I was planning on blogging about niche products and how you need to do research to help understand the product in order to determine if it’s worthwhile mainstreaming.  But the truth is, I never got up the energy to follow through with my thoughts and wrote four or five drafts of something that I felt wasn’t even worth publishing to myself.  So the result is, I’m going to talk about the Sony U50/70 products.  I’ve already blogged about these before, wondering who is going to buy one and what it is they are going to do with.  The consensus I’ve had is that there are a few people with lots of disposable income will find some cute tricks to do with them like a complete on the go interface to their Sony Aibo.  Okay, I’m being saracastic.  Fact of the matter is that I’ve only spent about 20 minutes with one of the devices when the interface was all in Japanese.  In the next couple of weeks I’m going to be spending a lot more hands on time with one to do a more thorough evaluation.  Unfortunately for readers out there, it’s part of my job so I won’t be able to post my evaluation, but I’ll try to at least relate my sense of use over the period of time.   I know that Robert is pretty keen on the device as a natural fit for a Tablet, and I’ve read the gushing reviews of it from multiple other sites too…

All that said, I really do believe its part of a niche product at least in the current time frame.  It’s expensive and it has what I perceive to be limited appeal for a particular audience.  The question that I’m asking in my evaluation of the machine and possibly to anyone who deems to read this, is what are the defining factors in terms of “software” or “hardware/software interaction” that would be necessarily for this machine to move from niche to mass market.  That is to say, if the price (which is outrageous) and the overall ergonomics of the device (which may be somewhat lacking) were no longer and issue, what does this machine have to do that would make it appeal to everyone or for everyone to say that this is what “mobile” computing is really about.

As a bonus question, you can apply this same logic to Tablets.  What are they missing from a user interaction stand-point that would really make a difference in how you do your job, live your life or what you want?

Before anyone hits me with the obvious things like:
- Battery life
- Instant on
- Weight
- Price
- Different Operating System

Let’s try to focus on those SOFTWARE aspects or software/hardware aspects (e.g. a button for a specific feature) since the ones above are obvious and don’t really need to be stated.

One way to start thinking about this is, what software do you load on every laptop or tablet computer you get?  For me, I switch machines often and have a standard suite of things that have to go on… Office (of course), Streets and Trips, Mpeg 2 codec, reVue (program for playing mpeg2’s that were captured from a Replay), OneNote, etc.. 

Okay so what do you 1) load on your computer, 2) what does something like a Sony U50 have to have to make it worthwhile and 3) what is the tablet lacking that would make all the difference?