2006-03-09

UMPC finally unveiled

Today, the Wintel camp has provided us with a bunch of tangible information on the upcoming Microsoft Origami devices, or as they more likely should be called, Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPC). It appears that the UMPC will run the plain old Windows XP from Microsoft, with some Origami software layers on top. Intel's role as the technology provider will be crucial as it has been using many R&D bucks to develop technology that is ready for mobile products. However, it is yet rather doubtful whether the early UMPC will be powerful enough, cheap enough, yet have passable battery life and no heating issues.

The first generation appears to run on Celeron processors, not the latest (and priciest) mobile technology Intel has to offer. First devices are due in April, but the manufacturers face the challenge of making them attractive to customers. Windows XP is not optimised for mobile devices - in fact it is probably the reason the devices have PC-like specs, and Intel's technology - especially the older variant - may not be that suitable for an UMPC-like product. Likewise, the small screen and the lack of a proper keyboard mean a radically new user experience which may be a tough job to smoothen out.

Microsoft and Intel will still likely benefit from this whole project, in terms of licensing fees and adoption of their technology. In fact some commentators point out that Microsoft has been trying to push devices like these to the market for 15 years now. Still, time may be right now and the UMPC concept at least takes us much closer to the carrypad vision. As time goes by and if the market grows, Intel may be able to offer us suitable technology at prices comparable to laptops in a few years...

Some links with additional information:

Intel has an overview of the UMPC/Origami tablet concept and a list of upcoming devices

Slashdot is running the usual huge discussion thread

The Register seems dryly sceptic about the devices in their traditional fashion. But at least it seems the devices would not run as hot as the OQO...

As the devices run on a well-known computing platform (Intel-based x86), it should be possible for a vendor to select the used operating system, or even the user to install it post-purchase. Would it be the time for Nokia or MontaVista to show us what a UMPC can do when supplied with Linux?

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