QOOQ may just be the strangest digital tablet the world has ever seen. It takes to the extreme a maxim from computer scientist Alan Kay, which Steve Jobs liked to quote: "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware."
Now those who are really serious about food have QOOQ, conveniently pronounced "cook."
Launched in the U.S. in November, QOOQ could have been another foodie app for devices made by Apple or Amazon. But the messiness of the kitchen requires a hardy, specialized tablet -- or at least that's the thinking of French company UNOWHY, which began selling QOOQ to French-speakers in 2009. Now that it's in the United States, HuffPost decided to try this first touchscreen tablet for cooking, as QOOQ claims, on our country's biggest eating day, Thanksgiving.
Full disclosure: Friends and loved ones will tell you, without prompting, that I'm no Michelin chef. But this doesn't stop me from baking an apple pie every Turkey Day. This year, I propped up QOOQ on its sturdy wire kickstand -- one of those hardware features specially made for the kitchen -- turned it on, connected to my home's Wi-Fi and searched for apple-based recipes.
The $399 tablet -- with a dual-core processor and 8 gigabytes of memory, running on Linux -- packs its vast library of cooking-related content and features a bit too tightly onto its 10.1-inch screen. But a true gourmet might happily endure the clutter for the tablet's tools: a calendar to plan meals, an intuitive shopping-list creator and, most importantly, more than 4,000 recipes.
In response to my search for apple-related recipes (ignore the irony, iPad lovers), QOOQ told me not just how to transform the fruit into baked dessert but where to buy apples, how to check them for ripeness, which vitamins they offer and which varieties go well in which dishes. (Coincidentally, the type of apples I had bought were ideal for baking.)
One advantage a digital apple-pie recipe has over a recipe in a paper-bound cookbook is the chance for interactivity. With QOOQ, I could insert the number of people to be served, and ingredient amounts were adjusted accordingly. And for one complicated step -- boiling down the apple drippings into a caramelized sauce -- there was an explanatory video, which despite the tinny speakers was a high-quality production.
Indeed, the videos, which are accessible when QOOQ is connected to the Internet, may prove a real lure for food lovers. The tablet offers interviews with 106 haute cuisine chefs in Europe and video guides on how to make many of their dishes.
At no point did I feel that guilt about touching an electronic with greasy, sticky hands, as QOOQ's manufacturer says the tablet's screen is spill-proof. Nor did I worry that the tablet, with its rubber-tipped nubs, would slip off the counter.
That said, the screen was unresponsive at times. And with its red plastic construction (it also comes in cream and black), the tablet is more reminiscent of an Etch-A-Stetch than an iPad. Still, I could never imagine baking an apple pie with the more expensive Apple tablet at my elbow.
QOOQ founder Jean-Yves Hepp, who made two iOS apps for food and cocktails before deciding to build his own device, seems to have found that hardware-software sweet spot. Fancy, all-in-one tablets are too susceptible to spills and other cooking disasters to make good sous chefs. But the scrappy QOOQ looks like it can withstand the metaphorical and literal heat of the kitchen.
Maybe cooks need their own tablet. If you're less of a snob with electronics than with cuisine, QOOQ is it.
Linux operating system
ARM Cortex A9 dual-core 1GHz processor
8 gigabytes of memory with memory card reader
2.5 hours of battery life when playing video, 4 to 5 hours for other uses
Wi-Fi and Ethernet port