With the coming Linux powered devices, there are some things that I think are necessary for success. Coming from the Palm community, I know a thing or two about creating a successful device, both handhelds and smartphones, which may sound like an oxymoron with Palm in it’s current state. Hardware, system, and price all play a role in the overall success of a device.
The hardware in a device should be simple: It should have an ample screen resolution (e.g. 320x320p), it should have wifi, and should be able to fit in a pocket. Devices that are too large can’t be taken in pockets such as UMPCs are pratically useless if you have to take them somewhere.
A Linux system will certainly do the trick as far as a mobile system is concerned. Looking at system available, such as Ubuntu Mobile, provide all of the necessary applications. A nice touch, of course, is 1) syncronization and 2) an office suite, even if it is basic. Those two things can often bring together the experience of a mobile device, and can even make it more attractive to a large user base, such as business users.
Mobile devices can also be affected by price. If it is priced too high, it will not sell. If it is priced low, people will snap it up. Devices that are sub-$400 typically do the best. Any higher, and you are entering desktop computer prices, which is something that catches the attention of the wary buyer. Anywhere from $200-400 is the sweet spot for quality mobile devices. (e.g. iPhone, Palm Tungsten E, treo, etc.)
From the above, you can see why the UMPCs have mostly failed. They were not the next big thing. I just hope that it does not happen to Linux mobile devices. The UMPCs failed to be “mobile” in a convienient way, had the system, but were too expensive for the majority of the market. Another great example is the Palm Foleo, which was only a sync station for the Palm treo, which cost $500+, and was not usable as an everyday computer, but just for syncing PDAs. Linux has the opportunity to take this market by storm, with the only real competitor being Microsoft Windows Mobile. I probably will buy an Ubuntu Mobile device, just as long as it is in the $400 and under range. Think of it this way, would you want to buy a mobile device that is more expensive than the Eee PC($400)?