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.


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