The Apple iPad is a nice and portable device for surfing the web, playing games, watching videos, and even sending and receiving email. The on-screen keyboard is surprisingly usable, and you can kind of sort of touch-type on it — provided you position the tablet perfectly so that you can see and touch the screen comfortably without straining your neck. But if you want to get some serious writing done, you might want an external keyboard.

Several companies have started bringing keyboard cases to market recently. These are basically protective cases with Bluetooth keyboards built in. Unfortunately most of the ones I’ve seen seem to be rebranded versions of the same exact case, from companies including Kensington and Brando. And while I was kind of impressed when I first saw the case, users have reported that the keys are too squishy, making the keyboard difficult to use.

The Adonit Writer, on the other hand, looks a bit different. Like the others, the Writer combines a Bluetooth keyboard and a protective cover. But the keyboard is adjustable, and while it’s a bit tricky to tell for certain, the keys look much sturdier than than the membrane-style keyboard found in other models.

Engadget reports that the Adonit Writer will be available by Christmas for about $120.

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One reply on “Adonit Writer: A better keyboard case for the Apple iPad?”

  1. “The on-screen keyboard is surprisingly usable”

    It’s times like this that I wish we had a word that completed the analogy “practical is to practicable as usable is to…” That would be the word that should replace “usable” in your sentence above. I guess we can make one up: usableable, or, if we want to take the sophisticated approach that most people take in describing touchscreen slates as tablets, we can just use “usable” again but mean this other thing.

    In all honesty, there’s no on-screen keyboard in existence that isn’t a usability nightmare, mostly because touchscreens in general are usability nightmares. If you butterfly open a clamshell device like a netbook, laptop, or small handheld, you’ll quickly notice what the design expresses. About half of the device is exclusively dedicated to output (the screen). About half of the device is exclusively dedicated to input (keyboard, pointing devices). With a touchscreen slate, nearly all of the device is given over to input and output combined. This is akin to knocking down all of the internal walls of your house so that you have just one big multi-purpose room. As people who understand design know, the elegance and flexibility of an object that can do anything is offset by the reality that it can do none of as well as otherwise. This is particularly true of on-screen keyboards. It’s like removing all the dashboard and controls from your car so that you can have a bigger windshield and a wider view, and then requiring you to touch and gesture on the surface of your windshield to reclaim all of the functionality you lost. That would be a worse design. The best situation would be a bigger windshield with car controls placed elsewhere, such as on the side of your seat. This is kind of what these external keyboards are attempting to provide slates. I think it’s a good idea, and I use an external dock/keyboard on my own slate everyday. However, the problem with this particular iFad solution is that it’s still tied to iOS, which is profiled for touch. Here’s something very true that NOBODY talks about: iOS is far less capable of accommodating an external keyboard or pointing device than Windows 7 is at accommodating finger-touch (why does nobody ever talk about this? Just kidding, I know why). Still, people whine about touch on Windows and herald these external keyboards. By extension, sticking an external keyboard on an iFad is a dumber idea than sticking a touchscreen on a Windows clamshell (seriously, the external keyboard of an iFad can’t replace the touchscreen, which is why there’s no iOS netbook, but a touchscreen on a Windows 7 device can completely replace the keyboard/mouse, which is why we have Windows slates). What one really needs is an operating system that can easily adjust its user experience from a keyboard/mouse centric UX to a touch screen centric UX. Whereas Windows 7 actually makes a pretty good compromise between the two (which, according to my logic above means that it’s not excelling at either one), iOS and Android are pretty worthless outside of the touchscreen slate. Fortunately, it looks like MeeGo is a mobility marketed OS designed exactly with this multi-modality in mind. In the meantime, you can always use E17 on Linux and use the amazing profile system to switch between a touch centric or keyboard/mouse centric UX.

    Oh yeah, somebody please bring back the Vadem Clio, which is the first thing that popped into my brain when I saw the image attached to this story.

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