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A Linux Device That Could Beat the iPhone

Last week I was in Shanghai, China — which is truly an amazing place — attending Intel’s IDF (Intel Developer Forum), where the company is officially launching its new Netbook and iPhone-like MID (mobile Internet device) platforms. This is actually the first time I’ve seen products that are based on Linux that may exceed Apple’s vaunted user experience.

While here, I’m reading a book titled True Enough, which not only explains why Apple fans think everyone who doesn’t believe like they do are paid by Microsoft but also tells you how to predict the U.S. presidential election. In both cases, it comes down to how well we fool ourselves by going to extreme lengths to avoid the facts simply to be “right” in our own heads. I’m so impressed with this book, I think it should be required reading for anyone who wants avoid making really stupid choices.

We’ll conclude with my products of the week. Breaking tradition, I’m rolling with two different iPhone/iPod/cell phone/laptop protection products that could make your little electronic babies last much longer.

MID: Only Thing Missing is Steve Jobs

I am writing this as Intel announces products based on its MID platform, the best of which — by Lenovo — is Linux-based and appears to have an interface could actually be better than the iPhone’s.

While I’ve always believed the way to make Linux successful in the consumer market was not to emulate or chase Microsoft, it was to beat Apple, and this is the first time I’ve seen a product actually try to do it.

While the hardware is significantly larger than the iPhone — some of it actually as big as a small laptop — it is also vastly more capable and I’ve often wondered if most people wouldn’t actually be happier with a device that was a bit larger and more capable for video and e-mail than the iPhone currently is.

Don’t get me wrong — the iPhone is an amazing device, but we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all society and the kind of device kids might want, I might want, my wife or my siblings might want is likely a different device. We all have vastly different computers right now, and this new class is potentially vastly more personal than the laptop ever was. I do think a built-in QWERTY keyboard may be critical to this class — something many of the MID prototypes have but the Lenovo currently lacks.

What I think is particularly interesting is that no one has yet demonstrated a multi-touch device even though this technology still could be licensed from Stantum, a firm that had it in a selling product before Apple did.

We are clearly at the front end of a revolution which could take some time to develop and, if you include the iPhone in the MID category — and you should because it is — regardless of what happens to the iPhone we are all likely to have a device like this within 10 years and wonder how we could possibly have lived without it.

Understanding Apple Fans and Predicting the Election

While Steve Jobs may feel that folks don’t read (while secretly creating an eBook reader), I read a lot and picked up the latest book primarily because it supposedly explained why Apple fans constantly accuse folks they disagree with of being on Microsoft’s payroll, even though that would make no sense.

If you ever wondered why folks think people who disagree with them are crooks, or whether the 2004 U.S. elections were fixed, or whether 9/11 resulted from a government conspiracy (it wasn’t), whether the John Kerry Swift Boat attack was bogus (it was), or why people who are obviously bigoted think they are not — this book is for you. For folks who know they are always right regardless of the facts and believe that everyone else is either crooked or brain-dead stupid, this book isn’t for you — it’s about you.

One of the more interesting conclusions you can draw from the book comes from a series of studies that suggest we are more likely to vote for people, regardless of capability, who entertain us (I’m over simplifying). This explains why George W. Bush did so well against Al Gore and John Kerry.

If the book is correct, Obama should be able to beat both Clinton and McCain because their superior experience simply won’t be a major deciding factor against his more engaging personality. However, if we factor in the chapter on the power of experts, Clinton could do enough damage to Obama as a believable expert that it could allow McCain to win — even though McCain otherwise might be the underdog with respect to either of the Democratic candidates.

This would suggest that what the Democrats fear, a protracted Clinton/Obama fight that might cost them the election, is likely true, and the book references enough studies on the topic to support that conclusion.

In any case, I don’t recommend a lot of books, but this one is well-referenced and could force you to take a hard look at your own biases and become a better consumer, a better voter and — even more important — a better spouse and parent because it teaches you to challenge positions that have no real foundation and keep from being conned.

One particularly interesting section talks about a series of studies where an actor pretending to be a medical expert just BS’d a bunch of medical doctors with meaningless statements and yet was rated as the best and most qualified speaker they had ever heard. It really has made me listen much more closely to what people actually are saying. I really do think it should be mandatory reading. It is called True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society and it is by tech reporter Farhad Manjoo. Call it an anti-stupid vaccination.

Product of the Week: Protection for Your Cell Phone

If you have an iPhone or any full-featured smartphone and end up buying a MID, you will have a really expensive device that, when dropped, could become an expensive doorstop. Smart iPhone users buy protection for their product in the form of wraps and protective cases. I’ve had two products in that do a nice job of protecting devices in this class to various degrees.

The Otterbox is a rubberized case that makes the iPhone a little larger but aggressively protects it against the kind of damage dropping can create. It is even more effective on an iPod touch, which has a polished aluminum back that seems to scratch if you just look at it funny (I swear mine must have scratched magically because I’d only used it once for a photo shoot and it had otherwise been kept in its box).

The problem with this class of product is that while it protects your phone, it also makes it less attractive. If you don’t think you will drop it but are primarily concerned with scratches, BodyGuardz makes skins for a variety of phones that can keep your electronic baby looking knew until the day you stop using it.

BodyGuardz even has a skin for the MacBook Air — which also has a tendency to scratch — and it’s worth checking out because it has offerings covering a wide variety of scratch-prone electronics (I got one for my wife’s Blackjack II).

I actually have something similar, called “Clear Bra,” on both of my cars, and it has kept them looking new since I bought them. Depending on what you want, both products do the job and share my product of the week recommendations this week.

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.

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