Warning: Recently edited, now long and more ranty.
I dislike current portable computers. I want a computer that has some functionality (not a whole lot, I dont want to play videogames or watch blue-Ray movies in High-Def or any such nonsense). All I want is something that is dirt-cheap and has a superb
battery life so I won't worry as much about finding outlets to charge it.
Here's the hypothesis.
1-Many uses for a PC are text based.
Email - Text editing - Twitter - News - Blogs - Movie Times - Weather - Wikipedia - Instant Messaging - Halfbakery (As noted by Mister QED)
2-A few can be satisfied with a low-res color display:
Youtube - Newscasts - Picture Viewing
How are current computers made?
The have one moderately large color screen, which has fairly high resolution. Not needed for all the text stuff.
The resolution is not needed to watch low-res youtube videos, the newscast, a downloaded movie, with compression artifacts, or the pictures of a wedding I don't really care about, but my friend emailed them and asks me if I saw the pictures.
For all the aforementioned. The Ideal device needs two cheap screens instead of one expensive one.
1- A Text-Only LCD screen with efficient GUI (i.e. norton commander)
(It may be cheap if mass produced for other puroposes, i.e. cellphone monochromatic screens. Some mono LCD's only take a few miliwatts to power as long as it's not backlighted and low contrast is tolerated). If you need convincing, check the specs of the palms or early LCD based computers, Tandy 100, psion, etc. (Surely, they had low processor speeds too)
2- A Small color LCD display (less than 2 inches)
(Thay should be quite cheap as some cheap photo-keychains) I think the screens get expensive as you increase the size. The increase is probably nonlinear, as most everything is.
Big screen LCD TV = expensive.
1 inch Photo keychain LCD screen =Cheap.
Refreshing a text display requires only a few clock cycles, which should save power, but, more importantly. Hear this now.... It's quite easy to program (you remember the DOS days?). (the cost of programming user interfaces is quite high) In the old days anyone could program those text-based spectrums, commodores, etc in 5 minutes. And they had good manuals too.
Now all the fancy computers nowadays. Not only they are overpriced, but don't come with any manuals for programming them. How much would it cost to print a manual or at least save a PDF with a manual in the computer. This one you bet it will have a programming manual. Ant it will be easy to do so. In C or basic or something.
A video tutorial also will be included, but the video screen will be quite small, so you won't be sure of what you see.
The double screeen most likely results in very long battery life and (hopefully) low cost of the computer, the latter be better decided by a feasability study.
For added appeal. Make it ultra-hackable, with a linux microcontroller for CPU. Using surplus cellphone and keychain screens might make it profitable.
The design is admittedly more cumbersome, more parts, where do you put the screens? Will users like it?
Another downside, a tiny color screen won't really work for what the internet is REALLY for. I mean, playing video games or something. You can use your other computer for that. You don't need to do it at the coffee shop or in the bus. Can't you wait till you are back home? Please...