All Tech Considered: The Droid, Dell's New Laptop

For this week's installment of All Tech Considered, host Melissa Block talks with Omar Gallaga, technology culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, about Verizon's Motorola Droid smart phone; what Dell is calling "the world's thinnest laptop"; and a new video game Disney is using to help reinvent its most beloved character.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And for more of the latest tech news, were joined, as we are most Mondays, by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. Omar, welcome back.

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Reporter, Austin American-Statesman): Hi. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: And weve been talking about portable gadgets. Were going to talk about another now, the Motorola Droid smartphone from Verizon which came on the market recently and youve been fiddling around with it. What do you think?

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah. Ive been playing with it a little bit over the weekend. This is...

(Soundbite of phone)

Mr. GALLAGA: Thats the Droid phone saying hello.

BLOCK: Wow.

Mr. GALLAGA: Theyve really positioned this as, sort of, an iPhone killer. They want it to kind of go head to head. And I use an iPhone, so Ive definitely seen whats good and whats bad of it so far. Definitely on the pro side, if youre someone who wants an iPhone and have been on the fence because you need a physical keyboard, it does have that. Although, I kind of hate physical keyboards. I find the keys to be way too small for my thumbs and I end up being much more efficient typing on a virtual onscreen keyboard.

The navigation stuff, Google Maps navigator, is included in this and its very, very good. Its a turn-based navigation that kind of rolls in Google Maps, gives you street level views. The Verizon network, you know, a lot of people think its much better than AT&Ts network. So, on that score, I mean, I didnt experience any dropped calls or any network problems. The 3G holds up very solidly, no matter where I was. I think the phone design itself is a little bit ugly. Its kind of a black slab sitting on top of another black slab with gold accents.

BLOCK: Hmm.

Mr. GALLAGA: You know, its a very kind of masculine metal dense in your hand, kind of feel, not curvy like the iPhone. So, I think its definitely a good alternative to the iPhone. If I were shopping for something outside of the iPhone universe, it would probably be my first software and the Android software is very well integrated with Gmail and Google Calendar and a lot of the services that I already use. So, I found some good and some bad on the Droid.

BLOCK: Lets talk another piece of technology. This ones not out yet. I guess its supposed to hit stores just before the holidays and its from Dell. Its calling it the worlds thinnest laptop. What does it have to offer beside for a little more room in your backpack or your laptop bag, do you think?

Mr. GALLAGA: It is the Dell Adamo XPS, is the name of the laptop. And this is, sort of, the second generation that Dell has introduced of this line of laptops. They had one in March called the Adamo and this sort of the next generation of that they took under wraps last week. And I got some cuddle time with it as I like to call it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: I got to kind of play around with it. Its very, very thin. I mean, its similar to the Apple Macbook Air in that its just very, very light. I think its just a little over three pounds, it's 9.99 millimeters thick. Theres no latch on it. Physically, the way you open is you actually run your finger across it, because they said just having a latch on there like a normal laptop would have made just too thick. So, theres some very interesting design things going on and Dell, you know, in the past was not known as a very design forward kind of company and theyre really kind of pushing the envelope on that. It all sounds good so far. But the downside is that it starts at 1799...

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. GALLAGA: ...which is very much out of the range of most laptop buyers and it also is not as powerful as laptops you could get for half the price. I mean, they definitely have - there had to be some sacrifices on speed and power in order to fit all that in there. Theres no optical drive, youd have to get that separately if you wanted a CD or DVD drive in there. But for someone that just wants to carry that around and has money to burn, theres definitely I think a market for that. But I think design-wise, its very interesting, something cool to watch.

BLOCK: Well, before we let you go, Omar, we wanted to talk you about a little bit of tech culture. Disney is going to be using a video game to help reinvent, re-imagine one of its most beloved characters. The game is called Epic Mickey. What can you tell us about it?

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. This is one thats kind of close to my heart because the development of it is happening here in Austin. Theres a game designer named Warren Spector who is kind of legend in the game industry. Hes creating this game where youre playing as Mickey Mouse. And the character which has become kind of stale over the years, I guess you could say...

BLOCK: No, Omar, say its not so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, its kind of a darker take on Mickey Mouse and Warren Spector, whos a huge Disney fan, he kind of grew up on this stuff and is obsessed with it, he wants to take Mickey back to his roots, where he was more mischievous. And the game itself is going to be for the Wii and you will actually be controlling Mickey and sort of painting this world and using paint thinner to kind of build and erase the world around you.

And the concept is very interesting. Its a sort of cartoon wasteland where these forgotten Disney characters have kind of grown bitter over Mickeys success - very interesting take on Mickey Mouse, curious to see how that turns out. Itll be out fall of 2010.

BLOCK: Okay, Omar. Thanks so much.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me. And we will of course have links to all of these items on the NPR All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and for All Tech Considered.

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