The litl is a big idea from a small computer company based in Boston. In its purest form, it’s a computer so simple to use that you don’t have to spend an irritatingly long hour explaining the way it works to your grandmother - she can (gasp) figure it out on her own right out of the box.
It’s kind of like a netbook, but it exists “in the cloud.”
Cloud computing is a nerdy term for Internet computing where everything exists on the Web. It’s the idea that you don’t actually need to install any software to the machine because everything you need is on the Web.
“Computers are like cars,” said James Gardner, VP of Marketing for litl. “Some people like manual transmissions where you have more control of the engine and maintenance of the vehicle. Others prefer an automatic transmission, so they don’t have to worry about any of that.”
In this analogy, the litl would be a car that drives itself. The company sent me one to try out, and it came in fancy compartmentalized cardboard packaging along with a note welcoming me to the litl family.
The litl’s simple design had me on the Internet within seconds, but I wanted to take it through the paces.
I went on Hulu and watched an episode of “Family Guy” while I checked my e-mail. The litl was fast and responsive, and I was surprised with the lack of Internet lag. The interface is divided into “cards” (think channels on the Nintendo Wii) on the screen, which represent different Web sites and built-in features like weather and a “media wall.” The screen also flips to feature an “easel mode” in which the computer basically becomes a viewing screen, and it’s easily controlled by a knob that rotates through the on-screen cards.
The litl has a HDMI input that lets you use your TV as a viewing screen, and its browser is based on Mozilla software and is similiar to Firefox. The keyboard has a “litl” key that automatically takes you back to the home screen from where ever you are, making navigation a breeze.
It incorporates many of the Web 2.0 applications (like Shutterfly and flickr) right out of the box. Because nothing is stored on the computer, there is no way to lose any of your data. Also, the litl presents everything neatly without all the usual desktop clutter of a typical Mac or PC.
The unit can be ordered online and costs $699.
With a comparable netbook from Acer on the market for $300, I asked Gardner to explain the price point.
He said that the litl is a premium product that’s great for your parents and grandparents or younger children to use. There’s no maintenance, software or updating to worry about. The high-tech screen was designed to be viewed from any angle, and the litl’s durability makes it ideal for any room of the house. Litl comes with an unconditional two-year warranty, and it has a USB port so you can upload pictures from your digital camera.
Whether the litl will do for computing what the Wii did for video gaming remains to be seen.
However, it’s an innovative product that actually takes all of the hassle and guesswork out of computing.