27 March 2007

Small PCs present big problems for users and interface designers [AP]

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FlipStart
Watching users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart compact PC practically gave Robin Budd a heart attack. The culprit was the three-key sequence, Control-Alt-Delete, required to log off or reboot a Windows PC.

“They would be holding the device in one hand, and they would try to get their three fingers on the keys at one time,” said Budd, senior director at FlipStart Labs, a venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. “You can do it if you’re fairly nimble with your fingers, but it’s sort of a tippy, precarious thing.”

When the shrunken-down laptop goes on sale later this month, early adopters might get a kick out of FlipStart’s solution: a dedicated key marked “Ctrl Alt Del.”

The FlipStart, like other so-called ultra-mobile PCs, may give workers tools to do more from the road. At the same time, the Control-Alt-Delete problem is a reminder to electronics makers that the human body is not keeping up with ever-shrinking gadgets.

Manufacturers have not found “the sweet spot between small enough for portability and big enough to use and interact with,” said Gregg Davis, a principal at Design Central, an industrial design company in Columbus, Ohio.

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(via Usability in the News)

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