes us optimistic that this $1,000 home control touchscreen platform is ready for prime time. The Samsung tablet is:

Quick to boot up and fast to wake up from sleep mode
Very responsive and accurate to touch or scroll wheel movements
Easy to read with a clear, high-resolution color screen
Operable for over two hours without having to recharge the battery
Compatible with the 802.11b and g wireless standards to give effective whole house coverage
Easy to set up with Windows-based software such as the Life|ware control client which emulates the Microsoft Media Center graphical user interface
Only 1.7 pounds

The Samsung Q1 ultra portable is getting close to our definition of the perfect mobile home control tablet. As close as the Samsung web tablet is to becoming the holy grail of remote control platforms, if it had the following features it would be the ideal solution for all of our clients: an attractive coffee table docking cradle so it would always remain charged. It can be charged now with the external power transformer but it reveals the charging wire; a wall mount option that would allow the tablet to remain charged while in the wall mount, yet detachable to allow for roaming control around the home; longer battery life; the scroll wheel button should have the enter key in the center of the scroll wheel button instead of below it; if it weighed less than a pound that would be ideal. Although, 1.5 pounds is much better that carrying a laptop around your home for home control, if the Q1 weighed less than a pound it would make it even more appealing; a screen that is less reflective to light. Although the Samsung Q1 works well inside the home, outside the home in either direct or indirect sunlight the screen is very difficult to read and navigate.

By way of comparison, the new Sonos remote controller is one of the best, easiest to use lightweight remote control that we have sold and supported. The problem with the Sonos remote is that it only operates the homes whole-house audio system, it does not control any television or home control needs. As a result, it adds one more remote control to a family that may already have a whole host of additional A/V remote controls to master.

The new Samsung Q1 tablet PC matches the elegance and ease of use of the Sonos controller while also serving the homes complete video and home control needs. The dream of any custom electronics integrator is to offer our clients a single easy to use remote that can operate all of the homes electronicsfrom audio/video to lighting control, thermostats, cameras, security panels, and even motorized window treatments. Thanks to the new Samsung Q1 running Windows applications like the Life|ware software suite we are getting very close to our vision of home control nirvana.