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Intel Microsoft Portables Hardware

Death of the UMPC? 127

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the go-not-gently dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Remember the UMPC, that little tablet that Microsoft once called Origami? Well it looks like that Intel has scrapped the idea of promoting the UMPC, in favor of a much smaller (and less capable) Mobile Internet Device (MID). The UMPC is now heading for a market niche, where it may be replacing the tablet PC as a mobile computer for field technicians. The MID takes on the role of the original UMPC concept, but it won't run Vista."
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Death of the UMPC?

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  • Large PDA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fishthegeek (943099) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:58PM (#18982899) Journal
    There is a point in any products design possibilities that when reached makes the product very undesirable. Something that is bigger than a pda but too big to put into a pocket, smaller than a tablet but too small to have a practical screen, something as powerful as a laptop but without the convenience of a full size keyboard. I am one of those relics still addicted to the Palm products, I have a TX and for all intents and purposes it can do everything that I need to do when I need a quick mobile fix, otherwise I fire up the laptop for real work.
  • by jerryasher (151512) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:18PM (#18983021)
    I want a cellphone running Linux with a docking port. I want to dock it to a better keyboard and a typical desktop display and network, and I want to be able to login to it remotely via ssh and display apps remotely via X, and to get to its storage as a network drive or usb drive.

    Seems pretty trivial, when that's available, let me know.
  • by Anonymous Monkey (795756) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:34PM (#18983135)
    I remember when I first heard about this thing. It sounded cool, but not cool enough to spend over $1,000 on. That is the death of lots of gadgets. They are cool for $500, wonderful for $250, and you can't live with out them when they are only $100, but at >$1k it is just kind of neat.
  • by Eloquence (144160) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @11:02PM (#18983315) Homepage

    The Nokia N800 [nseries.com] is a pretty nifty device, a WLAN-enabled "Internet tablet" with a nice high resolution screen, running the open source Maemo [maemo.org] platform based on the Linux kernel. Maemo has a very healthy open source developer community, and tons of the best applications have been ported to it. What is missing, however, is a GSM chipset, or indeed any non-WLAN networking capability. Nokia apparently does not want its "Internet tablets" to compete with its smartphones. I am waiting, then, for an "N1000" that combines these capabilities. Perhaps OpenMoko [openmoko.com] will be successful, but it doesn't have the WLAN chipset.

    Any device that combines these three factors - open source and full hackability, phone, and regular networking - will be a killer app. Hackability does not mean that it has to be difficult to use: with a Debian-like system for software management, users can experiment with new apps easily. Of course, many of the current economic models around cell phones (ring tone downloads, background images, specialized content portals) are not really sustainable, and so the market may be biased against that innovation. But a smart company will recognize that by maintaining strategic leadership within an open source ecosystem, they will create many more business opportunities for themselves than in a proprietary, locked down market. It's too bad that Apple doesn't appear to be that smart company. I hope that Nokia is.

  • My vision of a MID (Score:5, Interesting)

    by escay (923320) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @11:03PM (#18983319) Journal

    Current mini-Tablets, UMPCs, OQOs - any ultra-mobile (read small) PC solution for that matter, have an inherent disadvantage - they try to do too much in too little. miniaturization with full functionality is good but only up to a point - there comes a stage where the purpose of a device has to change, and then change the way people use it (and not necessarily the other way around always). We assume that a PC by it's very name defines the purpose of the device - that it has to store, process and communicate information. The OSs these days run high overheads and demand lot of hardware to support, which might be worthwhile if the system can be fully utilized - but when the goal is portability, the heavy framework becomes more of a burden than a feature. This is where a paradigm shift is needed - and it can be achieved, with the sweeping assumption that Internet is ubiquitous (an assumption that doesn't seem to be so wild these days).

    A Mobile Internet Device would be a lean lightweight device that runs a small but not heavy-duty processor, and minimal hardware to support primary functions such as display, input, audio etc. It will not have an OS. Instead, what it will have is a Web Browser , and a basic BIOS type menu for system maintenance. The browser can be (preferably) written hardware specific, so it serves the dual purpose of a very basic OS as well as the browser itself. Of course the browser has to bem ore powerful than our regular ones with all appropriate plugins (Flash, JAVA, pdf etc) installed, but it still is no OS. It may look like this restricts the users to primarily browsing, but browsing is hardly passive these days - you can read, write, speak, draw, design - pretty much do any normal function with today's increasingly effective web apps. For instance - Google Docs & Spreadsheets replace MS/Open Office; there are similar web equivalents for other desktop functions and more are coming. In fact, there are webtops like Goowy and eyeOS which pretty much obviate the need of any local OS for common computing functions. No hard disk is needed because there is no large local storage - solid state memory will suffice. Onboard graphics card is enough, because all the display shows is Web content. The convergence of these hardware and software ideas lead to the perfect MID - not as small as a phone perhaps but small enough to be ultra-mobile, yet capable of replacing your regular desktop and serving as a PC solution for many ordinary users. The only (and reasonably significant) catch is that it needs a constant connection to the Internet to function.

    Again, once the device starts to have extra applications other than the browser, it ceases to be a viable solution. The industry fears its product will fail if it doesn't provide the world to the customer, and the customer is often grabbing at more than what he/she will ever use. Only if we accept the design rule that this is this device's specific purpose, and we learn to use it that way (and there is no severe handicap in that for regular users who just like to browse or read mails or play a little solitare - all of which you can do online), will portable PCs really find a mass market.

  • This reminds me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shemmie (909181) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @11:53PM (#18983637)
    ... when looking around the Microsoft Vista site for information about a future UMPC purchase, I stumbled across the Origami Experience Pack [microsoft.com] ( WGA validation required before downloading )

    It's available for download now, and contains three programs aimed at UMPC use on Vista. It comes with a Sudoku game (?), a "designed for UMPC" shell for movies, music, pictures and programs, and apparently some improved touch-screen functionality. Would be interested to hear feedback from those with UMPC's using this on Vista.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2007 @12:26AM (#18983775)
    I have an N800 now, and it totally rocks for my use. Basically a (non-x86) PC I can carry in my shirt pocket, and Linux software is being ported at a ferocious rate. Unlike cell phones, it's got a screen that's actually useful for web browsing, and also unlike cell phones, I don't have to pay for data access (above my normal ISP fee) and I'm not nickel and dimed to death on every little possible "service". And it's an open, hackable platform. Great stuff!

    However, I suspect these open linux-based UMPC devices will never be more than a tiny niche market. Even though you can't really tell it's Linux unless you go out of your way to peek under the GUI, it's just never going to have the mass appeal or advertising dollars behind it that a Windows device will have.

    I like mine a lot, but I just can't see them really taking off...
  • It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cgenman (325138) on Friday May 04, 2007 @12:40AM (#18983857) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I own an ultralight notebook, the smallest MP3 player I could find, a tiny car, and a Wii. I should be the target market for these things.

    However, they really didn't bother to actually test market these things before putting them out there. For one, the lack of a keyboard really limits usability. Heck, keyboards are becoming standard on phones these days. To not have a keyboard on a laptop replacement is silly.

    Two, they don't fit anywhere. They're way too big for a pocket, so you have to put them in a bag or backpack. At that point, you might as well just use a 3 lb Sony Vaio Tx [sonystyle.com], or a 4 lb Lenovo v [lenovo.com], or a 4.5 lb Dell Xps [dell.com] or one of many other ultralight portables out there. And really, that's the key: laptops are losing weight as fast as the balance between performance and price will allow.

    But worst of all, they never really had a use. They all take time to boot, so there isn't much use as a dayrunner. They have no keyboard, so word processing is out. And forget photoshop. What, exactly, are you supposed to do with one? Play halo? Web development?

    Ultimately, all of the tasks that were supposed to be delegated to the UMPC were actually far better served by high-end phones. Need e-mail, texting, intranet access to a client database, and synching to a desktop? Just get a treo. They're about 1,000 dollars cheaper, and they fit in your pocket.

    While I was intrigued by the concept, I won't be shedding a tear for the UMPC. They were far ahead of their time. Which is to say, someone was pushing them early in the hopes of making a quick buck.

  • by Rayonic (462789) on Friday May 04, 2007 @01:05AM (#18984033) Homepage Journal
    I never understood why they just didn't build on their PocketPC platform. A large, thin PPC would be an ideal e-book reader, and would have good battery life too.
  • Re:ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Friday May 04, 2007 @07:56AM (#18986213) Homepage Journal
    This must be a Microsoft employee trying to make Mac users look bad.
  • by BadERA (107121) on Friday May 04, 2007 @08:48AM (#18986741) Homepage
    As the owner of a Treo 700W PocketPC, a Cingular 8125 PocketPC and a Cingular 2125 Smartphone (both rebranded HTC models), and a Microsoft MVP nominee for Visual Developer - Device Application Development, I hope that a MID will offer "more." More screen space. More power. "More" keyboard -- I want something on which I can realistically read and answer email, compose a document or spreadsheet, edit and compile code, and 2.2" of screen with a thumbboard, and limited processor and memory, ain't gonna cut it. Sure, I find my devices handy, and as a geek, they also have some fun uses, especially when I deploy my own software.

    However, I'd like something smaller than a laptop, with fullblown connectivity across the spectrum, with a decent battery life and a REAL keyboard. SIPs != real keyboards, and they never will. I need some feedback for my touch typing. If they turned out a slim-profile "UMPC" with a REAL keyboard, plus bluetooth, WiFi, and GPRS/EDGE/EVDO/HSPDA/etc. I'd buy it in a minute. I'm curious to see what an "MID" eventually specs out as. Hopefully it doesn't become another "Internet appliance," and fade from memory.

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