I’ve been waiting for litl to break cover for what seems like forever. The people seem to be all extremely smart, and it sounded like they had such a great idea, even if no-one knew what it was. However, engadget have seen some FCC information on a new “Easel” product from litl – and I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed, because it’s a netbook.

Of course, it almost certainly isn’t. The FCC photos take the extremely strange step of photographing it standing on the top screen edge: a position many netbooks wouldn’t be able to reach (some do, but not many). That, combined with a strange rubber insert along that top edge and a conveniently located power button make me think this thing is designed to spend much of it’s life in that position. Much like a photograph standing on the mantlepiece, this thing is probably designed to sit in your living space and “do stuff”. I could be wrong; the IR detector on the front of the keyboard is presumably needed for something, but there could be another built into the bezel somewhere (the FCC photos appear to show one). Interestingly, it’s designed by FIC apparently – the same people from whom OpenMoko spun out of.

What “stuff”, I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like it has a touchscreen (and it has the keyboard attached), but it does seem to have a webcam. Presumably you can Skype or something through this thing, but to interact with it you have to pick it up and flip it over? I suppose one possibility is that it has insane battery life, a wake-on-wlan function somehow and doesn’t need to be permanently strapped into a power socket, but I don’t know – having an Intel Atom and stuff probably means it doesn’t do that.

Doesn’t seem to have DVD/TV even though it has an HDMI output, doesn’t have 3G, doesn’t have touchscreen, etc. If it’s supposed to do something like a Joggler that would make some sense, except that again it doesn’t seem quite so interactive. Can’t believe it’s any good for gaming.

So, I’m kind of at a loss. If you’re going to all the effort of designing your own hardware, there’s usually a reason – a la OLPC. But this doesn’t seem to have many interesting features, except that it’s totally legacy and peripheral free – it only has one USB socket. Presumably the software has tonnes of interesting features, but in these days of Maemo and Moblin I wonder how close to the state of the art this is, or whether it’s in a kind of Daikatana situation. If it turns out to be another Chumby – well, that’s nice, but again disappointing (Chumby already exists, after all).

We only have around a week to wait to find out apparently, but I’m kind of left feeling “what’s the point”? If this is really just a netbook for accessing web content, I don’t understand it at all. You don’t need custom hardware for that, and people already know how to use web browsers. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s vastly underwhelming so far.