When I got my original Vaio (the good one, not 2.0 aka “the trainwreck”) I was amazed by the thinness of the screen (even next to an Air it’s a very thin screen). I distinctly recall the day I dreamed up a dual-screen laptop, one that would work inside the existing context of Windows (or OS X) and be extremely helpful for a variety of different types of users. Since then I’ve heard of numerous forays into the Dual-Screen Laptop space, and in each case I simply don’t understand the efforts.
Three out of four of the concepts I’ve read about use one screen as a big “touchpad”, the other as a traditional display (here, here, and here). The fourth has a very bizarre “folding half-screen” approach, which just looks like it should be called the Picasso edition.
I believe the correct approach to a dual-screen laptop isn’t about replacing the keyboard, it just doesn’t seem like a high-want item. I’m a decent typist, but I don’t think I’d do well on an all-touch screen-keyboard (a la iPhone). Instead, I think about how people use both laptops *and* desktops with dual-monitors, and what options would make sense in a single unit.
So, without further adieu, here is my little “Recipe For Success” to built a useful dual-screen laptop (along with my terrible photoshopped prototype image):
Start by thinking of a thin-screened laptop like the (now former) Sony Vaio SZ series. Imagine on the side (left or right – you pick) a hinge, and on the other side a clasp. You release the clasp, then a second screen swivels out (via hinge) to appear next to your original screen. Attentive readers will realize at this moment that the screen is facing away from the user, which means the hinge needs a swivel as well (just like on a tablet PC). That’s the basics, but read on for it to all make a bit more sense. Also, I’m not stating that this configuration is for everyone, but, like a mini-notebook, it should appeal to… some?
First it gives the user an instant two-monitor setup, very familiar to many desk setups. Nothing like extra screen space when you spend your working hours with one. It probably wouldn’t work too well back in coach, but in a Starbucks or at home, would be a great solution.
Also, since there is a hinge/swivel mechanism it can be used to create a second screen facing away from the user. Super handy for anyone doing frequent presentations. If it’s not clear by now, the other fringe benefit here is this second screen works just like a second monitor, so it would be compatible with Windows XP or Vista (if necessary, ugh) with no special/new drivers.
If we want to get fancy, let’s make the secondary screen touch-sensitive, then we have a tablet interface running while we are at it. Not sure what the impact is to cost/feasibility here, but my hunch is it would be the least of the design concerns.
Clearly this isn’t the budget laptop, and this won’t be interesting to quite a few readers. But I have a hunch there’s a few people reading right now who really really want one. Chalk me up on the list.