Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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.


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