Gadget blogs are abuzz this morning with pictures of the NanoBook, an ungainly but tiny prototype device that the Taiwanese tech firm VIA Technologies is calling a "reference design" for a new kind of PC: small, fully functional and, at just $600, very cheap. What's interesting about the NanoBook is that it's a fully functional PC -- it's got its own processor, a 7-inch screen, a keyboard and a battery that VIA says lasts at least four hours -- yet it's priced along the lines of a high-end phone. VIA says that Packard Bell has already signed on to manufacture the device, and that other firms are also interested.
VIA's NanoBook may not look pretty -- if you're of the view that a mobile device, like a car, is a key part of your personal image, you're probably already standing in line for the iPhone -- but the thing seems to solve a key problem of people on the go. It's something you can type on, but at under 2 pounds, you can carry it, too. Computer makers have been working for some time to get at this niche. Just last week, Palm unveiled a $500 keyboard-and-screen device it calls Foleo that's meant as a "companion" to mobile phones; the Foleo looks like a standard notebook, but uses the phone for its processing and network power, making it portable. But the NanoBook, for about the same price, packs in a whole computer, which is all the more fun.