Always Innovating generated a lot of buzz when it introduced the Touch Book last year. The device is a computer that can be used in either slate or notebook form, but unlike older convertible tablets you don’t simply twist the screen and fold it down over the keyboard. Instead you can actually remove the slate portion of the device from the keyboard and carry it with you, leaving the keyboard (and an extra battery) behind.

Early reviewers didn’t seem that impressed with the Touch Book, and Always Innovating hasn’t exactly become a household name over the last 12 months. But that hasn’t stopped the company from launching a new version of the Touch Book… called the Always Innovating Smart Book.

The new model looks a lot like the original at first glance, but inside the case there’s a removable mobile device which you can use as a handset for making VoIP phone calls, or possibly for surfing the web or running other apps.  There are also compartments which hide a USB to HDMI adapter, and a slot for storing a USB dongle.

The Smart Book features an ARM Cortex-A8 based processor and ships with a custom user interface, but can also run Ubuntu Linux, Google Chrome, or Google Android.

The device has an 8.9 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel capacitive touchscreen display and comes with 512MB of RAM, 256MB of NAND flash storage and an 8G microSD card. There’s also a 2GB USB key which can be stored in the keyboard compartment. The Smart Book features 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, and can handle 720p HD video output. There are 4 USB ports including 2 inside the case, and the tablet has an accelerometer.

There are three separate batteries, including a 12000mAh battery in the keyboard, a 6000mAh battery in the tablet, and a 1500mAh battery in the “Mini Book” which is the mobile handset.

Put together, the whole system measures 9.7″ x 7″ x 1.3″ and weighs 3 pounds.

Always Innovating is taking pre-orders for the whole kit for $549, or you can order individual components such as the Mini Book, the tablet, or any combination with prices starting at $199.

You can check out a video demo after the break — although it’s worth noting that nothing is actually turned on in the demo, so all you get to see is a sort of magic trick where the CEO keeps pulling smaller computers out of bigger ones.

Update: Always Innovating founder Grégoire Gentil wrote in to make it clear that while the company will be selling the Smart Book directly to consumers, the company’s main goal is to sell its designs and expertise to OEMs. He also points out that schematics and source code are both available on the company’s web site.

via TouchMeMobile

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12 replies on “Always Innovating Smart Book is a tablet, netbook, phone, kitchen sink”

  1. Great to see such audacious moves for a startup. Hopefully they will be backed up by investors (if they’re not already) to polish their product and continue daring crazy ideas.

  2. The original Touch Book was really bad en though the idea was actually pretty cool. Low build quality, flimsy design & plastic covers, bad keyboard, … You almost couldn’t use it as a netbook as the screen was heavier than the keyboard and it would tilt over. The touch screen was not aligned with the borders of the case, etc…

    I hope this one is better, but from the looks of it, it will be more of the same… Notice how Gregoire needs to support the screen when he reattaches it…

  3. Very interesting. At least, this it the first time we such combinations. Need to see it work, but I very like the concept.

  4. Has anyone actually seen or owned this device? It has been around for awhile on the internet but with virtually no consumer experience…concept is cool but can they produce it?.

    1. well, this one was just announced. you may be thinking of the touchbook, their first product. that has been around for a year, i have one.

    2. they have not shipped the smart book, but i think they can produce it, i have one of there touch books and the only downside i saw was the lack of multi-touch, and they’ve added that

  5. “Aftermath” makes an excellent point. Nearly everything we read here and elsewhere concern devices that are very similar to competing ones. An occasional difference in features and price tries to distinguish the indistinguishable. Even this “Always Innovating” product is distinctive in design and not in technology itself.

  6. We need more of this. We need more innovation. Most of our hardware companies are cowards, but that’s because they make money and not technology. They’re required to follow fads and try to cannibalize markets. We need people to explore, to try new things, and to offer real leadership, the kind of leadership where you’re the first person to venture out into a new territory and not just march in front down a well-worn path. Unfortunately, these leaders are almost always at the fringe in terms of market share.

    Most of what gets passed around as “tech news” these days is just products, and because they involve technology, we pretend like the products are technology. They’re not. On the other hand, there’s some innovative technology going on here. Maybe it’s more at the level of design rather than digital components, but it’s great to see. That said, if you’re thinking of buying this, then you should spend some time over at the company’s forum first. There’s a nice community of users over there, and you’ll definitely want to educate yourself about their experiences so far.

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