Thursday, 30 October 2008

Things I would like to see in every newsroom, some essential tools for the multimedia journalist ... oh, and err some toys I would like to play with

#5: Compact mobile PCs

Immediacy is - or at least should be - the byword for the multimedia newsroom. News as it happens and where it happens.

To do this, the news team must be given the tools to enable them to report from the scene of news stories. With this in mind, I've had the chance to try out two portable machines which do allow reporters to do just that.

First up was the Asus Eee PC.

What a great little machine. It's an office which can fit in your purse (if you're that way inclined). While it's small, it has all the basic functionality that a reporter needs. Using a dongle, you can connect to the web to send back reports from the field (or beach - see the pic above of one of my colleagues filing copy from Southport beach), while there's enough ports and sockets, as well as card readers to ensure you can connect your camera and send them back to base, or even upload directly to the web.
The keyboard is compact, but well designed and fairly easy to use - after you get used to it. The only problem I had with it was the low resolution screen which means that some websites can't be displayed in full, requiring horizontal scrolling. But this is a very minor grumble for a machine which is perfect in design and almost perfect in execution.

Second up was the Samsung Q1.

Another nifty little machine, which can come as a standalone touchscreen webtablet style screen which has a split qwerty keyboard for left and right thumb typing, or as a neat foldaway package with USB keyboard which looks just like a purse (again, if you are that way inclined). With this devise you can install a 3G sim card and have the office in the palm of your hand. And like the Eee PC, the Q1 has enough sockets and slots to satisfy all your device needs.

While the touchscreen takes some getting used to and the thumb keyboard is next to impossible to master, the USB keyboard is easier to use than the Asus.

Having used both machines, it's difficult to choose one from the other. Both have downsides, both have plus points. But from the perspective of mobile reporting, both machines are perfect to pick up and go.

On Saturday I had a reporter using the Q1 from the darkest depths of Buxton to liveblog a football match. The results were fantastic, providing better 3G connection than a regular laptop and 3G card.

While reporters don't need to be set up to take on Nasa from the front seat of the company car, they do need to be equipped to capture, process and deliver media in all its format, and both these machines allow them to do just that.

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