Behold Ze German WePad!

| iPad

German company Neofonie has introduced a tablet device the company calls…wait for it…no, really, this is going to be so totally worth the wait…WePad! The company is pushing it as a device that is open, and one that doesn’t tie you to the whims and limitations of another unnamed company.

“Some people seem to think life is all about the I, and the Me, Me, Me,” Neofonie wrote on the WePad’s site. “We beg to differ. To us, the power of many beats the power of one. That’s why we came up with the WePad: It’s the smarter solution for enjoying the Internet your way. Why? Because when you’re locked in, you get the Internet their way. It’s the opposite of free. Being told what you can see, what you can buy, and all the things you can not do – somehow, that just seems so 1984.”

The last line seemingly being a reference to Apple’s own 1984 commercial where the company pitched the Mac as a device that freed users from the tyranny of computers controlled by Big Brother (in the form of IBM).

WePad Desktop
WePad’s Desktop

“All along the way,” the company continued, “we will gladly help connect the dots, so that the power of We can make magic happen. But we will never, ever box you in. Or anybody else, for that matter. Not even those who have a big I and prefer to pursue their own Me. Promise.”

The WePad is built on Android, and the company also launched WeMagazine ePublishing Open Platform, software that allows publishers to offer books, magazines, and newspapers on its new device. Existing Android apps and ebooks will also run on the WePad “out of the box,” though not in the device’s native resolution.

While the WePad’s site doesn’t mention iPad or Apple by name, the company released a “Fact Sheet” that offers a side by side comparison of the WePad and the iPad.

The WePad’s display is 11.6” (iPad: 9/7”), and offers a resolution of 1366 x 768 (iPad: 1024 x 768). It’s powered by a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 Pineview-M processor (iPad: 1.0GHz Apple A4 processor), and comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage (iPad: 16/32/64).

For those pining for a camera in their tablet, the WePad has one, along with two USB ports, a card reader, a SIM card slot, and a Multi-Pin Connector (iPad has a micro SIM card slot). Unlike the iPad, the WePad will run Java, Flash, and Adobe Air.

For those wanting to download apps, Neofonie has developed the WePad Meta-Store, an online application store that “integrates multiple [third party] stores.”

The WePad is priced at €449 (US$610.87 as of this writing) for the 16GB model, and €569 ($774.12) for a 32GB model with 3G. We’ve asked the company if those prices include VAT taxes (most prices in the European Union are quoted with VAT taxes included), and will update this story when we receive a reply.It will be available for pre-order on April 27th, 2010, and the company is doing a “soft launch” in July, with wide availability in August.

WePad Rear & Side View
WePad Rear & Side View

Comments

Bryan Chaffin

OMG, I am so in love with this company!  That first quote is the snarkiest thing I’ve seen in a long while, and they had the cojones to tag Apple for not only the “i” product line, but to call Apple for wanting it both ways (1984), and then to follow it up by referencing Apple’s use of “magical” to describe the iPad!

Mind you, the WePad looks like a big clunky piece of crap that is going to offer a very mediocre user experience - I wouldn’t buy one - but the company’s verbiage shows a real understanding of Apple’s cultural mythology. I cackled repeatedly as I put the story together!

On another note: The WePad is exactly and precisely the kind of device that my friend Bosco has said Apple should be making. I seriously think you should try it out, Bosco.

Lee Dronick

Is that cooling vents that I am seeing in the rear view? Looks like one running along the bottom length and a short one on the top.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ah Bryan, I am glad you didn’t go with the angle of the cute German girl in the black (or was it red?) scarf showing it off. See the Engadget story…

IIRC, they are backed by German publishing giant Springer and they’ve also made noise about a range of form factors. And that brings up what, from a software point of view, is an important point about where tablets are headed. Bryan mentioned that Android apps run on it, but not in native size. They could run in native size. One thing I’ve had to do over the past 6 months or so to target netbooks is rethink how control layout works in full screen mode when you have a wide variety of screen sizes. Windowing is indeed a tired concept, especially on smaller screens. But I think that iPhone’s single screen size and iPad’s single screen size will retard developer thinking in those spaces. iPhone OS developers can count on 2 (maybe 3) screen sizes over the next year, depending on specs of the next iPhone. In Android space, developers have to think about the whole range if they want to go full screen because anything is possible. Of course, as you can see in the screen shots, Android apps don’t have to go full screen either. The screen shot doesn’t show that they can be any odd shape you like, although most are basically rectangular.

But all that said, I would bet on this tablet being junk too. Given their in-your-face German attitude (with clever humor that wreaks of a Danish influence), I’d love for them to succeed. But in the gold rush to succeed on the Android and Windows side of tablet space in iPad price range, 99% of the first comers are going to fail. Nobody will be able to predict and few will be able to immediately explain why the 1% that thrive do so, but everyone will be copying them for generation 2. And that’s when iPad will start its Mac-like march toward obscure, expensive niche.

Hey, did you notice that this Pinetrail powered beast will run the same Android apps as ARM powered phones? Those apps may not have the numbers and they may not have the strictly enforced high quality and moral fortitude of App Store apps, but they’ve got reach.

@Sir Harry… Likely. Cooling vents on similarly equipped netbooks with this year’s parts won’t heat up your lap a bit. Even when playing FarmVille (in Flash).

BurmaYank

What - no interchangeable batteries?

If it’s running Flash, it therefore can’t have very good battery life, so to keep the unit reasonably functional, ISTM it would have to have replaceable/externally rechargeable batteries!

OutfieldDan

Once again, it’s catchup time for everyone except Apple.  It’s been over two years since the iphone was released, and nothing stands up to it yet.  We’ll see about the iPad too.

Incidentally, how are they going to manage all the power drains with usb ports, webcam cameras, corrupted opensource programs running all the time in the background, viruses, etc.?

This is certainly NOT going to be released on time, and when it is released, it’ll have a clunky touchscreen interface just like the android.

Bryan Chaffin

Bosco, I think you’re spot on about the Danish influence on the marketing copy. I seriously love that copy, even while I scoff at the underlying reality that copy represents.

I think you are precisely wrong, though, when you suggest that having to design for multiple screen sizes is somehow a benefit to the platform. I think it can be argued that offering multiple screen sizes can be attractive to consumers, but I think it’s inarguable that it becomes a headache for developers.

Indeed, that’s one of the complaints I’ve encountered from Android developers.

And speaking of the decline of the Mac, please note that the platform has gained market share for years, and that Apple is one of only a couple of PC makers to make a profit on its hardware sales?

The Mac didn’t decline in the 90s because it was proprietary - that was all about Apple’s mismanagement.

Thus, comparisons to iPad (or iPhone) are…wait for it…apples to oranges! Bada bing!

Lee Dronick

I am glad you didn?t go with the angle of the cute German girl in the black (or was it red?) scarf showing it off. See the Engadget story?

I am pretty sure that is a guy, if this is the person about whom you are referring to. Unless the WePad is powered by androgen not android. smile

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@OutfieldDan: Unless it gets jacked by a neighborhood prankster, I have a Nexus One arriving tomorrow. I’m going to blog my transition from my iPhone, which I plan to spend a good month doing, because my iPhone is a serious business tool for me. But my obviously dated sense of right and wrong has been tugging at me of late. You can read me here. You can even comment. You can even call me names. It’s all good. But you’ll get an honest assessment of the differences. And if Nexus One loses out, you can watch me ebay it as I draft my bet-losing essay for Bryan to use sometime in the next year. iPhone goes to my Dad, though…

@Bryan: I know what you mean, but having gone through the process of dealing with multiple full-screen layouts once, I know I could really get it right on the fourth try. And that tells me that a development tool will address it nicely at some point. Imagine an app that works nice on your phone and on your Android powered big screen. Your friend likes that app. You beam him a copy on his phone. It goes full screen there. He takes it home and puts it on his big screen. It runs widget sized there. Save this post for July 2011. While Apple fiddles with its proprietary stuff, the rest of us will be doing that.

marcsten

Tomorrow’s news -
‘Behold, the French JePad!’

danmanteufel

Not ouiPad?

Nemo

Dear Bosco:  It is nice that you’re going to do an A/B comparison of your old iPhone with your new Nexus One.  But don’t you have the problem in making the comparison that the iPhone OS in your current iPhone is, as of last Friday, 9 April 2010, obsolete?  iPhone OS 4.0 is the new standard for comparison, but it won’t be released until later this summer—it is rumored on 22 June 2010—probably along with the latest generation of the iPhone, which Steve has said will be an A+ upgrade from the current iPhone.  So you can make the comparison today, but doing it with the current iPhone, means that your comparison will have at most 8 to 10 weeks of relevance.

Bryan Chaffin

Firstly, Bosco, I have had ZERO idea all these years that you were Brad Hutchings!! No wonder I always liked you despite your curmudgeonly ways!

Brad was an OpenDoc developer, but he was smart enough to move on long before I did. smile

But how is it that you no longer seem to get the end-user benefits of the Whole Widget business model?

As for developing for multiple screens: I would like it if my apps went native from my iPhone to native on my not-yet-purchased iPad. In fact, I think they should do so without me having to pay twice. I’ve noticed some developers like Agile Partners have been doing just that with TabToolKit, for instance.

But even there: One set screen size for iPhone and one for iPad sure seems easier than just having no idea what screen your app will end up on.  Few people can design GUIs that well.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, a very fair question. My Dad is mad at you without knowing it because he just lost his only best at an iPhone. If the outcome is that I keep the N1, I’ll have to keep the iPhone too. And I will reevaluate, albeit with a new challenger. But first and foremost, I am “sell what you got” guy, so I will always compare in the here and the now (for then).

Bryan has me pegged as curmudgeonly. That’s what happens when a kid who was 16 going on 40 (in a good way, I promise) approaches 40. I like my nice things. But I also insist that they play nice. Apple definitely makes some nice things. Even in the darkest of Apple times, Apple made some really nice things. But what I am waking up to now is that other companies make nice things too these days. The crappiest, cheapest netbook is an engineering masterpiece when it sits next to the Mac G4 Cube that my grandmother fried last month and a decade ago was my desktop workhorse when the Pismo wasn’t beefy enough. If you were happy with the very best that 2000 or 2005 had to offer, you’re gonna be pretty stoked with the top 95% or so of today’s kit. We live in great times. Expect your vendors to make great stuff and act great too.

Bryan Chaffin

Nemo, I think it’s much more fair to compare shipping products: Today’s N1 to today’s iPhone 3Gs.

But, comparing this Summer’s N1 to this Summer’s iPhone OS 4 device would then be the fair thing to do, too.

By the standard as you stated, we can’t compare the iPhone to any shipping Windows Mobile device as MS announced Windows Mobile 7 System Whatever will ship this Fall.

Of course, I think that today’s iPhone OS smokes what I know of tomorrow’s Windows Mobile 7 System Whatever anyway, but that’s another story. smile

Dean Lewis

I, too, am interested in the battery life of this thing. I’ve also been watching the development of Notion Ink’s Adam tablet. Also Android-based, the Adam is interesting for it use of PIxel Xi’s dual lcd and e-ink color screen tech. They claim the price will be around $650-$850, but they are still in development stages and haven’t yet mentioned much about battery life. Interestingly, many thought it was coming this summer, but Notion Ink?s blog says Adam will not be released until ?Flash is fully functional?. So, here is another tablet, and Android no less, with Flash issues.

Battery life is key on a device like this. My roommate just bought an iPad—his first ever Apple device—and the thing he remarks on the most is how it is ready when he picks it up. Unlike his PC laptop, he doesn’t have to wait for it to boot or wake from sleep, and he doesn’t have to worry that it’ll tell him he has no battery life left (even if it looks like he does), making him fumble around to find the power adapter and a place to plug in. That in itself makes it a go-to device when you want to quickly look for some information, check and fire off email, or browse some stuff while waiting for dinner or during commercials or whatever—and that changes how the average person uses tech. (Techies may have been doing this with netbooks or laptops for a while now, but we put up with the b.s. and normal people don’t want to. smile )

More power to the WePads and Adams. Competition is good. I’m curious how much will be real competition and how much will be catch up, though. When these hit, iPhone OS 4 will be coming out. When the others update, the next iPhones and maybe even iPads or iPad firmware updates will be coming. Should be a fun ride for the next year or so!

JulesLt

I’ll be interested to see the battery life (larger screen = significantly more surface area to light, Atom less efficient than ARM, although Android more efficient than Win 7 so will beat the HP equivalent. Unsure how much Android/Atom optimization has been done yet??).

Flash - could be interesting as we know there is an Android/ARM version, and a Windows/Atom optimised version - provided you have specific GPU acceleration.

Bosco - I’d slightly disagree. The cheapest netbook is still bad next to a G4 cube, because my experience of bottom end netbooks is that they are underpowered for the OS and applications they run. In contrast, if I fire up an old Sinclair 8-bit machine from the 80s, or later Amiga, they are both still responsive machines - they were well-engineered in terms of the available components at the time.
The Tempus editor on the Atari ST still flies, faster than WordPad on a PC today.

I’m not saying Apple always get that right either - there are definite occasions when the demands of the OS and applications have led the hardware.

I know that’s not entirely what you meant - the continued miniaturization and increase in power is amazing.

Elmar

I?ll be interested to see the battery life ...

I just looked up the German product specification and it claims a battery life of 6 hours, which is not too bad for all this hardware. The WePad is even a little thinner than the iPad (13 mm instead of 13.4 mm), but heavier (800 g instead of 680 g). The price of 449.00 ? for the basic model (WiFi + 16 GB) is the same as the rumored price for the iPad in Germany (prices here are always VAT included).

The company, with 170 employees, has been founded by 3 computer scientists from the University of Berlin, so I guess it is basically a technology company.

CrizzoDesigns

competition is good, always!

AceNet-Alan

All I want to know: does the WePad go well with mustard and pretzels?

ibuck

Even if Bosco compares Apples to apples (vs oranges), his lack of objectivity will tint his evaluation, as his anti-Apple polemics have demonstrated recently. 

I recently returned my iPad because it didn’t comfortably work as I wanted. The biggest factor was weight and comfort in the hand, even when reclining. I think 10-12 ounces, like the Nook and others, is the sweet spot for reading devices. Nook, Kindle and other “readers” all have their drawbacks compared to iPad, so I’m hoping Apple comes out with a smaller iPad or bigger iPod Touch, as rumored, with email and internet, and half the current iPad’s weight.

If iPad competitors just heap on features without concern for weight and battery life, I think they may very well fail to achieve widespread use, as current tablet computers have failed. Any mobile device reviews that don’t objectively address these 2 crucial issues aren’t helpful, IMHO. YMMV.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@iBuck… Actually, the beautifully colorful AMOLED screen is tinting my evaluation grin. But I’ll give you my conclusion based on 17 hours with my Nexus One. Once I read the TFM online, it is better at everything than the iPhone 3GS with one exception. If you have a couple Gs in DRM’d music in iTunes, you’re gonna be Googling hard for requiem. An informed first-hand opinion will only cost you $575 and works on your existing AT&T contract.

All of Apple’s weird behavior boils down to one thing. They are scared to death of losing everything they have in the mobile market. They are copying to catch up. They are suing to get cover for the upcoming copying. They’re picking on Adobe to grab attention.

Bibi

I will certainly buy a wepad. Oh yeah, I don’t think they are against apple, they just want to do better.
Did you see in one of their video’s that they are all working on apple laptops ?

John Strazzeri

Well, I have an ipad, and after the initial hysterical blindness wore off, I discovered its a useless device. Safari mobile don’t work correctly, cant use the memory for storage. its a giant i touch. Total waste of money. The elitist jobs wanna Be’s are proclaiming the wonders of the device like we’ve never seen anything like it. Oh yea, the i touch. When will consumers stop buying into garbage propaganda and actually find products that do what they want. STOP letting people take your money and then tell you what to do with the stuff you bought. My prediction is as more people realize they purchased a brick, you will see a flood of them on eBay. Come to mention it your seeing that now!

Lee Dronick

Well, I have an ipad

No you don’t

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