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QuokkaPad – hands on with the open-source multi platform tablet

I had an interesting chat today with Mike Ottoy, designer of the QuokkaPad, an open-source, iPad-esque ebook reader with an awful lot of potential. The idea of the QuokkaPad was conceived 10 years ago as an alternative medium for critical documentation such as military or aircraft manuals, where the distribution and version control is paramount. Gradually it evolved into its current form: a Linux powered, open source ebook reader/slate/tablet.

Quokkapadscreen

It’s not quite as svelte as the current crop of pads and tablets but it’s easy to hold with a thick book-like spine along the left where the battery lives. The Quokka is also designed to help make things easy for people with disabilities, there are dedicated page turn buttons on the right, a font resizing toggle along the righthand edge and a stylus for fine-detailed work. Extra storage is provided via 32GB SD card slot. The resistive touch screen is 800×600 running at 262k colours.

quokkapad

At its core is a 400MHz MIPS (RISC-based) processor running Linux (2.6.24.3) with the GPE Palmtop Environment UI layer on top. The upshot is that with a slight modification to the source code, developers should be able to move their software onto the pad as they wish. But even cooler is the fact that you don’t have to stick with Linux, there’s room for up to three OS kernels, like say Android, Windows CE or whatever else you might fancy.

And it’s not just the software that’s hackable, the hardware can also be bent to your whim. For starters, the WiFi card is upgradeable if you want to add n to your b/g, the Lithium ion battery is also removable and easy to swap out when the battery wears out. The USB2.0 port at the bottom is a hub, so you can use 3G dongles, download images from a camera or plug in a proprietary USB thing belonging to your company.

It’s not quite ready yet, but Mike reckons about a month and the units will start trickling onto the shelves. Prices aren’t set, but it will probably sit somewhere between AU$400 to $450 (~US$330 to $380). If you need a tablet-like solution but don’t really want to play in the Android and Apple walled gardens then the QuokkaPad could be well worth a look.

QuokkaPad is a wireless handheld computer with a large 8-inch colour screen. QuokkaPad has been optimised for the mobile office worker and student including access to corporate applications, manuals, sales material, browsing the web, email and many other functions. QuokkaPad can be configured with larger memory and optional biometric access for added security.

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