MS talks up new smaller PCs
Microsoft’s ‘Origami’ machine edged one step closer to the mass market this week as the firm and its hardware partners unveiled more details of Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs - previously code-named Origami) at the CeBit IT exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany.
Microsoft’s ‘Origami’ machine edged one step closer to the mass market this week as the firm and its hardware partners unveiled more details of Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs - previously code-named Origami) at the CeBit IT exhibition in Hanover, Germany.
UMPCs represent a new category of mobile computing devices. Based around small, lightweight, so-called “carry-everywhere” hardware designs, and coupled with the functionality of Windows-based PCs, the first of these products should be launched in Q2 this year, by Samsung (in April) and Asus (around June).
According to Microsoft’s team at CeBit, these devices will include choice of input options, including enhanced touch-screen capabilities for which Microsoft has developed a dedicated new interface program. Its ‘Touch Pack’ is a preinstalled software suite that is built on top of the Windows XP OS (Tablet PC edition) and has been specifically designed for UMPCs. With this, users can quick launch apps depending on what they want to accomplish. For instance, Play opens Windows games, including Microsoft’s brand new Sudoku title, while Communicate opens up the firm’s outlook Express e-mail app, MSN Hotmail, Windows Messenger and so on.
While the first generation of UMPCs will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, future models are planned to run on Windows Vista.
Described by Microsoft as “a great choice for all those situations when you’re on the go, but need to keep informed, entertained and connected via the full functionality of a Windows PC”, UMPC devices should generally each weigh less than two pounds (900 grams) and feature 7-inch (17.8cm) screens offering a choice of text input methods. Additional specs look set to include: a battery life of two and a half hours or more, 30-60Gbyte hard drives, Intel’s Celeron M, Pentium M or VIA C7-M processors.
Depending upon each individual manufacturer’s preferences, devices might also include built-in GPS, webcams, fingerprint readers, digital TV tuners, and compact flash and SD card readers. On the connection front, UMPCs can be connected through WiFi, Bluetooth and over Ethernet networks, while some UMPCs will also be able to connect via wide-area networking.
Microsoft expects prices of UMPCs to be between US $599 and $999.
The debut of UMPCs at CeBIT follows Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates’ call last year for the computer industry to develop a new category of PCs that are less expensive, lighter and more functional than standard desktop and notebook systems.
That said, according to some online reports, the first generation of UMPCs are larger, more power-hungry and likely to cost more than the firm at first envisaged.
Quoted on news.com, the company’s marketing director for Microsoft's mobile platforms, Mika Krammer, explained: "This is definitely our first step in looking at the area of ultra-mobile PCs,” adding, “to really hit the mass market...in the hundreds of thousands and the millions of customers, we have to improve."