“There will be people who resist Solu, there will be people who disagree with what we’re doing.”
-Kristoffer Lawson, CEO & Founder of Solu Machines

I’m one of them. Among all this hype and praise, it’s about time to explain the naysayers perspective.

As a disclaimer: I’m a Finn and a tech enthusiast. Therefore like one would expect,  I was instantly intrigued and excited about Solu when I first heard of them. I didn’t see the launch event, so my feelings are completely based on their Kickstarter page. This is why I wont buy Solu.

Solu is a powerful pocket computer, made from wood, which can be used both as a portable device, or plugged into any screen.

Okay, so oddly shaped, small tablet, that transforms to a desktop experience once you plugin screen and accessories. I think I’ve seen this before:

Of course Continuum also has the advantage of having a familiar UX and things like authentic Office, but I’m not going into that talk right now.

Your content is automatically stored in a multi-GB local cache of the Solu cloud. With the SoluOS you don’t have to manage your computer or worry about your IT infrastructure. SoluOS also backs up all settings, and the state of the Solu itself, so you can swap to a new device straight away if something goes wrong, if for instance if you drop your Solu in a river.

This has been more or less the case of smartphones for a while. If my phone would explode right now, I wouldn’t lose anything. If any of my PCs would explode right now, I still wouldn’t lose anything. Although I have to make it clear that this of course doesn’t make Solu any worse as a device, but what I’m saying is that it’s not as groundbreaking as it may seem. I also wonder where their cloud storage is located.

OneDrive
My cloud storage.

Solu’s operating system was designed to support this new world, where team members need real-time access to each others work.

Google Drive or Office Online anyone?

We’ve made sure that you no longer have to think about file sharing or app availability, as all tools are accessible to everyone. No installations, no credit cards, no hassle.

What about security? User hierarchy?

Solu’s unique human-machine interface rethinks the way people use computers. Drawing inspiration from the way the human brain works, the zoomable interface allows you to organize projects and applications with natural gestures. You no longer open applications and then files, but simply zoom in on the documents you wish to work on, organized within organic spaces.

Consumers don’t exactly have a good track-record on accepting or adapting to new UIs. Quite the contrary, they seem to reject them. Microsoft’s experiments with Start menu and Medium’s recent UI redesign comes to mind. But hey, if it works then I’m genuinely happy for Solu Machines, because then they managed to do a huge thing that no one else has been able to. I’m a big supporter of touch-based computing anyway, so it will be interesting to see the reception for this.

Is your desktop a clutter of different aspects of your life? With Solu you create separate spaces, each with it’s own team and environment, where you can collect all the tools, documents and content related to that activity.

So equivalent of folders and virtual desktops.

The software industry is broken and we have the means to fix it. Up until now, developers have been forced to either charge huge fees from a handful of enterprise clients or ask for pennies from individuals. We replace these outdated business models by charging all users a small monthly fee.

Wait, what? That claim might have been plausible 5-10 years ago, but things have changed. Never it has been easier to distribute your software (not just through the Internet, but also through platforms like Steam, Windows Store or Mac App Store), to get initial funding for it through Kickstarter or other similar service, or to make a cross-platform software. So I’d have to pay a “small monthly fee” to use my device, or what? I have a fancy brick in my hands if the payment is delayed? Probably not. I guess this is comparable to console gaming, where you have to pay monthly to get access to all features and multiplayer.

We are working with a number of development houses to bring their collaborative tools to Solu, but we also support legacy Android apps.

This is perhaps the most important aspect of the whole device. Apps. Why are they downplaying this? Without an ecosystem to back it up, Solu is doomed to crash and burn. So they support legacy Android apps (whatever those are), that’s nice. But as we all know, Android has been time and time again deemed to be the most unsecure mobile platform, fragmented ecosystem riddled with malware, security holes and botnets. Sure, there certainly is a lot of apps on the platform, but I’m more of “quality over quantity” type of a guy when it comes to apps.

Proportion of devices running vulnerable versions of Android
Proportion of devices running vulnerable versions of Android. Data from androidvulnerabilities.org

All-in-all, I think Solu is a beautiful device with bold ambitions. I sincerely hope that they succeed in their efforts or at least spice things up in the market, encouraging the big players to push their limits a bit too.

However I’m not getting the device, since I simply can’t see any value in it for me. I wrote this text not to mock Solu, but to give my objective observations in contrast to the otherwise rather un-criticizing and overly positive feedback it has had so far.

Starting from 349€, now you too can buy the smartest piece of wood the world has ever seen. Go check it out.

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