TAIWANESE MANUFACTURER Asus is planning a netbook with a slot-in mobile phone that will double as a 3G communications module, according to a UK distributor.
The arrangement offers an easy way to use the same SIM card and data account for both a phone and a portable computer.
The phone module, from an Israeli company called Modu, is already on sale, together with an array of feature-phone shells and other devices that it's designed to slot into.
Andrew Tse, head of UK distributor Purely Gadgets, said the idea is that you can change the phone shell to match your clothes or to get new features such as a camera. One shell takes the form of a photoframe that screens pictures held in the phone.
Tse, who describes himself as 'chief inspector' of Purely Gadgets - a reference to the Inspector Gadget cartoon series - said the Modu-equipped netbook is an extension of the same idea. "If you don't want to take the netbook out for the evening you just pull out the phone and take that."
The modular approach addresses one of the great problems of mobile devices for both buyers and designers: you cannot, with current technology, have a device that is both large enough for comfortable extended use and small enough to carry around all the time.
The issue is exemplified by Apple's Iphone and the larger Ipad. The only way to have the advantages of both Apple devices is to buy both and synchronise data between them.
The Modu approach, however, will allow you simply to slot the phone into the netbook. µ