- Automatically updated, Mobile device support
- Favorites need improvement
It's undoubtedly going to be a popular service, although there's some way to go before Webaroo can offer the whole of the internet on your hard drive. This program has a lot of promise, and credit must be given for sheer innovation. But is it going to be the next big thing? Only time will tell.
We tend to shy away from hyperbole - but Webaroo has got us quite excited. We think this product, which allows you to browse for content without being connected to the web, could completely change the way you use the Internet. And best of all, it's completely free.
You start by downloading the application. You're then ready to start loading 'Web packs' to your hard drive. These packs are a collection of pages about a topic - the World Cup, for example - selected for relevance, depth of coverage and, perhaps most importantly, size. Small is beautiful as far as Webaroo is concerned, because it means pages will take up less room on your hard disk.
At the time of writing there weren't many packs to choose from, but more are being created all the time. However, users aren't limited to pre-prepared content provided by Webaroo - you can add your own favourite sites.
As it happens, this is a fairly laborious process, since you can't simply ask Webaroo to add every site you have bookmarked. You have to go through your favourites one at a time.
At your service
The Web packs and individual sites can be searched using a Google-style interface, but if it's time-sensitive content (news, for example) that you're interested in, don't worry. Webaroo updates itself every time you log on to the web. Once the updates have finished, you're able to disconnect and browse at your leisure.
You could be at the airport using a hotspot, but decide you'd prefer to be sitting in a cafe or bar. Simply update Webaroo while you're in range of the Wi-Fi network and, once it's done, you can wander off wherever you want. Imagine the looks you'll get from people on the aeroplane when you appear to be surfing the Internet at 30,000 feet.
You can even put all of this on to a mobile device, provided it's running Windows Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition - support for Windows Mobile 5.0 is coming soon. And of course, you can fit an enormous amount of content on to portable media such as memory cards or USB keys.
How do you put the Internet on a hard drive?
Strictly speaking, Webaroo isn't the whole Internet - although sometime this year it aims to offer a comprehensive service that will allow searches on almost any topic. For the moment it's limited to preconfigured web packs and manually entered sites.
Webaroo is still a work in process. In the future we expect to see user-created web packs that can be uploaded to the central servers, assessed by others and rated to sort the wheat from the chaff.
As for the pricing, it's free. Sponsored links cover all the costs of running the Webaroo servers 24/7 and paying the 100 or so staff it employs. If Webaroo catches on - and we can see no good reason why it won't - Web sites will be queuing up to get their links on this service.
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First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.