Friday, March 31, 2006

Samsung Q1 UMPC available for pre-order

From Engadget:

If you thought UMPCs -- which early rumors said could go for as little as $500 -- were going to be bargains, think again. The first model to get an official price, the TabletKiosk eo, is expected to sell for about $900. And, now we get word that Samsung's Q1 can be pre-ordered from eXpansys for a mere £799.95 (about $1,400). While it's not unusual for specialty resellers such as eXpansys to charge a markup over retail (and the price before VAT is somewhat cheaper -- £680, or about $1,180), the price makes the Q1 more expensive than many laptops, and not all that much cheaper than some full-featured tablet PCs. US pricing, once announced, will almost certainly be lower -- if not at retail, then on eBay, where these will end up if they're priced too high for the market to bear.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Origami, up close

The crowd at Seattle's Espresso Vivace Roasteria barely noticed, but Otto Berkes was there recently using one of the first models of Microsoft's super-hyped "Origami" handheld computers.

Berkes led development of the concept, software and design guidelines that computer makers are using to build the devices. They'll go on sale in April as Ultra-Mobile PCs — Origami was a code name — for about $1,000.

Microsoft and the PC industry want the devices to become as handy as cellphones, as common as laptops and as cool as iPods, but analysts say the price has to come down first.

Berkes, who helped develop the Xbox, hopes they open up avenues for the PC to evolve in new directions.

"This is much more of an object of desire, if you will," Berkes said. "Similar to picking up a cellphone, it's not just the utility of the product but the design, what that design says about you, particularly since you'll use it in a setting that's much more social, like this one."

At Vivace, Berkes tapped the free Wi-Fi to show key features of the device, in this case a Samsung Q1, which will list for $1,000 to $1,200.

Intel wants in on the bargain-basement laptop market

Back in December, Intel board chairman Craig Barrett dismissed MIT's new US$100 laptop as a "gadget." Today comes news that Intel has plans for a cheap laptop of its own, a diminuitive PC known as the "Edu-Wise."

Unfortunate name aside, we don't yet know much about the Edu-Wise apart from the fact of its existence. Oh, and that it will include "unique hardware and software features that meet the needs of students and teachers in developing countries," according to an Intel spokeswoman. The one other detail that we do know is the price, currently estimated at US$400, making it a superb value for students in the developing world.

Okay, so that last bit was tongue in cheek. Intel's machine is estimated at four times the cost of the One Laptop Per Child program that MIT is involved with, but Intel's laptop is designed to have more functionality. As the Google translation of the original (Portuguese) story puts it:

"It, however, said that the project of the Intel has all the functionalities of a common computer, being able to twirl an operational system complete, as the Windows, without the necessity of a simplified version."

The key question is, do students in countries such as Brazil need to "twirl an operational system complete," or would a stripped down version of Linux do just as well for them? At US$400, and without the handcrank that can power the MIT machine, Intel's laptop won't be showing up in rural Cambodian villages anytime soon. Still, it might be used in thriving markets like Brazil, India, and China. If Intel can hold the line on price, it may have a useful machine on its hands; if the project grows much more expensive, though, there will be few cost savings over a traditional laptop.

Take the UMPC (better known as Origami). Since its original announcement, the platform has swelled in price, and now costs from US$600 to US$1,000. Intel's project could very well suffer the same fate; Engadget, for instance, is guessing that it will come in at US$750. That seems pretty steep considering that current cheapo laptops cost less than this. Plus, the the new machine won't be out for a year. Given that processors are a major piece of a laptop's costs, Intel may be willing to provide older chip stock at blowout prices, which could potentially help the new laptop stay at US$400. Even at those prices, we think the machine may be too expensive to be widely deployed; anything higher could kill the project completely.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Samsung's Q1 appears on the FCC

Yeah, there's a certain novelty to getting FCC shots and info -- it's usually nothing we've never seen before, but after all those pristine press photos and well-buffed display units, that down and dirty FCC photography is jarring in a good way -- kind of like tabloid shots of your favorite star a drunken wreck early Sunday morning. So if you wanted the lowdown, the Q1's (still) got a Celeron M ULV, 256MB (upgradeable to 1GB), an Intel 915GMS chipset, 60GB drive (up from 40GB!), Ethernet, 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA out, audio out, a 7-inch 800 x 480 display, and three cell battery. Like we said, not a lot there we didn't know. But if you did want to snag a sneak peek at how Microsoft Touch Pack and all that UMPC multimedia software works, they've got a hefty 140-some-odd page user manual for you to peruse at your leisure (PDF links part 1 and part 2). Say goodbye to your afternoon.

TabletKiosk Announces Ultramobile PC

TabletKiosk said Tuesday that it plans to launch its ultramobile PC, the "eo," at the end of April.

Two versions will be available: an $899 standard model, and an $999 special offer with an upgraded hard drive, according to Gail Levy, the company's vice president of marketing. After the eo begins shipping during the last week of April, the "special" price will be eliminated, she said.

The eo, which measures 9 inches wide by 5.75 inches high by an inch deep and weighs just under 2 pounds, is one of the new class of "Ultramobile" or "Origami" PCs, which were designed by Microsoft to offer an alternative to the Tablet PC.

The eo wraps a 7-inch TFT-LCD touch screen around either a black or white chassis housing a 1.0-GHz Via C7M processor. The $899 base configuration includes 256MB of memory and a 30GB, 4,200-RPM hard drive, although the $999 upgrade special includes a faster and larger 40GB, 5,400-RPM drive, Levy said. Users will also be able to ask for memory up to a full gigabyte as well as up to a 160GB hard drive, according to TabletKiosk.

Bluetooth and 802.11g Wi-Fi functionality has been built in, the company said.

The PC ships with Microsoft Windows Tablet Edition as well as the Microsoft Touch Pak. The chassis has been designed to be convenient for lefties as well as righties, the company said. Battery life will be about 2.5 hours, or 4 hours with an extended battery.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Will UMPCs Bring Changes to Linux Software?

The prospect of the UMPC is looming large; with the technology set to debut later this year, everyone’s waiting to see just what kind of impact the new technology has on mobile computing. While the Windows user base is gearing up to see just what Microsoft has planned for the UMPC, Linux users all over the world are gearing up to see how long it takes before a Linux distribution can be run on the diminutive systems effectively. Knowing the Linux community, it won’t take very long at all, but what will need to change application-wise is order to make Linux-on-UMPC feasible? Well, there are a few things.

UMPC Alternative for Under $400

Nextar's portable media player does everything the $999 competitors can

Nextar product-line features car stereos, mobile DVD players, MP3 players and GPS devices. I4U is reporting on the company's newest product, the Macvision (ahem, now Nextar) MC3007 portable media player, which boasts combinations of most of those devices in a 8" x 4.75" x 1.3" design.

The MC3007 allows you to play audio files which include WMA and MP3 formats, and also videos of the AVI, ASF, and MPEG4 format. The device also allows viewing JPEG, BMP, and GIF digital images which can be stored on the device's built-in 40GB hard disk drive along with audio and video files.

Additionally, the MC3007 allows recording of up to 160 hours of video from TV, DVD, cable, or satellite sources which are not copyright protected. There is no word yet on whether a larger capacity option is available or if the stock hard drive can be upgraded, but 40GB of hard drive space is more than enough to store a few hours of video captured in the MPEG4 format. The device also has an integrated microphone for voice recording along with audio/video inputs and outputs. Connection to a PC for data transfers can be made by the USB 2.0 interface and also through SD cards.

The MC3007 has a 7" 16:9 widescreen TFT LCD which is large enough to see a clear picture and it also gives the option to output video to a TV for larger audiences. The MC3007 is the successor to the MC1007 which featured a 20GB hard drive in a slightly smaller overall package.

Though the features may be standard compared to other portable media players the MC3007 stands out because of its price. The device can be purchased now at online retailers for as little as $389 at

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Toshiba Origami handheld on its way

At its recent launch, Microsoft's "Origami" ultramobile PC got dissed because, among other things, no well-known PC makers were on board. But now there are whispers that Toshiba, a major laptop maker, plans to come out with its own version of the handheld. GottaBeMobile tracked down the rumors to an article in APC Magazine, which recently interviewed a Toshiba product manager about an upcoming handheld whose specs -- a screen smaller than 7 inches, pen entry, with a Tablet PC operating system -- sound suspiciously like an Origami device. If the rumors pan out, getting Toshiba on board would be a boost for Microsoft's new handheld platform.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Getting Origami into the fold

Anyone who has watched a video on a laptop on an airplane or surfed the Web for entertainment at work is a potential buyer of the new Origami devices proposed by Microsoft and Intel.

Speaking to a group of CNET editors and reporters Thursday at Intel's Santa Clara campus, Sean Maloney, head of the company's mobile group, explained that a notebook is too big and power-hungry to carry everywhere. "The problem is the device is large so they are what we call 'carry with you' devices...not what you call 'carry on you' devices."

On the other end of the spectrum, cell phones are limited by their small screen size and problems in surfing the Web. Viewing video on anything smaller than a 4-inch screen is uncomfortable, Maloney said, and most cell phones are unable to run many of the plug-ins needed to surf popular Web sites.

Microsoft and Intel earlier this month unveiled the concept behind so-called Origami devices. The first units will have a 7-inch touch screen and standard x86 processors, and be able to run full versions of desktop operating systems including a Windows XP variant. Many PC makers are now readying such devices at an expected cost of about $800 each.

Ideally, said Maloney, the manufacturers will get creative.

"What you don't want is people doing classic PC thinking," he said. Rather, the builders should hew more to the cell phone path, where there is a range of form factors and features.

Zen and the art of IT marketing

It’s not quite what you’d call enlightenment, but Microsoft executives now know what it’s like to hear the sound of one hand clapping.

That’s pretty much what happened when the company soft-launched its latest portable computer design (see below for more details).

Origami is, or more correctly, was, the codename for a small, portable computer. It’s part palmtop, part Tablet PC and part media playback device. Physically it sits somewhere between palmtops and notebooks.

Like Microsoft’s other recent hardware design, the Tablet PC, you enter data on screen using a stylus. It comes with great built-in communications; usually wi-fi and Bluetooth, but the hardware needed to hook up with 3G data networks is available as an option.

You can surf the net, read notes, give PowerPoint presentations or watch movies on Origami. Some models include built-in cameras. It’s actually a very exciting piece of kit and because Origami is an adjunct to a PC rather than a replacement it could, potentially, kick off a fresh spending wave.

But it probably won’t. For a start, when, or perhaps if, the Origami arrives here prices will probably start at around NZ$1,500 — that’s considerably more than a low-end laptop and much more than even top-specification palmtops.

Microsoft isn’t actually making the hardware. Like other computing devices designed by the company, the hardware is being made and sold by partners. At the time of writing only Samsung had demonstrated sample hardware. Others are said to have products in the pipeline.

So far, none of the IT industry’s really big names have announced plans to make the devices. This speaks volumes. It could be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in Origami. Alternatively, it’s a sign that Microsoft no longer has the ability to arm-twist big hardware brands. Or it may just be the big brands are slow off the mark.

To use the ugly and incomprehensible industry jargon term favoured by Microsoft, Origami represents yet another ‘form factor’. Microsoft chip-making partner Intel might label it ‘a platform’. Origami is also officially referred to as an ‘ultramobile PC’.

Yuck, yuck and yuck. Not only are the terms barbaric, they serve to show the huge gulf between the people trying to sell the products and the consumers who may possibly buy them.

You just know these labels are a complete turn-off to ordinary people. Apple would never make such a gross error.

Part of the iPod’s charm is its name. And its straightforward description as an MP3 or portable music player is instantly understandable. Microsoft and its partners still live in some kind of marketing bubble where Sushi would be marketed as raw, dead fish.

While we’re on the subject of Apple, there’s something very familiar about Origami. The device appears to be channelling the Apple Newton.

It’s roughly the same size — that is, small enough to fit in a large pocket — it works with a stylus and is being marketed on its communications capabilities. In fact, the Origami is a tantalising glimpse of what the Newton could be like today if it were still in production.

Well, not entirely. Although it was widely ridiculed when it was introduced, the Newton was more than a decade ahead of its time. The greatest thing about the Newton was its software — simple and very elegant.

Origami is based on Windows, which is a lost opportunity. Even if you think Windows is a cracking desktop operating system, you have to admit it’s not much cop on handheld systems and even worse on mobile phones.

The Newton trumps Origami in at least one other important way: power consumption. Depending on usage, you could reasonably expect to get about 18 hours out of a Newton in-between battery recharges. For some users that would cover a working week. In tests, the Origami seems to work for about two hours.

If the Origami had Newton-like software, it could be a world beater. This isn’t impossible. There are die-hard enthusiasts who’ve written a Newton operating system emulator that runs on Microsoft Windows. Now there’s a thought.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mix06 Samsung UMPC photos

Yesterday, Bill Gates showed the Mix06 audience the Samsung Ultra-Mobile PC.

Here are two photos of the device in action.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Michael Dell not keen on Origami

Computer maker Dell Inc. is not too hot about Microsoft's ultramobile PC, dubbed the Origami, Michael Dell said on Tuesday.

Noting that the company expects to grow faster than the PC industry, the Dell , chairman and founder said that the Texas-based computer maker is currently selling ultralight notebooks in the market, but did not say if the company was going to sell its own branded ultramobile PCs.

"We don't support all what Microsoft does," the Dell co-founder quipped.

Samsung, Asus, and other PC manufacturers have already launched Origami.

Origami is the next-generation Microsoft tablet PC. However, unlike its predecessor, the Origami runs on a full and not stripped-down version of the Microsoft operating system.

Microsoft has said that the Origami will eventually support Vista.

Dell stressed, however, that the company was throwing its full support to Microsoft's Vista, the new operating system that will be launched this year. He believes that Vista is expected to drive demand for better PCs once it becomes available.

Meanwhile, Dell said that the company was playing in the high-end PC market since its recent dramatic growth, thanks to US-based companies like Alienware, Voodoo PC and Falcon Northwest.

Asked about his take on this market, Dell said that the company was continuing its investments in the high-end PC space, but did not comment on reports that the company is considering buying Alienware, a US-based PC builder of high-end computers designed for gamers and multimedia users.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Microsoft's Plans For Handheld Game Player And "iPod Killer"

Not technically Origami news but interesting to see where Microsoft may be headed next:

In a bid to capture the huge audience for handheld entertainment gadgets, Microsoft is designing a product that combines video games, music and video in one handheld device, according to sources familiar with the project.

The Microsoft product would compete with Sony, Nintendo and Apple Computer's products, including the iPod. And Microsoft has some of its most seasoned talent from the division that created its popular Xbox 360 working on it. Game executive J Allard leads the project, and its director is Greg Gibson, who was the system designer on the Xbox 360 video game console. Bryan Lee, the finance chief on the Xbox business, is leading the business side of the project.

By anchoring its entertainment device as a handheld game player, Microsoft is starting from its position of strength in the entertainment business that it hopes Apple cannot match, even with its iPod. The game press has dubbed it an "iPod killer,'' but its functions would likely more closely resemble Sony's PlayStation Portable multimedia gaming device.

While details are sketchy, the pedigree of the people in charge of the business show how strategic it is to Microsoft's future.

"That would certainly be an interesting development in the market,'' said Anita Frazier, a game industry analyst at the NPD Group.

In the past, all of Microsoft's efforts to compete have fallen short. The company considered making an ""Xboy'' game player a few years ago but shelved the idea. It considered making a game handheld at the same time it devised plans for the Xbox 360 in 2002 and 2003, but it again decided to delay its entry.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's efforts in PocketPC handhelds and Portable Media Players have fallen short in competition with the iPod. Last week, Microsoft unveiled Project Origami, a handheld Windows computer. But that device isn't targeted on pure entertainment as the Xplayer is. The existence of these other projects suggests that there is still some infighting within Microsoft about its best approach to portable gadgets.

The handheld project is still in its early stages. Microsoft is still figuring out which strategy to pursue in music technology, according to sources familiar with the matter. The code name for its music service, which would be the equivalent of Apple's iTunes, is "Alexandria.''

One benefit of waiting longer is that the handheld will likely have sufficient technology in it to run a lot of original Xbox games from a few years ago. Hence, it wouldn't be hard to create a new library of games for the handheld.

Signs of activity have surfaced. Transmeta, a maker of low-power chip technology, said last year that it had assigned 30 engineers to work with Microsoft on a secret project. Transmeta's engineers work on ways to take the power out of computing chips so that they can be used in handheld devices with long battery lives.

Microsoft have handheld Xbox up its sleeve

While the Origami hype is finally dying down, the rumors of a Microsoft portable gaming device are heating back up.

A story in Monday's San Jose Mercury News suggests that the combination music and gaming device is moving from possibility into project, though it still could be years off.

The Merc reports that some of the top names from the Xbox unit are working on the product, including J. Allard and Xbox 360 designer Greg Gibson, along with division finance chief Bryan Lee.

BusinessWeek reported back in January that Microsoft was considering such a product, but had yet to give it the go-ahead.

A Microsoft representative did not immediately have a comment.

Update: Microsoft offered a statement, but added little detail on its plans.

"The posting from today's San Jose Mercury News is highly speculative, and we will not comment on it specifically," Microsoft said. "Microsoft is committed to innovate and invest in technologies, products and services that enhance the digital lifestyles of our customers, and our recent reorganizations... sought to bring more focus to Microsoft's efforts in entertainment, including music."

Monday, March 20, 2006

The UMPC will destroy Sony's PSP

Ultranauts writes:

No one else will say it. But I will.

The Ultra Mobile PC is a Sony PSP killer. It’s pretty obvious, really.

For all of Sony’s consumer equity with the word “PlayStation,” it is becoming obvious the Sony has its eye on bigger prizes beyond the “Play” part of their #1 brand. Increasingly, Sony seems to be focused on the “lifestyle benefits” that the PSP can deliver — music, movies, web surfing and the like. Maybe they should have rebadged the PlayStation as the LifestyleStation. Or the UMPCstation… because that’s what the little PSP is looking more and more like. Well, an infererior version of the UMPC anyway.

Am I being purposefully inflammatory? You betcha! it makes for a better headline. However, the bottom-line is that the main criticism of the PlayStation Portable is that there aren’t enough games for the system (especially good ones)… That Sony has chosen to take on the iPod and PMPs instead of giving the Gameboy and the Nintendo DS runs for their money. In fact, games don’t seem to be a real focus for the PSP at all. Most retail releases for the system are movies and music videos, available for purchase on proprietary UMD disks. Indeed, the PSP’s advertising and marketing campaigns seem more focused on winning over Apple enthusiasts than they do on winning over gamers. Congratulations Nintendo!

It’s actually fine and dandy that the PSP caters itself as an all-in-one entertainment/lifestyle device these days. Personally, the less gadgets I have to walk around with the better. And as an all-in-one, the PSP really does do a fine job. But, as is the whole point of this article, the PSP will get trumped by the UMPC, a vastly superior all-in-one “lifestlye” device. Now, if Sony had chosen to focus on games in the same way Nintendo has with its new portables, there would be no contest: the PSP would be a superior gaming machine. Hands down. Arguably, ithe PSP is simply a competent gaming machine (and mainly due to a lack of stellar content and a compromised set of controls). The PSP is probably only slightly ahead of what the UMPC can do in the gaming arena.

It’s all those other “lifestyle” areas where the UMPC will reign supreme. Let’s make a quick comparison:

UMPC Pros:

Bigger screen
Built in hard drive
Touch screen
Superior connectivity options
A vast applications library to leverage
PSP Pros:

Smaller than UMPC (but not small enough to slip in a pocket)
Additional face buttons
Initial cost (no storage, however)

Battery life
Dedicated homebrew/hacker community
Based on just that quick comparison, I’d say that the pros of the UMPC make it a vastly superior device when compared to the PSP. Sony actually lists Photos, Music, Video, Games and Internet (and in that order) as the secret combination that make it a “portable entertainment revolution.” I see nothing on that list that the UMPC can’t do too (and do better, save one). The UMPC is likely to destroy the PSP in 4 out of 5 of those (and do ok at the gaming one). Just looking at the basic specs around the UMPC’s 7″ screen and its modest HDD, the UMPC is clearly positioned as the new king of the all-in-one portable entertainment hill.

And we haven’t even talked about productivity applications such as email, PPT and VoIP. But we’ll save that for another day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

UMPC Runs Linux

The Ultra Mobile PC, Microsoft’s new ultra-ultra-portable personal computer, apparently has a few new tricks up its sleeve that Microsoft neglected to tell anyone. In their testing of a prototype UMPC, UMPCOrigami found that Samsung’s engineers, awaiting the “official” operating system from Microsoft, had taken matters into their own hands and installed Linux in Windows’ place. Refusing to name the distribution used in the test, the team managed to proudly display Tux at 800 x 400 and loaded up the GNOME Desktop Environment with no trouble. These new UMPCs will contain a 1 GHz Celeron M, Pentium M, or VIA C7-M x86 processor with 256MB RAM and a 30 or 60 GB hard drive

Microsoft collaborates with Movielink for their Origami device

Software giants Microsoft have just recently unveiled their latest technology codenamed the Origami Project. It is a kind of portable computing product, which runs the complete versions of their Windows Operating System.

Samsung and Asus are two companies, which have already announced their products based on the Origami technology. The latest news in is that the company has now collaborated with Movielink, an online movie rental service to enable the users of Microsoft Ultra-Mobile PC to download films directly on the devices.

This is the first of many collaborations Microsoft is expected to enter to provide content wirelessly to the owners of this new device. As per this deal, UMPC buyers would be able to download Movielink content directly to the device instead of having to access the site through a Web browser first.

Sean Besser, director of business development for Movielink said in a statement on their deal with Microsoft: “Since the Internet has proven to be ideally suited for portability and a significant amount of Movielink’s downloads are already for portable use in notebooks, we believe the new UMPC platform will be a catalyst for portable video consumption.”

UMPC: Why Microsoft Thinks You Need It

Microsoft believes consumers are looking for an uncompromised level of computing on the go. Thus, it began the process of developing what is now called the Ultra-Mobile PC back in 2002. Heading that team is Otto Berkes, the device's architect and now general manager of the UMPC team.

In an interview with BetaNews, Berkes says the impetus behind the creation of this new type of computing device has to do with several changes in the industry. Today's desktops and laptops are not designed for true "on the go" use, he explained, but people are increasingly going mobile.

The UMPC opens up a wider array of computing scenarios, including easier in-car use, or walking down a hall between meetings. The device does not take away from the PC experience, because it is running a full version of Windows, Berkes added. "It looks like something you'd pick up with two hands."

Although it may appear to be, the UMPC is not intended to be a replacement for any other device.

"It's not the death of the laptop," Berkes argued. He said laptops were still great tools for what he called "destination end-points." While in transit, it would be easier to use the UMPC, while upon arriving at a destination, the laptop would still likely be the better tool.

The same goes for Microsoft's Tablet PC concept. "Tablets will stay on the market," Berkes assured. "We are using Tablet PC technology, but delivering it in a different way." This new implementation would come in the form of the Microsoft Touch Pack, a set of applications and services intended to take advantage of UMPC's touch screen and feature set.

Berkes also took issue with criticisms that the device is too big, or a rehash of prior form factors like the PepperPad and OQO, which have both failed to find a market.

Very few devices are actually appropriate for the pocket, he said, and the fact that the UMPC is a fully functional Windows PC with capabilities to connect to a multitude of devices just like a regular PC sets it apart from the crowd.

Another difference from even Microsoft's own failures -- such as Windows Smart Displays -- is the fact that it's a PC at heart. "The family tree is still the PC. It will be able to feed off of the huge Windows ecosystem," Berkes explained. Thus, he said, the product provides a huge amount of value over other devices.

To ensure the impression of value, Microsoft played a large part in the design of the UMPC hardware platform. By providing prototypes and reference designs, as well as offering guidance in manufacturing, the company hopes to avoid problems.

"With the UMPC being more device-like, the software and hardware need to be coordinated," Berkes said, indicating that Microsoft has learned from the mistakes of its hands-off approach in digital media devices.

Many analysts have said that Microsoft allowed too much leeway among its partners in designing those devices, which resulted in issues with its PlaysForSure technology and compatibility with Windows Media Player. Apple's iPod in the meantime secured its dominance through a unified platform.

Microsoft will not rule over designs with an iron fist; the company will only mandate some functions and leave the rest up to the manufacturer. This includes the options for a keyboard, rather than the DialKeys thumb input method that is included in the UMPC Touch Pack software.

The same hands-off approach would cover peripherals, with Berkes saying the company expects "OEMs to provide their own peripheral solutions," as their accessories "would be designed best for a particular model." He would not rule out, however, accessories being produced by Microsoft.

Current generation UMPCs are not perfect, Berkes conceded, especially in the area of battery life. The devices are expected to only operate for three to four hours on a battery charge, which is slightly below the average of today's laptop. He said this has become a focus of future devices based on the platform.

"The industry recognizes the physical limitations of battery life with today's PC architecture," Berkes said. Efforts are underway to remedy the issue, he added, mentioning Intel's recent announcements that it was investing heavily in manufacturing more efficient processors. "This translates directly into better battery life."

Another area of concern among consumers is price, which in the current models ranges from $599 to $999 USD. Berkes said the market would largely determine the pricing, and as more of the devices are sold, the cost of manufacturing and purchasing would fall. "My personal hope is that [the UMPC] becomes so affordable that anyone who wants one would be able to purchase one," he said.

Berkes also touched on the topic of a Windows Vista upgrade path. The first Ultra-Mobile PCs will ship with Windows XP, as the launch comes six to eight months away from the expected release of Microsoft's next-generation operating system.

Berkes said that the UMPC would be part of a "Vista Ready" program that Microsoft plans to roll out shortly. The program, much like ones the company has employed previously, would aim to assure consumers that the hardware they are purchasing is ready to run the next Windows release.

"We are, and have been, testing Vista in our labs to ensure there is a smooth upgrade path," he assured.

Even in its short life, the device has already assembled a litany of critiques from the industry. On Tuesday, research firm Gartner released a report calling the device a "tweener," and said that low battery life, high price and a non-Vista operating system will probably doom the product early on.

"For these reasons, we question the timing of this launch: Why rush this to market before it is ready to succeed?" Gartner analysts asked in the report. "Despite the promise of this device category, the UMPC as currently conceived will fail to achieve mainstream success."

According to Gartner, the device needs to meet several requirements in order to become successful, including an eight-hour battery and sub-$400 price, compelling content bundles, better shell running on top of Vista, better text entry, and "dock-and-go" syncing.

But Berkes remains confident that users will find the UMPC a good fit with their increasingly mobile lifestyles. "It's a very different device than what's available today."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

FAQ: The Origami ultramobile PC

What the heck is that thing? A PDA on steroids? Not exactly. It's more like a shrunken tablet PC. In fact, the device runs Windows XP Tablet PC edition with a few embellishments, so it offers most of the functionality of a bigger PC in a much smaller package.

Just how small is it? About 2 pounds. Not pocket-size, but smaller than most laptops.

Does Microsoft make UMPCs? No. It has spearheaded the development of these downsized devices, partnering with hardware manufacturers to offer another category of mobile PCs for users on the go. And of course, it's another device that feeds off a flavor of Microsoft's Windows operating system.

So, who makes these devices? Samsung is scheduled to be the first out the door in the U.S. with a model called the Q1. It's due out in April. It'll be followed by one from Asus in June. Other UMPCs will be released in the Asian market over the summer.

How much will they cost? They'll sell in the $599-to-$999 range.

How about the specs? They'll vary by manufacturer. At a minimum, expect to see UMPCs with Intel Celeron M or Pentium M processors, 30GB to 60GB hard drives and a 7-in. touch screen. Samsung's new Q1 comes with a 900-MHz Celeron M processor, 512MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive. The touch screen has a resolution of 800 by 480. It also has a CF card slot, two USB and one Ethernet port and built-in stereo speakers. The Q1 weighs just 1.7 pounds and measures 9 by 5.5 by 0.96 in. Other bells and whistles you're likely to see on UMPCs include digital TV tuners, webcams, SD card readers, fingerprint readers and GPS capabilities.

Does it have Bluetooth? Yes, and more. The Samsung Q1 connects via Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Ethernet.

What about a keyboard? There are multiple ways to input text: Use the touch-screen or the included stylus, or connect a keyboard via a USB port or Bluetooth.
So, what did you mean about an embellishment to the Windows XP Tablet PC edition? With Vista, Microsoft's upcoming operating system, a new device running Windows XP would naturally draw yawns. However, Microsoft's softened the blow a little by throwing in new software called the Windows Touch Pack made especially for poking at UMPCs. It allows you to customize the interface and makes applications more touch-screen friendly. The pack also includes DialKeys, an application produced by Fortune Fountain Ltd., that's basically an on-screen, thumb-operated keyboard, a finger-friendly new skin for Windows Media Player and a version of the addictive puzzle game Sodoku.

Never mind all that. Will the UMCP run Vista? Eventually. According to a Microsoft FAQ, "UMPCs that meet the Vista hardware requirements will be compatible with the new operating system."

What about battery life? The companies are predicting 2.5 to 3 hours.

What! Who on earth would buy something with that kind of battery life? Who knows? Maybe early adopters and home users with a power outlet nearby. Microsoft is spinning the usual blather about how battery life will improve with future development. It'll be interesting to see whether the UMPC is around long enough for that to happen.

Is this an enterprise product? Not quite. Unlike its bigger cousin the tablet PC, the UMPC is aiming for a consumer audience with entertainment, multimedia and online connectivity as the focus. However, that's not to say that it can't handle more serious business, since it can run full versions of Office.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Apple Touchscreen Forthcoming?

More speculation is floating around about Apple’s answer to Origami, where CNet goes over the latest patent filings by Apple with the US Patent and Trademark Office for touch-sensitive screens, citing around seven patents filed by Apple so far.

Perhaps the most provocative educated guess by the reporter is his Fox News-like reach about how “some expect” to see two versions of the next video iPod, where the story goes that while one upcoming iPod keeps that 60GB spinning drive, another more-svelte model is all-solid-state with one or two 8GB or even 12GB flash cards on board. Knowing the sweep of history so far, we don’t think that reporter had to reach that far to figure that one out.

If Apple plans to go through with its recent patent applications, the article cites that there will indeed be a tablet from Apple that will answer Origami, and it will integrate with iTunes with music and video, too. Well, duh. We think there’s got to be a touchscreen click wheel in Apple’s future, and it will just be a matter of time before we see it.

Asus' UMPC Unveiled

I often describe Asus as a company that builds absolutely everything. Well, it continues to live up to that billing with the announcement of its own UMPC.

Called the R2H and referenced in our CeBIT Origami coverage, it is based around Microsoft’s prerequisite specifications (a list that is sure to be tirelessly repeated over coming months).

For the record that means a 7in touch screen LCD with 800 x 480 resolution, Windows XP Tablet OS with Touch Pack, 802.11b/g wireless and a couple of USB2.0 ports. Where it goes above and beyond the call of duty is in adding Bluetooth 2.0, a front mounted 1.3MP digital camera and built in GPS with retractable antennae. A tasteful bushed aluminium exterior also adds a little class. Curiously a 900MHz Celeron M ULV processor has been muted as the beating heart of the R2H but this would fall below Microsoft’s minimum of a 1GHz clock. We’re quizzing Asus about this right now so we should have a clarification soon.

Being such a portable (or should be say 'Ultra Mobile') device, the RH2 has a raft of security features to protect any unlucky or just down right forgetful owners. Asus’ own Security Product Management (ASPM) guards access to the device and network with embedded multifactor authentication procedures that are managed with the Single Sign On (SSO) system. While a built in fingerprinter authenticates owners by detecting live tissue under the outer skin which is apparently a more reliable measure than the fingerprint which can be compromised by superficial defects like cuts and dirt. I don’t know a great deal about this technology but it does cause me nightmarish visions of robbers running around with victims’ amputated and ice-packed fingers.

No price or release date has been formalised by Asus, but guidelines tell us it should be sub $1,000 and arrive before Q3. Mind those pinkies…

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Free UMPC Origami hardware?

Well I've got to say, it sure didn't take long for certain websites to start offering free UMPC Origami hardware. I'm assuming that it is along the same line as all of the sites giving away 'free' iPods, DVD players, Tivos and other products in exchange for participating in certain offers.

I will not promote the sites here as I'm sure they will do quite well on their own. A word of caution though, do some simple research into the sites as I've done and you'll see that they were quickly created and keep in mind that personal information is worth a decent premium if they decide to sell yours.

I will keep you advised on the legitimacy of these sites offering free UMPC Origami hardware.

Gartner Nixes the UMPC

Microsoft and its partners made a big splash with last week's new "ultra mobile PC" products, but research firm Gartner Inc. says the units aren't quite ready for the big leagues.

Gartner, however, says users -- particularly enterprise users -- should hold off before rushing out to buy these new "tweener" gadgets that are neither laptop nor PDA.

"The UMPC concept has promise, [but] today's hardware cannot deliver on it," say the researchers.

In fact, enterprise users should "wait for more mature UMPCs -- and low-cost content services -- to emerge before considering them for field sales or other 'notebook replacement' applications."

As it stands, the devices are said to have too short a battery life -- enterprise users should look for at least eight hours -- and cost too much. Gartner suggests that $400 or below is the ideal price point to be anything more than "proof of concept" devices.

In general, enterprise users seem to have been put off the UMPC's forbears, the Tablet PCs, because they couldn't get used to the touch-screen interface, and Gartner suggests that improvements need to be made there, too.

In fact, the firm has a harsh kiss-off for Redmond and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC - message board), the two companies with the most behind the UMPC concept: "The UMPC as currently conceived will fail to achieve mainstream success -- defined as unit sales in the millions rather than the thousands -- by 2009."

Gates Bashes $100 Laptop Project, Boasts "Origami"

It’s one thing to promote you company’s own (arguably good) products, but a whole different story to start mocking what’s intended to ultimately be a humanitarian gesture. However, looks like somebody should explain this to Bill Gates, who mocked the $100 laptop project for developing countries, calling it “something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen".

According to Reuters, Microsoft’s “Mighty” Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, while attending the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington, began ranting about the project backed by the rivals from Google and currently in development at MIT. Exactly after presenting his own UMPC, the famous “Origami Project”, that is.

The $100 laptop project seeks to provide inexpensive computers to people in developing countries. The computers lack many features found on a typical personal computer, such as a hard disk and software.

"The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen," Gates said.

"Hardware is a small part of the cost" of providing computing capabilities, he said, adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support.

"If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type," Gates continued.

Well, perhaps you’re right, Mr. Gates. But in any case, it’s quite a better initiative than your
$599 to $999 ultra-mobile PC, a device that will probably flop (at least its current version) due to the fact that it’s quite an unsuccessful crossing between a PDA and a laptop, so a product that really doesn’t have a market.

But we shouldn’t really be surprised by Gates’ reaction. As we’ve seen during the last few mounts, the grapes are very sour for Microsoft, and whenever the company encounters a product that could threaten one of its own (or in which the company’s not involved), one of its leaders steps forward and begins bashing it. I bet Gates would have praised it should it have ran some OS developed by the company from Redmond. Don’t you think so?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Origami is a paper tiger for now

Here we go again. In its unending capitalistic quest, Microsoft is determined to figure out how to sell people their nth computer. Today, its ideal consumer's computing inventory looks something like this -- a couple of desktops around the home, a notebook for those mobile jaunts, a Media Center PC for controlling the television experience serving up Windows Media files to an Xbox 360 or lesser Media Center Extenders, and at least a Windows Mobile Pocket PC or Smartphone device.

But, wait. That could leave an unacceptable seven minutes and 34 seconds during waking hours when you don't have a Windows license at your wallet-handling fingertips. What about all the times when a 2-pound ultraportable notebook is too much but a PDA isn't enough? If the year-old Origami video preceding the release of the Ultra Mobile PC from Microsoft and Intel is any indication, there aren't too many of them. The anonymous hipsters in the video seem to have nothing better to do in their vapid digital lifestyles than send cameraphone pictures to each other and shop for trendy clothes and accessories – presumably those with pockets large enough to conceal what is either the most ungainly MP3 player or most expensive Etch-a-Sketch ever. How can they even hope to bring their MySpace sites to new levels of incomprehensibility without a keyboard?

Specifically, UMPC also continues Microsoft's inexplicable obsession to foist some kind of tablet-based product into consumers' hands even after the stunted growth of Pocket PC, the slow penetration of the highly touted Tablet PC (Microsoft's most hyped hardware platform ever), and the abysmal disaster of Smart Displays.

Strategically, though, the UMPC is like the portable version of Media Center (but not like Portable Media Center). Microsoft is applying its flagship operating system in an optimized form factor to take the place of many dedicated products that could range from portable video players to GPS systems. But just as Media Center has had challenges inching out less expensive and simpler products in the living room, the UMPC will need to fold itself into some tight places in order to win customer acceptance as a media playback and communications device.

But, of course, the UMPC runs Windows and isn't there value in a small, inexpensive device that runs today's popular applications or is fertile ground for new, optimized ones? Probably, but – just as happened with Smartphones and Tablet PCs – manufacturers will rush to add back the hard keyboards that they removed in order to enhance the products.

Integrated high-speed wide-area wireless connections could tip the scales in favor of these neoNewtons, but such connectivity isn't cheap, and so the question remains, “for whom?" UMPC is at least a year ahead of its time. According to traditional Japanese rules of origami, one is supposed to fold paper, but not cut it. However, price cuts will be necessary if the UMPC is to appeal to, say, desktop users who needs only occasional portability or the desktop replacement notebook users looking to lighten their load. Subtract from that customer base those more interested in dedicated devices such as iPods. PSPs and GPS devices, or a $150 portable DVD player to distract the rear-seat rugrats.

Previous ultraportables have started north of $1,500. Microsoft's hardware partners will need to get ultramobile PCs going for a third of that price point to exceed the slow PDA and ultraportable categories that these jacks-of-all-trades lie between.

Origami Could Get Crushed

A prominent U.S. research firm predicted Wednesday that ultra-mobile personal computers like Microsoft’s much-hyped portable devices unveiled last week appear doomed to fail because consumers won’t pay high prices for gadgets that lack “killer content.”

Microsoft’s ultra-mobile personal computer, or UMPC (originally known as Origami), introduced last Thursday, doesn’t stand a chance in its current form, according to a report by Gartner. The Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm gave several reasons for its gloomy outlook. For starters, the idea is years ahead of the technology.

What’s more, the $799 to $999 sticker price is too high, the firm added. Plus, there aren’t enough features or applications to make consumers really want a PDA-notebook hybrid, Gartner said.

“We question why this was pushed so quickly to market,” said Leslie Fiering, a research vice president at Gartner. “The concept is ahead of the silicon. That’s the bottom line.”

Ms. Fiering said the lack of “killer content” such as TiVo to Go or streaming video would deter consumers from buying the UMPC. She also noted that the device’s two and a half hours of battery life don’t allow users much time to fully use the device.

In a statement forwarded by Josh Kerwin, a spokesperson for Microsoft, the company said “We’re very excited with the first round of Ultra-Mobile PCs from our partners and about the future growth potential of the UMPC category. Battery life and pricing, as well as other features, are key areas that we expect will improve significantly over time as hardware technology specifically targeting UMPC is developed.”

Concerns about UMPC could discourage other players set to storm the market with similar devices in the second quarter of this year, the firm said. These ultra-portable devices are seen competing with devices like Wi-Fi-enabled smart phones. The market for these phones was $105 million in 2005 and could grow to $1.9 billion by 2009, Infonetics Research said.

Samsung, Founder, and Asus are expected to introduce devices based on the same Intel processor used in Microsoft’s UMPC. Meanwhile, TabletKiosk and PaceBlade Japan will have their own gadgets based on another processor by VIA.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

ECS latest to show off Origami UMPC

No longer are we being teased like gormless idiots with Origami marketing hype – the real-world tablets are arriving, and this one from ECS is the third we’ve seen.

Following the grand entrances of the GPS-loaded Asus R2H and Samsung Q1, the H70 brings a new trick to the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) party – a 1.3MP camera.

Its weight of 830g means it’s something of a house-brick in digicam terms, but there’s plenty of other functionality to make it worthwhile building up your forearms.

Like all self-respecting UMPCs, it has a 7in WVGA (800x480 pixels) screen and the wireless combo of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You also get the choice of a pacy 1Ghz Intel Pentium processor or value 900Mhz Intel Celeron brain, and a 3-in-1 card reader should mean it’s a multimedia gannet.

Interestingly, the H70 gives us the first inkling of a UMPC’s expected battery life – it’ll go for 2 hours out of its docking station, which is a bit rubbish considering some ultraportable laptops last twice that long. It also means those marketing visions of beaming mobile workers breezing around Wi-Fi cafes all day without charging their mini-tablets might be a tad optimistic.

Still, we’re prepared to give the reborn tablet concept a fair hearing once we’ve actually held one outside of a trade show.

The H70 should be available between April and June this year, although the price is yet to be set – keep an eye on ECS’ UK site for more details.

Origami: the next iPod ... or yet another turkey?

The engineers have a dream. They want to cram the sum total of human knowledge into a single squealing box and create a universal machine … and every year it takes a step closer to becoming reality.

Last week, the quest to create an all-singing, all-dancing device took a purported great leap forward. Microsoft launched its Ultimate Mobile PC (UMPC), a lightweight, book-sized portable computer billed as the gadget that 21st-century mankind will use to communicate, entertain and work, wherever or whenever they want to.

For months there was little more than a codename, Project Origami, until the new machine was unveiled on Thursday in a whirlwind of consumer hype at the CeBIT technology trade fair at Hanover in Germany. The machine’s debut brings to a close four years of research, design and top-secret commercial collaboration.

The starting point, as it happens, is already fairly far along the curve. Although Microsoft expects many manufacturers to jump in with their own models, first to market will be the Samsung Q1, which weighs less than 2lbs and comes with a seven-inch touch-sensitive colour screen that can be operated using either your thumbs or a traditional stylus. Expected in the shops later this year, it will come with a full version of Windows XP installed, a 30-60GB hard drive and virtually all the functionality and power you’d expect from a desktop PC.

The devices, which will have a two-and-a-half-hour battery life, do not have a built-in keyboard – although one could be linked using either Bluetooth or a USB port – and are expected to hit the shelves at around the £600-£700 mark.

Pitched squarely at the consumer market, we now know that they are to be sold as the handbag gizmo that will enable you to listen to music, read the news, watch videos and exchange e-mails from the number 42 bus and that they are sleek, futuristic and undoubtedly easy on the eye. The only question remaining, really, is whether this bird is going to fly.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, the reality is that Microsoft had no choice but to stick its brand into the crowded sphere of high-tech entertainment, and what becomes of the project will depend entirely upon consumer reaction.

The amazing growth of the iPod has been based as much on marketing as technical strength, and the Seattle propaganda machine will have to replicate this success if it is to survive – there is no alternative bar the UMPC’s rapid demise.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Will you buy one?

Lots of pretty videos and photos have been posted along with news and a quick hands on with a few of the Microsoft Origami UMPC's. Now I ask you....

Will you buy one?
More simply, would you consider buying one?

Let me know in the comments what you would/will do.

Have a great night.

First Look at V-700 UMPC

We were fortunate enough to get our hands on a pre production unit of TabletKiosks new V-700 Ultra Mobile Tablet PC. As we share our thoughts and experiences in this first look please keep in mind that this is a "First Look" of a pre production unit, its not a full review. But rest assured that we will be posting a full review of a production unit as soon as they become available.

First Impressions :

The V-700 is fun to use, so much so it's addictive!
Easy to grab and go.
Small Size and light weight are an advantage that allows you to take it anywhere without being weighed down.
Because of the size and weight the V-700 is amazingly useful and convenient to have and use.
Bottom line is that we loved it.

We were also amazed by the versatility of the V-700. Having the full Windows Tablet PC operating system combined with pen, touch and handheld controls in a single piece of equipment makes V-700 a very versatile piece of equipment. We found ourselves using it in places we don't normally take a Tablet PC with us. We found it hard to put down, and very hard to part with when we had to return it!

Origami was the code name for the project to develop a computing device that was small in size and packed with features. The end result of the Origami Project is the Ultra Mobile PC.

That said the Origami name goes away and the official name is the Ultra-Mobile PC is here to stay. The TabletKiosk V-700 is an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC).

Tablet Kiosks V-700 Ultra-Mobile PC runs the full Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, touch enabled screen, full pen and ink capabilities and allow users the ability to, access the internet, communicate with others, listen to music,view movies, take handwritten notes and play games.

Encased in sleek, shiny high gloss black the TabletKiosk V-700 UMPC measures 8.75” x 5.75” x 7/8 in size, has a 1 GHZ VIA Processor and a crisp clear 7 inch TFT display. (Full Specs below) Initially the units will come in black and white, but we expect the V-700 to be available in multiple colors down the line.

Having the full Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS allows users to have fun and be productive at the same time The V-700 is particularly well suited to those who are on the go all day long and want to cary one device that can, go from the office to the board room, out to lunch, on a plane, outside in the yard and inside on a desk. Users will find It's will be a nice chance of pace to be able to be able to travel with one small lightweight device that can do everything we need it to do.

We used the V-700 with the included stylus, for writing and taking notes, even though it was small in size, we found it comfortable to hold even with long finger nails. We used our fingernails for opening programs, inputting text from the "Tablet Tip" and surfing the web.

We used the right and left mouse buttons and jog wheel found on the left side of the unit and the more familiar red joy stick button on the left side. Having multiple options for input methods is a feature that will be appreciated by both left and right handed users. Our input method changed with our mood and with what we were doing, but the majority of the time we used the stylus or a fingernail.

Our initial concern with not being able to see a 7 inch screen wasn't a problem. One button access for changing the screen between 800x480, 800x600 and 1024x600 allowed us to quickly and easily chose the best resolution for our eyes.

As one of the questions people want to know is if they can in fact play games with UMPCS - while we did not install any games of our own, we did connect a USB keyboard and checked out the graphics with the installed 3D pinball game- the graphics were great, and the speaker produced decent sound as well.


All in all, this product has lots of promise. The price and battery life issues need to be addressed before I would buy one of these however. Wait for version 2 at least before going out and buying one.

Origami Seen As No Threat To Apple’s iPod

Technology analysts say Microsoft’s new mini laptop, Origami, which has debuted at the Cebit International Technology Fair in Hanover, Germany, is seen as no threat to Apple’s popular iPod line.

Origami has a 7-inch touch screen and standard 86x processors, and can run full versions of desktop operating systems, including the Windows XP.

Insiders believe the device’s short battery life and bulky presence might not make an impact in the already Apple-favored industry.

"This is definitely our first step in looking at the area of ultramobile PCs," says Mika Krammer, a Windows marketing director for Microsoft's mobile platforms.

"To really hit the mass the hundreds of thousands and the millions of customers, we have to improve," Krammer adds. The devices that begin shipping in April are likely to be more of a niche product.

According to the Financial Times Web site, some blogs forecast Origami might become a success over a couple of years’ time once the price comes down from the estimated $1,000-2,000 and once its battery capacity increases allowing its use as a lifestyle device through all day.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hands on with Origami UMPC

This is a demonstration of the Intel UMPC which is also the Microsoft Origami project. Which is basically a small Tablet PC running a full Windows XP on a low power Intel CPU, with a few interface additions by Microsoft for navigating and typing text by touching the screen with the thumbs. The UMPC have usb2, some have VGA-output to connect an external screen, bluetooth and Wifi.

Microsoft Origami is it worth all that buzz?

Here we reveal truth about Microsoft Origami also known as "Ultra Mobile PC" - we go beyond the buzz and tell you how it is! First of all please note that now there are 3 models of Microsoft Origami (i.e. UMPC = Ultra Mobile PC) devices and we have been playing with all of them! The "Founder" is a model for Asia only made by relatively unknown company there. It has nice construction however a little bit cheap look and feel.

The UMPC from Asus has solid feeling it to it, but is not stylish and most importantly has tendency to overheat very quickly. In other words: sometimes it is so hot that you can't hold it in your hands! Of course the model from Asus has built-in camera and it may be advantage for video calling with use of such applications like Skype.

The only UMPC now that is both stylish, has solid construction and is not overheating after several hours of operation is Q1 from Samsung that has to the right side quite a nice joystick.

Plase note: Samsung Q1 has no PCMCIA card slot - only Compact Flash card slot - and we have heard promises from Samsung that UMTS/HSDPA cards in Compact Flash format will be available for Q1. In other words: sooner or later there will be a card that will turn Origami into mobile phone! ... anyway it already has a microphone especially designed for VoIP...

Conclusion: unfortunately Microsoft has missed an opportunity to introduce some major innovation like multi-touch user interface and just released tiny set of applications to facilitate usage with fingers (rather than with stylus). Microsoft Origami also known as Ultra Mobile PC, is not a revolutionary design, but it is just an evolutionary tiny development that lacks any major breakthroughs in it. At the end everything will boil down to the ratio of price to battery life. The most expensive Origami (the one from Samsung) will cost 1100 USD in USA or 1000 Euro in Europe and it will have 3.5 hours of battery life. These days for the similar price one can get very fast notebooks, also with Centrino Duo processors, so the improved mobility (smaller size) may not be worth the money for many people. On the other hand this UMPC/Origami runs full blown Windows XP so many PC applications will be working right away without the need to adapt them (although Microsoft will probably want developers to make their applications "finger friendly", i.e. looking like the "Program Launcher" above or with big virtual buttons around the screen) - so this mobile computer may find many funs, particularly among people who just need "web pad" but with full Windows XP compatibility and not some crippled operating system like Linux or Windows CE. No, UMPC alias Origami is not worth all that buzz and clearly is over-hyped, but such development was destined to happen: Windows XP (or Windows Vista) becoming adapted to ultra mobile device format. Unfortunately Microsoft has confirmed, that it lacks innovation by not introducing multi-touch user interface with this "new" platform - at least top boss of Origami at Microsoft has promised us that "multi-touch is coming to Origami within Windows Vista time frame"

Photos of Interface

The Touch Pack is a preinstalled suite of software that is built on top of the Windows XP operating system, specifically designed for UMPCs by Microsoft.

The Touch Pack's Program Launcher organizes software programs into categories and it uses large buttons and icons to make it easy to find and launch your favorite applications. The Program Launcher's categories, backgrounds, and shortcuts are all customizable.

Here are the Interface photos

Connect Screen

Communicate Screen

View Screen

Listen Screen

Play Screen

More Programs

Tools Screen

Will Microsoft's 'Origami' ultramobile PCs run Apple's iTunes?

"Microsoft is promoting an all-new PC design, but will anyone really care? Formerly code-named Origami, the new design is for an ultramobile computer, or UMPC. The idea is to have a device with much of the same power and features of a notebook or tablet computer in about half the size," Troy Wolverton and Bill Snyder report for "The UMPC concept faces a number of obstacles to mass adoption -- and to having a meaningful impact on Microsoft's results -- analysts say. Price, market perception, the lack of major vendor support at launch and the actual physical design of the device all could work against the concept, analysts say."

Wolverton and Snyder report, "As sketched out by Microsoft, the typical UMPC device would have a seven-inch touch-sensitive screen, weigh less than two pounds, include a 30GB to 60GB hard drive and a built-in wireless networking antenna, and run on an Intel or Via mobile processor. Unlike PDAs running Microsoft software, the computer would run a full version of Microsoft Windows.

"When Microsoft CEO Bill Gates first started talking about a new class of portable PCs last year, his idea was to have devices on the market for $500 or less. But the first generation of Origami computers, which will go on the market beginning next month, are set to sell at significantly higher price points, from about $600 to $1,000," Wolverton and Snyder report. "[So far] multipurpose devices have done nothing to stop the outsized popularity of Apple's iPod, which is known first and foremost as a great music player."

"Another possible impediment to adoption of the UMPC is the lack of vendor support. So far, only five vendors have publicly committed to releasing devices based on the new design, of which the only household name is Samsung. Notably absent from the list are any of the major PC vendors, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Sony. H-P's absence is particularly noteworthy, given that it was one of the first vendors of both Tablet PCs and PocketPCs... And some analysts say it could be a big hit -- if it's done right. Unfortunately, outside of Apple, the PC industry has a history of having good ideas undermined by their complexity, says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the tech industry consulting firm Enderle Group. 'This platform could be next big thing, depending on how good a job it does,' he says. 'If it were coming from Apple, that would be a lot more certain.'"

We haven't seen an article about "Origami" that addresses this question: If Oragami UMPC's run a full version of Microsoft Windows (Samsung's device runs Windows XP Tablet PC Edition), then wouldn't they be able to run Apple's iTunes for Windows? This was first brought to our attention by feedback from MacDailyNews reader "Frobots" in response to our "Origami" article on Tuesday. If Origami devices are indeed capable of running iTunes, then they would be iTunes Store-compatible, capable of playing FairPlay DRM-protected audio and video files. Microsoft will have run an end-around play that bypasses the need to license Apple's FairPlay DRM, the same DRM that Apple has so far declined to license to any company other than Motorola. Interestingly, it'd be Apple that would be providing the free application, iTunes, that would allow Microsoft's partners making Origami devices to break open Apple's iPod+iTunes symbiotic ecosystem. What if they get the Origami device prices down to or near iPod levels? What will Apple's response be to devices that can do such things along with email, web surfing, business applications, games and more?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sling Media coming to a UMPC near you

Sling Media, the service that allows you to watch your home television in the world has announced that it will be offering a customised version of its SlingPlayer for the newly launched Ultra-Mobile PC.

The news will be welcomed by manufacturers like Samsung hoping to spur interest and sales in the new devices.

The customized SlingPlayer application leverages the touch screen and resolution of the Ultra-Mobile PC OS giving customers full control over their home television source, including the most popular cable boxes, satellite receivers, DVD players and digital video recorders (DVRs).

The Slingbox redirects, or "placeshifts," a single live TV stream from a basic cable connection, cable box, satellite receiver or digital video recorder (DVR) to the viewer's PC - located anywhere in the home or anywhere in the world, via the Internet.

Earlier this year the company announced that it would be launching a version suitable for use in the UK.

Q & A: Microsoft's Project Origami Models

Amid the biggest hype since it launched the Xbox 360 in November, Microsoft today is unveiling its "Origami Project," a new category of handheld computer that could become the next must-have digital device.

But there's a risk people will be turned off by the first versions, which are bigger and more expensive than expected and run only for about three hours on a single battery charge. Samsung is set to sell the first models in the U.S. next month for $599 to $1,000, depending on features included.

Origami Project was the code-name for a new category of PC that Microsoft and Intel have been developing for more than a year. They hope the devices will become small and cheap enough that most PC users will buy one to supplement their home and office machines, staying constantly connected via wireless networks.

The Samsung has a 7-inch diameter screen, runs Windows XP Tablet Edition and weighs under 2 pounds. Some models will have global positioning systems and wide-area networking features. Storage capacity will range from 30 to 60 gigabytes.

Samsung's model comes with a program that can display TV broadcasts transmitted wirelessly if users have a Slingbox, a separate device that costs around $200, attached to their home set.

Chinese PC maker Founder is preparing to sell a version there, and Asus Computer is expected to sell another version soon in the U.S. and Europe.

Among the device's software advances are touch-screen capabilities and a digital version of the Sudoku numbers puzzle.

Future versions will be based on Windows Vista, the new Microsoft operating system coming later this year, and a new chip set with all-day battery life that Intel is to deliver in 2007 and 2008.

Some of the devices with XP will be able to upgrade to Vista.

If the devices cost $1,000, people may buy a laptop instead, so Microsoft, Intel and PC makers have to keep prices around $500, said Bob O'Donnell, vice president of client research at IDC.

"If in one device I can get the equivalent of a GPS and a Web terminal and e-mail machine and media playback device, it starts to become a little more interesting," he said.

Origami, Or Microsoft Bob 2006

The most interesting thing about Origami is how Microsoft manipulated bloggers and journalists into hyping it. Far from the Transformer gadget hinted at (Eight toys in one! Changes from iPod to camcorder to computer and back!), the device is just a small Tablet PC. And Microsoft's only actual new product is a software suite intended to further dumb down Windows XP's user interface.

Unveiled today at CeBIT, the week-long festival of consumer tech and all-day drinking that has more booths than most shows have attendees, Origami is a category of devices officially called the "Ultra-Mobile PC". Like other Tablets, these are full PCs that have hard drives and run Windows XP, so they can run the same applications as any desktop or laptop. The only difference is that they're a bit smaller, with those at CeBIT measuring only 7 inches across.

Intel let attendees at its Developer Forum try out prototypes of even smaller UMPCs earlier this week. They drew a large crowd, but most of us (myself included) didn't realize that the gadgets we were playing with had anything to do with Origami. The closest they came to transforming or folding was a slide-out keypad on some models, so small it felt more like typing on a BlackBerry than a real keyboard.

That's hardly revolutionary. Most people don't find keyboardless PCs practical, so companies like Toshiba and Lenovo have been selling convertible laptops almost since Microsoft first started promoting the Tablet PC (back in 2001). PC makers have always been able to make them smaller, but few have, thanks to problems with usability and battery life. (Some reports say the devices at CeBIT can only go 15 minutes between charges.)

So what's Microsoft actually launching? In a post on the official Origami blog this morning, the project's "#1 cat herder" admits: "In truth, this category has existed for some time." Microsoft's only original contribution is a piece of software called the Microsoft Touch Pack, intended to simplify Windows for people operating the touch screen with their fingers and thumbs, rather than a stylus.

This is obviously aimed at kids (adults' fingers are too big for some of the Intel prototypes), though they'll need to have rich parents. The first devices cost €1,000, which is only within Microsoft's stated $500-$1,000 price range if we use dot-com-era exchange rates.

In Microsoft's defense, some of the UMPCs do have features relatively new to the PC world, such as built-in cameras and GPS receivers. But cell phones have had those for years, and they don't cost upwards of a thousand dollars, run out of power after less than an hour, or take minutes to switch on.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Microsoft's Origami Said To Be No Threat To The Apple IPod

As Microsoft's new handheld unfolds, key analysts say it's too pricey and unfocused. I must agree with the analysts because with price tags reaching $999 they are far more than most would spend for a digital assistant. Maybe next time they can get the price down into the under $450 range.

Instead of launching its own device, Microsoft created the specs for Origami, a new ultra-mobile PC, or UMPC, and lined up hardware makers to manufacture the devices. UMPCs will run a modified version of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, with a form factor that bridges the gap between a personal digital assistant and a notebook computer. The devices are expected to sell at prices between $599 and $999.

CeBIT: An Origami With a Via Processor

PaceBlade Japan (PBJ) has launched an Origami device outfitted with the latest mobile processor from Via, the C7-M ULV, which runs at speeds from 1 GHz to 1.5 GHz. Via showed off the device, called the SmartCaddie, at a news conference here Friday.

SmartCaddie From PBJ of Japan
Via's new processor allows companies to make smaller devices while maintaining the benefits of a full-sized Windows-based PC, said Otto Berkes, general manager of the mobile platforms division at Microsoft, in Via's news release.

The SmartCaddie boasts all the same capabilities as previously announced Origami gadgets, including controls on the right and left side of the screen, wireless-LAN and Bluetooth capabilities, and touch-screen operations thanks to its OS, Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet Edition. PBJ's new device is the first of its kind to use the new Via C7-M ULV processor, but Via expects to see more design wins.

"The [C7-M] is for a range of mobile devices, ultramobile PCs, notebooks, and more," said Epan Wu, deputy director of CPU product marketing at Via.

Intel announced the first three ultramobile PCs using its processors on Thursday, jointly with Microsoft. The companies said they had worked in tandem to develop the ultramobile PC form factor starting over a year ago as a project code-named Origami. The companies said Microsoft fine-tuned its Windows XP Tablet edition for the new style of device, but the processors used in the devices were not specifically designed for the ultramobile PC.

The ultramobile PC made by Samsung Electronics, the Q1, carries a 900-MHz Intel Celeron M microprocessor.

The Via C7-M ULV processor is designed to use as little power as possible in order to reduce heat and lengthen battery life, with idle power as low as 0.1 watt. The chip is being manufactured for Via by IBM.

Ultra-mobile Origami looks a winner

The first ultra-mobile tablet PC to use Microsoft’s new Origami technology was unveiled by Samsung at Cebit this morning.

The Q1 UMPC (see picture) looks like it will be a winner, even without Origami. It will sell for less than 1,000 euros and weighs just 779gm with a 7in touch screen. It also has a 40GB hard drive, 512MB of Ram and Bluetooth 2.

According to the specs it supports only 11b Wifi, not the faster 11g, and it uses a low-drain low-voltage Celeron processor.

Like many of Samsung’s products it supports Digital Media Broadcasting, the multimedia version of the DAB signal used for digital radio in the UK.

A picture in the Cebit newsletter shows Origami on the machine, with a virtual keyboard split into arcs on the lower right and left of the screen.

Meanwhile, at the Intel Developer Forum, which is also taking place this week in San Francisco, Intel executives showed off ultra mobile PCs in their keynotes.

Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of the mobility group at Intel, said: 'There's a huge effort to shrink the PC architecture.'

He showed several designs, and said they would be available from a number of companies over the coming months.

'They Blew It'

After weeks of hype, cryptic advertisements and relentless speculation, Microsoft has pulled back the curtain to reveal its "Origami" project. And the payoff after all this buzz — a handheld computer.

Though Microsoft spent a significant amount of effort promoting Origami, many in the gadget community are scratching their heads.

"Both in terms of form factor and functionality, it's somewhere between a laptop computer and a sort of portable media player — or high-end PDA," said Ross Rubin, an analyst with NPD group. "I think that we may see some software developed for it that will establish it as a more unique option, but as of today, it's just a smaller, keyboard-less, notebook."

I'm unimpressed thus far, but I suppose it can only get better," said John Biggs in an interview conducted via instant messenger. "The hype was definitely over the top and the results are sort of frustrating.

Biggs is the editor of, a popular gadget blog and was onhand at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany as the UMPC made its debut.

According to Biggs, this was Microsoft's chance to "pull an Apple" and take advantage of the attention the shadowy project was getting both in the media and among technophiles.

"They blew it," he said. "Apple comes out with finished products that are compelling and exciting — pulling an Apple is a good thing. In this case, [it] is an idea wrapped in a prototype."

No one from Microsoft was immediately available for comment.