Tuesday, April 13, 2010

German firm presents an iPad killer

Usually I don't write posts like this. But because all the information we have right now is in German, I thought it was a good idea to spend a few lines on this new development.

First, relax. The new baby of Neofonie is called "WePad" and it's an Android device. Or, as the developers put it:
The WePad is an open platform and everybody can contribute. It's based on established technologies like Linux, Android and Adobe AIR. Every developer in the world can create applications for this device. And you can also use existing Android applications.

It also features multitasking, a webcam, a 16:9 screen, Flash, two USB ports and can "play anything you throw at it". Some sources claim you can also make phone calls, but I have no confirmation for this. You can find the full specifications here (German).

Prices start at 400 Euros for the 16 GB version and 550 Euros for the 32 GB version.

Update: The "WePad" is only a day old and the first scandal is already there. According to the Austrian website "derStandard.at" there were some problems shortly before the press conference, so Neofonie decided to fake the whole thing:
The authenticity of the tablet computer is questioned. Contrary to the statements of the WePad creators, the tablet computer ran Windows during the press conference - and not Linux - when it was presented in Berlin last Monday. This was confirmed last Tuesday on Facebook by one of the WePad developers, Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen.

He wrote that he became the device only shortly before the press conference began, due to delays at the customs. The WePad developers decided to run Microsoft Media Player, which merely showed a video in an endless loop. Neofonie, where Hoffer von Ankershoffen is managing director, was not available for comments.

Last Monday the WePad was shown to the public for the first time. Tore Meyer of 4tiitoo, a touch screen expert from Munich, has also participated in the development of the WePad. The WePad should be in the German shops by July, but last Monday the company was unable to show a functioning prototype.

Putting a viable iPad competitor on the market now seems away further than ever. Hoffer von Ankershoffen had promised that the WePad would offer its users "Openness, fair play and no barriers". The German tablet computer comes with two USB ports, a webcam and slot for European cellphone cards, features not found on the iPad. Hoffer von Ankershoffen stated that the entry model would cost around 450 Euros and a more extensive one 570 Euros.

This report has been confirmed by "Handelsblatt", which also states that Neofonie has confirmed the fake. Furthermore, "Handelblatt" reported that although the WePad features a multitouch display, a cursor could be seen on the screen.

In any case, the video below clearly shows that one of the creators does not allow journalists to operate the device, nor does he want to demonstrate it any further.

Further proof comes from "Androidpads.com" showing a screenshot with an allegedly Windows message box:

Windows screenshot?

Update: Well, it is official now! It was a fake. Neofonie has now promised to organize a small meeting on April 26 where selected journalists and members of the Android community can test a real WePad - with Linux.

Update: Several sources (including LXer contributors) have uttered serious doubts concerning the WePads Atom processor. The website "TecZilla" shares those concerns. Overheating, overpowered and a low battery life are a few of them.

In the meanwhile, Neofonie has released a video that should prove the WePad is for real. Well, see for yourself:

"n.tv", a German language CNN-like news channel, has offered to test the devices (if any are available) before another disastrous press conference is thrown. The next one is scheduled for April 26..

Update: Neofonie's WePad tablet was shown to German journalists on the 26th of April and seems legit at first sight. However, it appears to be a bit underpowered as some commenters on LX-er already expected.

If there are any further developments, I will add them to this post.


Anonymous said...

actually it seems the presentation was a bit of a fake, as they showed a looped animation played in mediaplayer on a windows OS... ;-)

see: http://derstandard.at/1269449574514/WePad-Entwickler-raeumt-falsche-Angaben-bei-Praesentation-ein

Still, nice machine, I really hope they pull it off

scribe said...

I'd like to add another wrinkle to the WePad situation. A few weeks ago I wrote to Neofonie asking about the replacement possibilities for its battery. Here's the text of my letter:

"Will the WePad battery be replaceable, and by whom?"

Merle Zirkler, a Customer Support rep for WePad replied: "We would like to thank you for your interest in the WePad. Please excuse the delayed reply due to the overwhelming response we have received.

"The battery will defiantly not be replaceable. Otherwise the WePad could not be that thin."

I wrote back to Neofonie with the following: "Thank you for your reply to my question about the WePad battery. In that reply you say that the battery is not replaceable. Does that mean that once the battery is no longer usable so is the WePad, and I would have to buy a new WePad? Or do you mean that I could not replace the battery on my own but that your company, or a service organization, could replace it?"

I have not received a reply.