Interview: Realease and the Shogo tablet running Linux
I've recently had the opportunity to interview a long-time friend of mine, Daniel Schneersohn, CEO of Realease, the company that makes the 10 inch Shogo Tablet I have already written about: Shogo, the tablet you can control, extend and hack ;.
QUESTION: Daniel, can you introduce yourself and your company?
RealEase is a company setup in Hong Kong by 3 French Engineers one based in HK the other two based in France. We realized 3 years ago that to design and build anything electronic our days, we had to be doing from Asia and in particular from the South China region and Shenzhen in particular. But we also quickly learned that without good old western (US or European) ways, the results of what we designed or produced over there was often disappointing. We embark on the idea to setup a company that would bring the best of both world, western design, creativity and software development and China's supply chain, production capability, and rapid response time for development and production
QUESTION: Tell me more about Shogo, your product
After introducing the world first Digital photo frame with WiFi and a touch screen interface in 2008 we realized the potential of what we could design and build using the latest ARM processor now that full version of Linux were becoming available on these processors and we were no longer limited by smaller processors running proprietary OSes with limited APIs The combination of the power of the ARM processor available and now all of them running a full fledge Linux OS with all the world of open source (and free software) tools and libraries that could be used to create new solution was going to make an entire new category of devices possible in the embedded category. We envisioned the happening of the Internet Tablet category at the end of 2008 and started our development. Our idea was simple, we are not Microsoft nor Apple and cannot embark on the development of a proprietary GUI that could run on a tablet device and be feature rich enough to compete on the general purpose consumer tablet category. But we were starting to sense that given what was becoming possible with these devices and at the price we were going to be able to produce them, this was going to create a huge demand for people wanting to create their own tablet as a delivery device for their specific application, or content or services.
QUESTION: so what does the Shogo looks like today?
As we embarked on the development of our ARM based Linux Open source tablet, we were approached by a company at the beginning of 2009 asking us to develop for them a custom tablet for their own application / solution. This is how we teamed-up with UnoWhy of France to develop and product the QOOQ tablet what was launched in France in the fall of 2009 and was the first 10" capacitive touch screen tablet ever. This is a Tablet that is custom-designed for the kitchen with a very rich content dedicated to the Epicurian in us.
Since then, we have designed and developed the 10" Shogo Tablet based on the same ARM processor from FreeScale running Linux with the Qt Development framework. The idea for the Shogo Tablet is to provide a platform, hardware and software for customers who have an application, a solution, some content, or some services that they would like to deliver to their customers on a tablet form-factor. They might already have the application or service, or have the idea or the plan to develop such application or service that will need a tablet device to be delivered or deployed. We needed to create the Shogo tablet as a "Generic" tablet that can be used by these developers to evaluate, prototype and develop their solution before deciding if they would need a custom device for their solution (with specific ID Design and casing and form factor etc... like the QOOQ), or if the Shogo tablet itself with some level of customization would be suitable for their target audience.
We made some changes to the design in order to be more flexible and allow for some customization cosmetic ones like allowing to change the logo the color of the plastic, the entire packaging but also to include or omit some electronic elements like bluetooth, sensors, webcam...
QUESTION: In short, you're enabling companies to follow the famous quote by Alan Kay "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware."?
It's exactly that! In reality, you can do so much with the hardware available today, look at the QOOQ, when you have a file system custom-designed for what you need it to do, you do not need ultra high speed CPU nor gigantic amounts of RAM because you are not stuffing your environment with software that is not needed.
QUESTION: Why a company should build their future product on top of the Shogo instead of the iPad or a mass-market Android tablet like the Samsung Tab?
Well basically people contacting us start by telling us that they need something else for the following reasons:
- They need to be able to use whatever they want to be able to use whatever tools and environment they want and do not want to be limited by what Apple or others are going to make available for them
- they want to be able to create an environment they can control 100% for the user of their tablet or their application. Only see the GUI they have created, only allow the use of the applications they want, and if they want to allow to browser the Internet, limit access to whatever site on the Internet or intranet they want. It is meant to be a working device or a single purpose device not a general purpose Internet browsing device they want to be able to customize every aspect of the UI including the device setting menus etc...
- they want the device to have no resell value to avoid theft.
Also some people are specifically looking for a device capable to run Qt Development framework to run application developped with Qt.
QUESTION: So what's the next step is for your company?
We have recently released the Shogo, in November 2010, and started to ship it to customers around the world for the past few weeks. Companies are now evaluating the product and prototyping their solution on it. Some of them will do it on the stock Shogo tablet, some other will need customized hardware. Many of them are already hard at work building solutions around the Shogo!