First Look at the FlipStart

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Add-Ons and Options

Naturally, a tiny computer can hold only a tiny battery. And even though the FlipStart contains the power-efficient Crusoe, Vulcan estimates it will eke out only two hours of typical use on a charge. But the company plans to offer several workarounds to extend the machine's battery life.

One option mimics one available on larger notebooks: You'll be able to buy two models of external battery that add bulk and weight but offer either two or three hours of additional life. Fleck notes that even with an external power pack, the FlipStart is still smaller than his IBM ThinkPad's battery alone.

Vulcan also plans to sell an optional external monochrome display called the LID (Low-Powered Interactive Display) that lets you view e-mail, MP3 playlists, and other information without turning on the battery-draining color screen.

"The minute you see an e-mail you want to reply to, you can open up the case and get to it quickly," Fleck says. The LID wasn't on display in working form at Demo, so it's hard to gauge its usefulness.

Vulcan plans to offer other external modules for the FlipStart, including a mini port replicator and a larger docking station with a CD-RW/DVD drive. It's also talking about a second-generation version of the device that uses Transmeta's upcoming Efficieon CPU.

Give this type of tiny computer some time, and it could become a mainstream device that many businesspeople and consumers tote instead of a standard notebook, Fleck says. It makes sense to me--I hate lugging a heavy laptop, but I find PDAs a bit underpowered. I'll be curious to see what the rest of the world thinks when the FlipStart finally hits the market.

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