NanoNote Roadmap

Werner Almesberger werner at
Wed Jun 19 09:25:16 EDT 2013

Paul Boddie wrote:
> Recently, there's been some apparent discontent expressed on the wiki about 
> the NanoNote roadmap.

Hmm, the Wiki may not be the most efficient place for complaints or

> that they should be removed in 
> shame by those who didn't deliver the goodies on schedule,

Maybe they should be marked as "historical" :-) Of course, I don't
think anybody is happy that all our great plans regarding the
NanoNote didn't come to fruitition.

> Usually, it's Ron who brings up this topic, and I hope he is still reading 
> this list, but maybe it's worth having a "State of the NanoNote" discussion. 

I don't know of any active business or technical development towards
a NanoNote successor.

The key to getting anything done seems to be to find enough money for
it. We've tried the approach of everyone paying for their own upkeep
and we've seen it fail.

It could work if treating this strictly as a spare time project, with
daytime jobs ensuring a steady flow of income, but that would mean
very slow development. Even then, prototype runs will take a huge
bite out of your wallet, especially if the board can't be

On the engineering side, the opportunity of using an established team
that also has a strong presence in Asia has already been lost.
Sharism seems to have disintegrated, the rest also has other long or
medium term commitments.

On the marketing side, it has been suggested to put less emphasis on
the openness since openness doesn't sell. This may be the case, but
then the question arises what else such a project would have to offer
that would distinguish it from the competition.

On the technical side, I don't think the CPU is the main issue. There
are several choices for mid-range SoCs today, some of them more open
than Ingenic's offering, which shouldn't present an excessive
engineering challenge.

If keeping the same form factor (i.e., small clamshell), mechanical
issues are more important, especially getting a keyboard. In staying
in line with the openness philosophy, it should at least be possible
to swap the keyboard for a different model (e.g., when the old one
gets hard to source, when a different layout is needed, etc.),
ideally it would even be possible to make one's own from standard
components and using standard tools.

Another component that is not easily redesigned is the display. You
need to find a suitable module you can a) actually source, that b)
will still be around by the time you go to production, and c) that
complies with all the technical and openness requirements.

For the display, you basically need to find a design used in a very
popular device, so that lots of clones exist, like the iPhone. That
may require some compromises and getting more pixels than you
actually need would drive up CPU and memory performance demands.

> Probably most similar to the NanoNote architecturally is the GCW Zero, which 
> appears to be almost available:

There's a lot of tablet designs. Tablets are relatively undemanding
when it comes to mechanical requirements, but then I wonder how
you'd distinguish such a product from the army of Android tablets.
Adding game controls is an option. (But you'd be at risk of
overselling the product's capabilities.) Another would be external
benefits, as in the Fairphone.

> Does anyone have (or know of) any interesting NanoNote-related projects going 
> on, whether it is just to extend the Ben or to make something similar? 

My UBBs still serve me well :-) I've also prepared a set of patches
for putting the atben/atusb drivers into Linux mainline. Alas, the
merge window closed before I had them ready for submission, and I
still have to return to them.

- Werner

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