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What’s a UMPC? Getting to Know the Personal Side of the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer

📄 Contents

  1. Project Origami, also known as "How not to keep a secret"
  2. Deconstructing the UMPC
  3. The Competition
  4. Remember, this is version 1.0
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Picture this: You’re sitting in a cafe or watching your kid’s soccer game while also happily communicating with the outside world. Has this dream of effortless mobile computing finally become a viable reality with the UPMC? Matthew David gives you the lowdown on the ultra mobile personal computers being offered by Samsung and TabletKiosk.

Do you have a laptop? Do you use a Tablet PC? Do you have PDA? If you answered yes to two or more of these then you are probably a little frustrated with your technology. I mean, a tablet or laptop is not something you can easily balance in your hand, and while a PDA is smaller, it's not powerful enough to run desktop applications. What you need is a device that sits somewhere between the capabilities of a PDA and a Tablet PC. Enter the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, or UMPC.

OK, the name might not be sexy, but the technology is worth a double look. First, you have to figure out what the problem really is. It lies in what we have being trying to accomplish for years: becoming mobile. We've all seen the TV commercials of people happily sitting in cafes, watching their kids at the playground, or sitting on sofa with their laptop or Tablet PC and happily communicating with the outside world. But have you really ever done this?

First, even a light laptop comes in at a few pounds and the heat from the battery can leave you with the problem of "sweaty legs"—come on, admit it——it's happened to you.

On the other side of the spectrum is the PDA crew with their stencils in hand, bragging about how they can take on the world. The problems here are different. First, Windows Mobile is a diminutive cousin of the real thing and, second, the tiny screen can make for a good dose of eye strain.

The UMPC looks to bridge the divide.

Project Origami, also known as "How not to keep a secret"

Bill Gates demonstrated the concept of the UMPC at WinHEC 2006. He held up a device that looked about the same size as a hardback book, but at only half an inch in thickness. The front of the device was just a screen. You interacted with the device using a stylus, but ran a full Windows OS. The presentation was introduced as a concept of the future, not as an actual shipping product. Well, Mr. Gates, you pulled the wool over our eyes a little bit, didn't you? No more than three months had passed before Microsoft started banging the drums on a new super-secret project called "Origami."

Well, it was so "secret" that we all figured out what Origami was well before an official release was made (note to Microsoft: call Steve Jobs and ask how he keeps his secrets). When the release came, a lot of people knew that Origami was the code name for the product Bill Gates had demonstrated at PDC: a highly portable, low cost device that could fit comfortably in your hand, run Windows XP, and use WiFi and other new technologies to communicate with the outside world.

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