CES 2011: NEC's Android Tablet Twist Is Dual-Screen - InformationWeek

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1/6/2011
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Fritz Nelson
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CES 2011: NEC's Android Tablet Twist Is Dual-Screen

CES has already seen its fair share of new tablet announcements, even before the show officially starts. NEC's offering is something quite different. But for now, it's just a prototype.

NEC's dual-screen tablet -- dubbed Android Cloud Communicator -- emerged as a refreshing oddity among the clutter of me-too Android tablets at CES. Turns out it's just a prototype for now, and while it will require another set of development efforts for those who want to exploit the dual screens, some of the sample applications look promising.

NEC plans ship the unit in Japan first, sometime this Spring; and a U.S. version sometime after that. It wouldn't provide any details on price or carrier partners, but it did say the SDK is available. The unit runs a 1 GHz ARM Cortex processor. The screens are 7 inch, 800x600, resistive touch LCDs, and the first units will be WiFi and Bluetooth only, but NEC says they've left space for 3G or 4G modules inside. There is a rear-facing 3 megapixel camera (capable of 720p capture), two USB ports, and an SD card slot; there's no video out. NEC says the target battery life is five hours.

The unit has plenty of buttons, for menus, for turn book pages, and adjusting the screen's brightness, for example. In addition to supporting the normal touch gestures, it comes with a stylus.

NEC included some interesting applications to demonstrate the value of the device. Obviously a folding two-screen device serves well as a book reader, but the company's text book application lets content creators have video instruction on, say, the left-hand page of the book, with written instruction on the right. Great idea.

The Folio application is like a diary of sorts, where you can bring in photos, or web pages, and then make annotations, or, using the stylus and some nifty tools, cut out part of a Google map and pair that cutout with something else.

The big challenge is that this is a modified version of Android. That's part of beauty of the OS being open, of course, but then developers have to make choices. NEC hasn't been a major factor in consumer devices, at least in the U.S., and that will cause some major hesitation unless there's a specific application that simply demands a dual-screen tablet. Nevertheless, it's great to see some early innovation ... especially when all of these tablets are starting to look the same.

To see the rest of InformationWeek's articles, videos and image galleries covering the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, be sure to visit our CES 2011 Special Report. Also, be sure to sign-up to be notified when TechWeb launches all of its consumer tech coverage on BYTE.com, led by BYTE editor Gina Smith.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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