This week, Microsoft, with help from lots of partners including Intel, Samsung, Asus, Founder, TabletKiosk, Paceblade Japan, and undoubtedly many more partners to emerge, formally introduced a new class of computing device, the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC). Microsoft had pulled all the hype stops for weeks leading up to the official announcement using the project’s code name, Origami, so the blogosphere had been abuzz with all kinds of theories about what Origami is and isn’t.
Origami is Microsoft’s contribution to the UMPC product category. In short, this is all about bringing more of the power of mobility to the PC. The UMPC is a fully functional PC (using the Tablet version of the Windows XP operating system) combined with wireless networking (initially the focus is on WiFi) in an easy to take with you form factor (about the size of a paperback book). We’ve seen products like this before, with limited adoption. This time, there are some minor, but perhaps important, usability improvements layered on top of the OS by Microsoft. Also, official support by Intel is likely to help (although competitor chipmakers might actually have better solutions…). Perhaps most important may be the huge marketing push by major companies including those named above.
I love what I see. This is a big step forward for making a “real” computer mobile. But is it enough? Just as folks don’t take their digital cameras everywhere they go, as a consumer-oriented device, how likely are folks to take this ultra-mobile PC with them everywhere they go?
Furthermore, how much better is this than a Windows Mobile device? My Sprint PPC-6700 has e-mail, a web browser, Microsoft Word, Excel, (Powerpoint for viewing only), and has lots of great games available. What more does a consumer want from an ultramobile PC? And oh yeah, with Sprint’s PowerVision mobile broadband service, I have DSL-like connection speeds everywhere I go in an increasing national footprint, no need to worry about hotspots, SSIDs, etc. Granted, the browser on my phone isn’t yet as fully functional as what’s on my PC, and my Outlook e-mail client doesn’t display formatted messages like the version on my laptop, but I’m guessing that’s just a matter of time. If Microsoft doesn’t want to solve those problems (for fear of torpedoing the UMPC concept), then someone else will.
And oh yeah, I take my PPC 6700 with me everywhere I go. And it’s priced probably about the same as UMPCs will be priced, even before the rebate you can get as a long-term loyal Sprint customer, or by signing up for a new plan.
I love this announcement most of all, because it acknowledges the power of mobility.