My frustrations with Apple’s new Macs

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So Apple released their new Macs with Apple Silicon now, and while I was really looking forward to this transition, there are things that just irk me and make me hold off from purchasing.

What was released?

Apple put out three new computers, that all feature on new System-on-a-Chip (SoC), named M1. It’s a 13″ MacBook Air, a 13″ MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini.

Unlike with their previous transition from PowerPC to Intel (2005 f.), Apple aren’t changing their branding here. The main difference between the MacBook Air and the Pro are that the Pro has a bigger battery for supposedly crazy long battery life, a fan, and the TouchBar. They all, including the Mac Mini, have two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports (the Mac Mini thankfully adds two USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 2.0).

Apple harps that these new models are sooo much faster, and early benchmarks seem to confirm that. Now, that’s great – and the massive increase in battery life (Apple says these machines are going to last up to 18 hours (MacBook Air)/ 20 hours (MacBook Pro)) is also awesome.

So what’s your problem?

Repairability and upgradability

Earlier this year Apple went big on boasting what they are doing for the environment. They also previously were big on showing off their recycling efforts. Now what’s better, than recycling? Right, reducing!

Modern Apple Hardware (including, but not limited to MacBooks) seeks to make user/self repair and repair by 3rd parties impossible. Now while there are good reasons for this (protecting the brand by ensuring a good experience), it still is likely leading to more e-waste than neccessary and thus bad.

Bad Default specs

Random Access Memory

It’s 2020. While 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD as defaults may be justifiable for people that are looking for a MacBook Air, it’s just a total joke that they even offer that as default for their “Pro” branded offering.1 It’s almost like no one at Apple ever uses the RAM-eating shit-fest the modern web is, or if, they only use it in their own Safari browser (that is, the parts of the web that work in Safari).2
Now, a lot of RAM use may go to Electron-based apps, that may be replaceable by more RAM-friendly iOS apps now (assuming the app developers allow runnning their iOS apps on the Mac), which might drop RAM load. Still, 16 GB as a default with 32 GB as an upgrade option would have been the right way to go, ensuring long usable lifetimes for these new computers.

SSD / File Storage

When you boast that your new hardware is great at multimedia work, please, for the love of god, supply reasonable storage options. While a 2 TB maximum is ok (not really for the ‘Pro’, admittedly), it’s just crazy expensive at 800 USD (896 EURO) upgrades. And you have to choose your size when you buy it, you can’t upgrade afterwards.3

Now, they have some reasoning for that. But why not go the Microsoft route, and allow upgrading by having an empty m.2-slot or even something proprietary, that’s user accessible for later upgrades? Why not at least allow an option for slower storage (e.g. by adding a microSDXC-card slot), for all the people who want to keep their family photos on device?


Last but not least, pricing. I don’t want to make this about their bad european pricing4
I love the Mac5, and I would love for it to be more affordable.

Apple is able to deliver great products at affordable price points, as evidenced by their entry level iPad. I want Apple to adopt a strategy that allows them to gain market share, because I do strongly believe that they offer something great with the Mac, that enables people to do more with there Computers without these being as “dumbed down” as the mobile platforms.

Switching to their own Apple Silicon is considered to likely increase Apples profit margin by quite a bit, yet they kept pricing mostly the same. This, as I believe, is going to harm them in the future, if they want to cut on their margin to offer products for the Everyman or education (in a push for market share or against Chromebooks) and not just their usual high-income bracket – shareholders would likely have questions and not approve.


I won’t buy a laptop for almost 2000 EUR unless I am certain to be able to use it for at least 4 years as my main machine. I am not sure that a 16GB RAM MacBook Air or Pro can deliver that, so I will just sit tight and wait for their next announcement.

Also, I have little hope that they are going deliver a cheaper, entry level MacBook (at least for education), and clear up their “Pro” branding problem. Long term they should refocus more on customers, deliver hardware that makes their environmental claims more credible, respect the right-to-repair more and bring their mission of preserving user privacy to everyone.

Unfortunately, Apple seem to be too obsessed with their bottom line to care enough about anything else.

  1. The MacBook line generally has had serious branding issues for since the introduction of the “not really Pro” 13″ MacBook Pro. []
  2. The blame is on the web developers here that don’t do a proper job and build incompatible websites, not on Apple. []
  3. It’s been like this since 2016, I know. But it’s still terrible. []
  4. If you were to use the current exchange rate, add german sales tax of currently 16 % you would end up at 980,81 EUR for the 999 USD Macbook Air, not the 1100,50 EUR they ask for. []
  5. I am very much a Linux user, too, but I won’t get into the additional problem with only being able to VM my Linux needs here in order to keep this piece more concise. []

Computex 2013: And the winner is: Intel

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There is not much to write about this years Computex, as almost every news has spread a thousand times throughout the web. This is thus more a personal note: Intel have finally managed to win quite a few smartphone and tablet designs, and at the same time they have managed to really lower the consumption of their performance platform with “Haswell”. Finally, thin, light, powerful and long lasting mobile computing solutions are possible. Thumbs up!

Computex 2011 – A Round Up / The Highlights

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This years Computex is almost over, but I still haven´t posted anything about it. (I didn´t finish my post on Google I/O as well, but that´s another story.)

I think I am able to sum up the whole Computex 2011 up in one post, though. There weren´t many highlights that fit into a blog that is about Linux on mobile devices in my humble opinion. Android tablets have been available for months, dual core smartphones are in the electronic stores as well – and the next mayor iteration of Google Android, “Ice Cream Sandwhich” which will unite smartphones and tablets again, is still to far away to see any devices on a consumer electronics tradeshow (leaks may happen soon).

The Intel vs. ARM (including SoC manufaturers like nVidia, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and many others) battle continues. Intel and partners showed off many new netbooks built around the newest Atom platform “Cedar Trail”, which will be slightly more performant and much less power hungry. The real interesting thing that Intel introduced is a new category of ultra mobile powerhouses built around Intels “Sandy Bridge” and  (later) “Ivy Bridge” platforms – devices only slightly larger than netbooks while being a lot thinner and powerful than your average netbook. Intel call these devices Ultrabooks and I´ve started a blog specifically on this new category of devices:

Intel was rather silent, and I didn´t stumble on any news of new Intel powered smartphones. Apparently Intel has nothing to offer that could beat the new ARM dual core superphones, “Medfield” isn´t ready yet, and “Moorestown” was spotted in some new tablets, just like “Oak Trail”.

Let´s get back to netbooks: MeeGo will run on some extra cheap netbooks like the ASUS EeePC X101 – featuring a new “Pine Trail” version, the N435 running at 1,33 GHz – and while I love the fact that MeeGo will come preinstalled on netbooks, I can´t recommend these devices: They are underpowered and most likely aren´t that much cheaper (than standard netbooks) that they´re worth buying.

Quadcores are coming and Cortex A15 designs as well – all in 2011. Graphics are one key differentiator between all these upcoming SoCs – and I actually recommend those featuring ARM Mali Graphics, if they aren´t too inferior in performance:  ARM is more likely to offer open graphic drivers than Imagination Technologies (PowerVR SGX family), nVidia or Qualcomm and have one other differentiating feature: OpenCL. Let´s get back to Computex, though.

MeeGo 1.2 is getting ready to roll out on netbooks. Tablets (or even smartphones) on MeeGo 1.2 will be relatively rare things, though, as at least the OpenSource UIs simply need some more time to mature (not to speak of real MeeGo apps).

On webOS and Android there were even less news at Computex, and it´s not necessary to mention that there were plenty of new not exactly Android devices on display at the tradeshow.

Microsofts next OS, Windows 8, will, as you should already know, support the ARM platform as well. Microsoft showed off some UI teasers, which while close to Windows Phone 7´s popular “Metro UI” really looks very promising and sounds great technically (HTML5 instead of Silverlight), so promising that I am really exited about it and hope for Open Source platforms to adopt some of the features of it, e.g. the two apps aside thing. Of course “old style” apps will be supported as well on the – it´s going to run on everything.
It´s the first time ever that MSFT managed to get me really exited about their stuff.

My two favorite devices of this years Computex were shown by ASUS: The “Ultrabook” UX21 and the PadFone (which is exactly what its name suggests: A phone with a Pad Dock, much like the Motorola Atrix, only better.

Now it´s time for the most important part of this roundup:
The Video linklist:

Windows 8 for Tablets – detailed demonstration (
Malata Cedar Trail netbooks (Canoe Lake and a convertible Key Lake) (
Acer M500 MeeGo Tablet (
ASUS UX21 Hands On by
ASUS PadFone Hands On + Details (
ASUS EeePad MeMO (3D) Hands On (now with Honeycomb) (
ZTE Light  2Tablet with 7” PixelQi screen (
Solar powered PixelQi Tablet (

Dual-SIM Android Smartphones

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When I heard about Dual SIM smartphones first, I almost couldn´t believe that there were devices like this – back then (2008?) all Dual SIM phones were from rather unknown chinese manufacturers, often with KIRF looks and running an OS which you couldn´t really call a smartphone OS – all smartphonish about these devices were their touchscreens.

General Mobile DSTL1 – image by General Mobile

As usability matters to me (and most of you, I assume) these devices really didn´t seem to be a good choice, and so I rather went on carrying to phones (back then two EZX phones). Then Android came up, and I had high hopes for a smartphone with this operating system, be it just a basic AOSP version or the full experience with GMail, GTalk and Android Market. 

The first dual SIM smartphone that really catched attention was the General Mobile DSTL1 running Android 1.5 (Cupcake), which was announced at the MWC in 2009. Back then it had ok specs, 128MB Ram, a 624MHz Marvell PXA310 (ARMv5TE / XScale) SoC – it lacked 3G though, was EDGE only.

Since then we haven´t seen much but announcements. Motorola (and others, like ZTE) have launched
some Dual-SIM phones in China, but since these are mostly (in fact all Motorola Dual-SIM phones I know of) CDMA+GSM, importing them to Europe doesn´t help.

The most interesting device right now isn´t quite a real smartphone, nor would one call it´s internals high end by 2011 standards: It´s the Shenzhen ACT Dion WO 4.8” MID phone charbax (the man behind spotted at CES. It had been first mentioned back in October at To name the basic facts:

  • Marvell PXA935 (“tri-core”/Sheeva, supports ARMv5TE, ARMv6 and ARMv7 architectures (so flash might be possible)) SoC, 
  • 256MB of Ram, Rom/NAND/Flash memory unknown, microSD
  • DualSIM (once quad band EDGE + tri band WCDMA (3G) with HDSPA up to 3.6Mbps, once european (900, 1800, 1900) GSM with EDGE tri band (apparently the latter is achieved with a NXP5209 chip, no information about the other baseband chip (probably MTK?))
  • WLan b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, GPS, chinese TV, FM Radio
  • clamshell formfactor with QWERTY keyboard and optical mouse (just like the one on the Samsung SGH-i780) 
  • 4.8” WVGA capacitive touchscreen
  • front facing 1.3M camera  (probably nice for video chat)
  • 1920mAh battery for up to 4.5 hours talk time / up to ten days standby time
Dion WO 4,8” MID (image from

Of course this thing is huge (135*85*20m, which almost similar to the 131.6*79* 21.6mm HTC Universal (QTek9000/T-Mobile MDA Pro/…))  and Android 2.1 (Eclair) isn´t too attractive nowadays (Gingerbread (2.3) brings Video chat, Froyo (2.2) is the minimum for Flash 10.1) – but if you´ve got large pockets, don´t worry about no support and want Dual SIM really badly, this might be just the right device for you (bulk order price is said to be about 200$ each (but bulk order means large quantities).  (If you are really interested in this thing, check out this thread at

With 512MB and a dedicated community that hacks the crap out of it, this could be a really great device – but being a pessimistic person I don´t see that happening.

Despite this thing (which is, while not the best imaginable the best I could track down, (on the internet, not in real life)) you find some devices at eBay which are mostly MTK6516 based – which is a SoC that has a 460MHz ARM9 + a 280MHz ARM7 core – doesn´t sound like high speed, does it? At least most of these things have a low WQVGA screen resolution (240×400 pixels) and 256MB Ram, so the user experience might be actually not totally ruined – but nontheless these are low end solutions which I will not recommend before I have had a satisfying hands on.

All in all, the Dual SIM market didn´t improve much, even though there is such a powerful mobile OS like Android available for free – and to be honest, this is not too much of a surprise: Only  small “outlaw” companies can afford making nice Dual SIM solutions – the big players prefer not to upset the huge network operators. 

CES 2011: First third hand impressions

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While I could spend my time with something else as well (and I mostly do over the day here in Europe), it´s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA again. Even though I haven´t been that much into tech lately (besides scrolling the daily tech news), I must admit that as always (since I follow mobile computing) I´ve been pretty exited.

It´s CES, and that´s great, just like Computex or MWC (the German trade show CeBIT hasn´t been too exiting lately, btw) and while it isn´t too tough to guess which rumors might become true (even as a bystander, like me, I would like you to consider me as an attentive bystander), you still always sense something whenever you see a first “hands on” or follow a live blogging session from a press conference. There is surprise (rare, but it happens), disappointment, sheer exitement or happiness (because something came out the way you dreamt of it) or fear (you don´t like what happens, whatever the trigger is).

I will not bore you with more detailed descriptions, I will just try to name anexample for each of the feelings I tried to describe above.

Let´s start with surprise: When I first saw the ASUS EeePad MeMO I was really surprised (positively) to see a tablet with a stylus from a company like ASUS, which is a hardware company (and adding in a Stylus within a finger touch environment like Android requires additional software to make real sense, from note taking to hand writing recognition). Still, ASUS has proven to be innovative during the last years, and I really hope that others will follow them – don´t forget: it was ASUS who invented netbooks, after all.

Next on: Disappointment. Well, there wasn´t too much disappointment yet, probably because other news have been to overwhelming. Still, there is one product which I followed in the past which will (as I see it now) not live up too its hype, which I´ve been a little part of. It´s the Notion Ink adam. Looking at all these Tegra2 tablets getting ready for the market, announced with better screen resolutions and Android Honeycomb (featuring the Android market) I expect this tablet not to be the success it could have been, if only it would have been ready earlier – if NotionInk had managed to hit the market this November with a less perfect, but still promising and relatively bug free outstanding product, NotionInk could have hit it off. Now, still not available in the stores and about to hit within a plethora of similar devices (to the eye of the average customer), considering the amount of thought the makers of adam put into it, inferior solutions featuring the software Google created and Googles Android Market, sounding alltogether less biblical (I never loved these adam, Eden … names), NotionInks´ solution will have a very hard time to perform half decent next to all these things with known brandnames on them. I just hope, that they will survive (and be it as a team, then part of another company – Toshiba seems to need some brilliant engineers, looking at their failure with the Folio 100 (and other, earlier mobile solutions like the TG01), btw ;-) ).

Sheer exitement / happiness. I like what Motorola did by creating a phone (the Atrix 4G) that will power a subnotebook. This is truely great, even though Motorola sucked at Openness (as in hackability) lately, because it is what I dreamt of years ago, when I had my first Linux powered smartphone, the Motorola A780.

Fear. Well, I could have just mentioned the NotionInk adam in this section, but I felt just too certain about its failure, so what will I put into this section? Yes, it´s Microsoft really porting Windows to ARM. It´s not Microsoft, I don´t expect them to fail, it´s that I am afraid of Microsoft killing other, in terms of user experience superior solutions with its momentum. A momentum it has because almost everybody is used to the shit (not talking about software quality here, but about user interface design) they´ve been delivering for years. I really hoped they´d stick to CE. And to be perfectly honest: It´s not just the usability that makes me worry, it´ s that I am great fan and supporter (whereever I can) of open source software, which will suffer in one or another way (open 3d graphics drivers is one frontier harder to fight at now). Microsoft really entering the ARM platform (a move which, with Intel (&Nokia) working on Meego) makes perfect sense from all standpoints I can think of (be it technics or business), but still, for the reasons mentioned above I would have loved to see Microsoft failing at doing the obvious thing.

I will write more about this CES if I feel like, promised.
Apologies: I left out links out of pure laziness, I expect my readers to be able to find the information they need themselves.

Flash Will Remain A Problem On Mobile Devices. A Statement.

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Adobe´s Flash (since Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005) is a technology widely used on todays world wide websites – still I actually dislike it that much, that I don´ t use a PC without a flashblocker. While it was used for fancy navigations, intros and other stylish stuff back in the late 1990s, it´s used for games, videos and advertisements today. This development is a nice one, of course, as websites featuring flash navigation were completely unusable without the appropriate plugin (and there is still no such thing as Flash for Linux on MIPS (MIPS is not dead, thanks to chinese developments like Ingenics´ XBurst technology or the Loongson CPU, e.g) but still this is annoying, especially on mobile devices, as Flash is a resource hog. Using an average Intel Atom powered netbook, you will soon notice, that Flash applications like those games on facebook or high-res (I am not talking of HD here) video make your little beloved netbook a noisy beast, as the fan will start screaming due to high CPU load.
In addition to that, Flash on Linux (and Mac) has not only been slower than Flash on Windows XP due to architectural reasons, but some features in rather heavy flash applications simply didn´t work – while Flash 10.1 beta actually fixes many of these bugs for me, it still shows that Adobe didn´t really care about platforms besides Microsoft Windows in the past. Now, with HTML 5 (and it´s new media tags) evolving and increased mobile internet use Adobe finally starts to do something – we will see Flash for Android and Web OS pretty soon, and as these are ARM Linux based, these are the first ARM powered, linux running devices delivering the full Flash experience – of course you could use swfdec or gnash, but as SWF v8 and SWF v9 features are only partly supported and SWF v10 features are completely unsupported, you will run into problems.

But this in not the moment to be enthusiastic. Your beloved HTC Dream or Openmoko Freerunner (or any other ARM11, XScale or ARM9 device) won´t support Flash soon, you will have to buy a new device with ARM v7 / Cortex silicon, as Adobe announced. This is a wise move, as a decent Flash experience (which you barely have on your average netbook) seems impossible on an ARM11 based device without slowing everything down, rendering the device almost unusable.

Ok, let´s assume that Adobe will make a fabulous build of Flash 10.1, running well not only on the Google Nexus One, being fast enough on significantly slower devices like the Motorola Milestone or the Palm Pre – still, there might be problems with many flash based websites (and possibly applications). It has something to do with the fact that these devices do not have a mouse pointer – I recommend you to read this text by a guy who seems to know Flash pretty well.

One of the problems with Flash in general is, that there is no OpenSource Flash Player/Plugin you would use unless you have no alternative or are a die hard free software enthusiast – another is the reason for the first one: Flash is proprietary and not an open standard. So what are alternatives? I mentionned HTML5 before, HTML5´s video tag is in a way an alternative, but as long as there is no defined video codec, this will not be a great solution – especially if this leads to websites (like the YouTube HTML5 version) start using proprietary codecs instead of proprietary Flash, it does not solve the problem. But what to use then? Ogg Theora is still in development – and there have been claims that it doesn´t work well on PMPs. This is why the FSF asked Google to free a certain video codec – but actually I doubt that Google will do this.

And video is just a part of the problem. Animations, you know. Ok, what have we got? SVG, CSS, Javascript, Java, Silverlight/Moonlight (though I didn´t run into Silverlight using websites yet, afair). There is no solution yet. But developers will find one. Probably ironically thanks to a company that closes their products quite a lot: If the iPad sell as great as the iPhone does, Flash will dissappear more and more (or at least developers will build decent non-Flash alternatives, based on HTM5 and all these technologies WebKit actually supports.

For OpenSource guys this will not be as cool as it could be. Flash will be most likely replaced with H264 and all its patent and licensing issues – but hey, at least that would be a different problem, so things won´t become to boring.

2010. What to expect?

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2010 is approaching pretty fast and it will be another interesting year for mobile devices, we will know that for sure after CES.

Why? First of all, the financial crisis did not really affect the sales of mobile devices, the industry sold lots of smartphones, netbooks and notebooks – and this will go on, thanks to innovation on both sides, hardware and software.
Let´s talk about hardware first – several devices have been rumored or even announced, and besides this, there are some trends. In terms of computing power, we will see more and more smartphones with Cortex A8/A9 SoCs (Snapdragon (2), OMAP 3/4, Tegra 2), running at clockspeeds up to one gigahertz or even more – an example device we already know is the Google Nexus One, which will be sold by Google, supported by HTC and use the T-Mobile network – in the US, at least – I am not sure, if (or when) it will be available in Europe or Asia as well, but as it is supposed to be launched in early january, we won´ t have to wait for too long – as Google Voice is US only currently, I do not expect it to come to europe too soon.
Besides these fast ARM based SoCs that impress with their speed for applications like web browsing and will be built into Smartphones, PMPs, MIDs, slates/tablets and Netbooks (“Smartbooks”), there will more devices using SoCs that are slower on applications, but have decent video (1080p) capabilities – like the nVidia Tegra or the Telechips TCC8900, which will sell at cheaper price points than those that deliver more speed – let´s hope that these Tegra1 and TCC8900 devices will vanish in the second half of 2010 (at least in terms of market entrys). Basically I expect devices that are (HD) video focussed, and others that are not (but are faster on other fronts) – those that do not aim at multimedia will likely run on Intels new Pinetrail platform, which does not allow high resolutions or digital video outputs – if you want Intel only (there will be video accelerators for Pinetrail by Broadcom and nVidia (Ion2)) and HD Video, you will have to get a Moorestown or CULV (e.g. based on the new Calpella platform) powered device. Actually Pinetrails graphics weakness might help VIA a little bit, maybe we will (finally) see some VX855+Nano (3000) powered netbooks/subnotebooks on western markets.
On the software side there are some big unknowns, especially concerning the ARM space: Will Android be used on slates/tablets, or rather other solutions? Will Jolicloud make its way to netbooks? What about Windows CE and Windows Mobile 7?
What is likely is that we will see some subsidized solutions offering special services up to netbooks – we will see netbooks with GPS, and we hear that e.g. ASUS is therefore partnering with RIM and Garmin to offer push e-mail and navigation on their ARM powered netbook devices – and as “Pine Trail” is even more power efficent than the previous “Diamondville” platform, we can expect similar things for the Intel powered part of the mobile device market, where Moblin will be finally ready to ship.
(More after CES.)

Some thoughts on the mobile devices world as it is this year

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We (as all those people interested in mobile computing with linux (or not)) have in some kinds a very interesting year – there are some promises of the past finally coming true: convergency is one example and linux appears to be about to take off finally to the mass markets with ANDROID and WebOS – for those really pocketable devices and as Google announced ChromeOS today, we might see more PCs (beginning from Smartbooks/Netbooks/Mini Notebooks) being delivered without the big enemy (MS Windows) on their harddisks.

So does this mean that the future will be bright and happy?

Well, it might be – as this means that OpenSource Software finally arrives at the industry and yes, some companys don´ t seem to use OpenSource technologies not just because they´ re cheap – instead it appears like they are seen as a chance for standardization – one example is the WebKit rendering engine, which is THE mobile browsing engine today, being used by many big players: Symbian, Google Android (meaning the companies that use these OS), Apple, Palm… So when there is something new included in WebKit, it is likely that it will be supported in the compiled WebKit browsers of these players soon after – which means, that web developers can use the techniques WebKit supports without worrying too much.

On the other hand the hardware market is pretty boring (just like the software market when just focussed on techniques and buzzwords), smartphones will become faster soon featuring the next generation of SoCs, ARM11 is about to say goodbye (ok, the nVidia Tegra will keep it alive in high end units for some time): ARM Cortex A8 (or even A9) is taking over, delivering more power for a richer mobile experience – a device like the HTC Hero is interesting on the software side (just say Flash, it´s ugly but used a lot), but dissapointing as the hardware is no more that high end since the Palm Pre (WebOS might really take off, as soon the GSM/3G variant of the Pre is out) in on the market, and there are plenty other speedboats to come.

And the software market? Well, Android is ok now with Cupcake and will become grown up with Donut (2.0), lots of new APIs – we have to hope that it won´ t become too power hungry – And Palm´s WebOS approach is great, as it is somehow closer to classical GNU/Linux – an all free WebOS clone with less eyecandy might be nice for the Openmoko community by the way – it finally really seems like web techniques are ready to be competition towards “real”/classical applications with HTML5 and its surrounding technologies.