I've been researching portable word processors lately. You know - the kind school kids use? Don't ask me why, but I seem to think I need one.
Pros: Lightweight (1.5lbs), No distractions, full size keyboard, portable, long battery life on AAs (20-200 hours)
Cons: Expensive as heck ($300 for a keyboard and lcd screen? Who are you kidding???) Equal in price to a laptop.
The ones I'm looking at are older. Mostly I'm looking at the Quickpad IR, though I really want a Alphasmart Neo. Been thinking - how much could it possibly cost to mass produce these damned things? If palm can sell the Zire for less than $100, and keyboards cost $5 (or less) brand spankin' new... Why are they selling for $139 with such antique technology?
How many schools are out there? The US Census says that there are 72 million people enrolled in school as of the year 2000. That's almost 24% of the population. Here's a crazy idea - build these things to have a few functions. 1) Textbook e-reader. 2) Graphing Calculator 3) Word Processor. Holy killer application, batman. It seems like Alphasmart already has a good form factor down with the Dana. If the damned thing were $99, it would sell like crazy. Wipe Texas Instruments right out of the market.
I would probably give it a propreitary ROM plugin for textbooks, like an old Nintendo. That way, you keep the data secure and prevent competition. It's GOT to cost significantly less to punch out textbook roms than an actual book. Give it some slick functions like using the word processor to do homework problems and integrate the graphing calculator. Take notes as you follow the teacher along in the book. Once you have a good format down, think of the possibilities.
A highschool student needs what, 4-7 textbooks? And a graphing calculator? And a computer to type it on? 4 textbooks times $60 (Assuming the textbooks are used for a couple years) + Graphing calculator ($70 / 3 years = ~$24) + student use of computer lab for typing (We'll just say $20 for convience) = $284 a year. Replace all that with a device and 4 roms. Device = $99/2 years (assuming that a bunch get lost/broken) + 4 roms @ $50 each = $250, or a savings of $34 per student.
That would be a $2.5 billion dollar yearly saving applied to all students.
Plus it would be plenty of profit for the book companies and the device maker.