Celio puts a notebook face on a smartphone

The Redfly serves as a shell for Windows Mobile smartphones, enabling users to surf the Web or type e-mails while talking.

Here's a new twist in the ultramobile computer concept.

The Redfly Mobile Companion from Celio is a mini notebook-size device that effectively serves as a hand- and eye-friendly shell for Windows Mobile smartphones. It has a larger, relatively standard keyboard so you don't have to thumb type and an LCD screen measuring 8 inches in diameter. Connect the Redfly to the smartphone and the data going to and from the phone shows up on the larger screen instead.

The Redfly from Celio costs $499. Celio

You can also type e-mails or surf the Web while talking at the same time, explains CEO Kirt Bailey. Thus, the Redfly enables you to isolate yourself in the digital cocoon that you have come to love at home and work while at the airport too. (Granted, you can type and talk simultaneously with current smartphones too, but it takes coordination and one heck of a lot of thumb strokes.) The Redfly connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or through USB cords.

The idea behind the company is to free people from the physical limitations of the smartphone, but not sell them a full-fledged notebook. Technically speaking, the Redfly functions like a thin client for the phone, which becomes a server. The phone handles the processing and communications functions. The device itself essentially scrapes data from the phone and blows it up for the larger screen and conveys keystrokes to the phone's processor.

The device flips on relatively quickly too because it doesn't have an independent operating system, he added. (Bailey, by the way, worked for years at Intel.).

So why not just use your notebook? For one thing, you don't have to worry about finding a hot spot or carrying an EVDO card. Your notebook also doesn't get beat up in overhead luggage bins because you don't have to carry it on business trips. The Redfly only weighs 2 pounds.

The Redfly begins shipping in March and will be targeted at corporate customers. It costs $499. That's hundreds less than most mini notebooks, but more than most peripherals.

The price, Bailey admits, raises some eyebrows, but mostly among individuals, which Celio isn't targeting just yet. Corporate customers, he argues, will focus more on functionality than hardware acquisition costs.

 

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