Last week, I received a WeTab, hansomely provided into my care by the folks at OpenSLX so that I can track Plasma Active development on that device. Getting it set up was quite straight forward, particularly as the one I received already had firmware that supported booting from external media. Perfect. After a few small glitches related to the release of Plasma Workspaces 4.7, which caused some of the repositories to move around for us, I got the thing up and running. There are still some rough edges, and I'm hoping Sebastian and I can huddle together during the upcoming Berlin Desktop Summit to file some of them off as he probably currently has more experience with the WeTab and Plasma Active than anyone else.
One result of having the WeTab in my hands is that I've been able to start collecting a list of tasks that need attention between now and the 1.0 release of Contour. It's also giving me great hands-on opportunities with Plasma Active on a device of this form factor.
The WeTab itself has more than enough horsepower to drive the system and the battery life isn't too bad either. What things I do find odd are the result of some understandable design trade-offs. For instance, the screen size is huuuge compared to other mainstream tablets. This makes it awesome for reading books, watching videos and other types of media consumption. It also makes it rather less portable than the 7" tablets out there, to say the least, and it also costs on battery life (which is still in the satisfactory range, however). It's intel based and not really what I'd call "perfect for tablets" hardware: it has a cooling fan in it for instance.
All the quirks aside, it's a terrific platform for developing and testing Plasma Active with and I think it hints at some really interesting potential use cases. The screen is big enough and high quality enough to be used as a desktop. One our first stable release of Plasma Active is out, I want to explore the interesting possibility of "mult-form-factor" devices with it. Namely, I'd like to be able to put it in a cradle on my desktop with a wireless keyboard and mouse (which I already have and which work great with it as expected) and use it with Plasma Desktop. When I remove it from the desk and take it with me to the, say, the living room or off on a train ride, I'd like it to switch seamlessly to the touch-friendly Plasma Tablet interface with Contour. While the WeTab has a built-in screen that would be suitable for both, smaller tablets and even smaller pocketable devices (e.g. phones) don't and that then brings in the idea of a device that can drive a second larger display when docked and show Plasma Desktop on that external display.
There are already a couple of devices on the market that have experimented with this "mobile when you take it with you, a desktop experience when you dock it" idea, though to my knowledge none have yet really taken off. However, as tablets continue to improve both power consumption and compute muscle, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sizeable market of people who would prefer to have just one computer that can switch between modes.
For now, however, I'm focussed on detailing what is left to do to make Plasma Active ready for release. I'll be bringing my list with me to the Berlin Desktop Summit and once we've BoF'd on it, I'll share the tasks, particularly the "low hanging fruit", so that it will not only be documented but so that people who would like to get involved have easy and well-defined entry points into KDE's foray into mobile.
Once again, a big "thank you!" to OpenSLX for their belief in this project and for putting their support behind it with time, effort and investment.