View Full Version : So what's new about Origami/UMPC?

Bob Russell
03-09-2006, 08:00 AM
As you are probably aware, the cat is now formally out of the bag. Origami has been announced and it's the same as UMPC (Ultra-Mobile PC.) We've had small tablet PCs before and the market was expecting some new ones anyway, so what's new?

Let's take a look at what Microsoft's Origami team has to say... "Today at CeBIT, Microsoft, Intel and Samsung announced their commitment to developing a product category called Ultra-Mobile PC, UMPC for short. In truth, this category has existed for some time but not with any real focus by Microsoft or Intel. So, what exactly was announced you may ask? First of all, Samsung announced their entry into this market with a new device that weighs about 2 pounds, has a touch screen, and runs the full Windows XP operating system, Tablet PC Edition to be exact. Of course XP has been out for quite some time, so did Microsoft actually announce something new? Why yes, we did. We announced the Microsoft Touch Pack which is a new set of software built exclusively for UMPCs. That means only OEMs who ship UMPCs can preinstall the Touch Pack."

So if the real news is Touch Pack, then what did Microsoft give us that's new? Here's the rundown:
*) A program launcher
*) Touch Improvements - "a little utility that a user can run that makes Windows more useable on a small, touch enabled computer. It makes about 10 setting changes to Windows such as widening the scroll bars, enlarging the minimize and maximize buttons, shows folders in thumbnail view, etc. These are all things Windows already supports but makes it easy for a user to just magically apply them all without having to go all over the OS to set them."
*) Brilliant Black - a new Windows Media Player skin
*) DialKeys - Now we're talking innovation!!! It's basically a thumb board that comes out onto the screen translucently from the bottom two corners. Very nice looking.
*) Sudoku - Yeah, this numbers game finally gives Microsoft a follow-up for it's famous Solitaire game that's worthy of being included with every OS rolled out for UMPC. It does look very pretty. And it "is of course optimized for touch and the pen."

You can find all kinds of good news about UMPC at these sites...
Microsoft Unveils Ultracompact Computer (
Reality check for the much-hyped Origami PC (
Microsoft's site (
Intel's site (
Intels Developer Forum (
IDF: Ultra-mobile PCs Need Yonah Processor, Intel Executive Says (

03-09-2006, 02:58 PM
Nothing groundbreaking. 90% of it's functionality are more developed on the PDA platform (Popcap games? Sudoku?, I think it is easier to play on a PDA than on a UMPC).

It will have to shrunk down to at least Nokia's Symbian Internet Tablet to make waves.

And this is more a plus pack for Windows XP Tablet Edition. If I want this, I rather wait for Windows Vista version of the Origami Pack. Vista's improved hibernation mode will make it launch quicker, hopefully Intel will have higher CPU speed/low power requirement processor by then. If so, then these UMPC just might have a chance...until then, this is just like Microsoft's past foray into Tablet PC, and PC companion, both of which are tech demos and not suited for everyday work.

Bob Russell
03-09-2006, 03:25 PM
I think we need to remember that Microsoft is not selling this concept as a killer of existing notebooks or tablets or smartphones or pdas or anything like that. Not even as a killer of the OQO, which will have a different market because it's smaller.

But it is a new style of device that has the support of Microsoft and Intel and device makers. The form factor is appealing, and the new screen-based thumb board is innovative. It's the sort of device that James Kendrick has been championing for a long time. The hardware, as you say, will improve a lot. Better battery life, more storage, better displays and control layouts, and more software will make the device more and more tempting. Imagine one that has a document scanner built into one of the sides! It could eventually become the first device that could almost support a fairly paperless existence!

It's likely to be one more gadget category that empties my wallet, and I'm sure that's been their plan all along! ;) Once the new processor versions are available with better battery life, I'll have to take a closer look myself. There are times when a full keyboard is necessary, but there are also times when a UMPC would be so much nicer to use than a smartphone with the tiny little screen. Even if the smartphone continues to be the primary mobile device.

03-09-2006, 03:46 PM
I'm sure you can use a Bluetooth keyboard with this thing, so it would be good for "productivity" work as well.

Bob Russell
03-09-2006, 05:04 PM
I don't think I'd be likely to carry a seperate keyboard, so I'd like to see some sort of thin-line keyboard that attaches (optionally) to the bottom of the device.

But I guess if I carry a UMPC in a case sort of like a Franklin dayplanner case, it could have a storage compartment for a keyboard. That would bring me back to the days of carrying something like that everywhere, except now it would be for high tech reasons.

Can't help but wonder if it would be worth it. The thing I love best about a pda is that it's always in my pocket. If I was a woman and carried a purse, it would be perfect. But I'm not and I don't. Yet, with the bigger screen and an active touchscreen (does anyone know if it's an active digitizer like traditional Tablet PCs, or passive like pdas), and full Windows and more storage, you could do "real" work which is basically impossible on a pda.

Yeah, I think that in the near future I'm destined to have a desktop, UMPC and smartphone! I wonder if that leaves room for a dedicated ebook reader also?

03-09-2006, 05:19 PM
It's just that the product doesn't meet the hyped expectations. At least not in it's present form. In time, these product will have their own niche, if not replace laptops, but that still a few years down the road...

Bob Russell
03-09-2006, 05:35 PM
I bet you are exactly right about taking some time to get things worked out. I think a lot of issues are going to be tweaked and with the new processors and Vista, it may look like an entirely new device all over again in the near future. To buy one, you may need to be a pretty hearty early adopter, or really be a good match for this type of device. Only usage in the market will determine how to make and use these things well. They have a lot of potential.

03-10-2006, 05:56 AM
I don't think I'd be likely to carry a seperate keyboard, so I'd like to see some sort of thin-line keyboard that attaches (optionally) to the bottom of the device.

Well, you could have a Bluetooth keyboard at home and work, rather than carry one around. For portability there's the Stowaway keyboard.

03-10-2006, 05:57 AM
Good editorial at Brighthand ( The gist of it is that if UMPCs reach the $500 price point, they will drive out high-end handhelds.

03-10-2006, 10:23 AM
The thing I love best about a pda is that it's always in my pocket.

That is it for me too - it is just so handy to have a PDA always on me. But I can see where for many people an Origami size tablet computer would be wonderful as a replacement for a notebook.

03-10-2006, 03:36 PM
Good editorial at Brighthand ( The gist of it is that if UMPCs reach the $500 price point, they will drive out high-end handhelds.
Unfortunately, they seem to be wrong with the price tag of $500. According to Seattle Pi (, prices will range from $600 to $1,000. That's definitely too much for me - I'd rather invest that money in a new notebook.

Bob Russell
03-10-2006, 03:51 PM
Prices are supposed to drop (fairly) quickly to near $500. I really think the future products will be much more desireable to a wider market.

03-10-2006, 03:53 PM
Yeah, it's almost as if they've resigned to the first generation(s) being too expensive and underpowered. At any rate, Microsoft and Intel have enough cash to last through several iterations of losses if it comes to that.

Alexander Turcic
03-10-2006, 03:59 PM
Yeah, it's almost as if they've resigned to the first generation(s) being too expensive and underpowered. At any rate, Microsoft and Intel have enough cash to last through several iterations of losses if it comes to that.
That is, if future generations will exist. It probably depends on consumer demand - and with the initial price range, I am not convinced that consumers will be too excited buying one of these goodies.

Bob Russell
03-10-2006, 04:32 PM
Bill Gates has talked about betting his reputation on Tablet computing. And he has a lot of money to make his plans work out. One way or another this will work. It might need tweaking, it might need better hardware and lower prices, but in the end someone will make it work. Even if it's not Microsoft. In the meantime, surely they can find a niche market to keep the losses from piling up too much.

Alexander Turcic
03-10-2006, 04:36 PM
So basically follow the X-Box strategy: sell at a loss in order to gain global market shares. Well, that could work. Unless someone else steps in and provides a better more innovative product for less money.

03-10-2006, 05:10 PM
I've got to think that a UMPC at $600 is a much better buy than an iLiad at the same price.

And when you realize that Microsoft/Intel's goal is to sell 100 million of these devices by 2008 — that will drive the price down to where we all want it — well, that leads me to believe that people who buy an ultra-mobile and read on it as an afterthought will have more to say about e-books than those people who buy specialized e-reading devices.

I mean, you're carrying around a device with a screen that's loads better than a Palm for reading a book, you've got time to kill during the day — sooner or later you're going to think, Why don't I have something to read on this? Isn't that similar to the thinking process that brought many Palm users to e-books?

100 million seems an outlandish number to sell, especially considering the cries of "Overpriced!" and "Underpowered!" and "Buy a laptop!" But we have had many years to experience the excruciating flaws of PDAs and laptops. UMPC's do well whatever those other devices do poorly, whether it be quick email or web check (instant-on, WiFi) or just let me run this one program while I'm traveling so I can finish my report without having to lug a laptop (full OS).

It doesn't have to be as powerful as a laptop. it has to have a large enough screen to surf the web comfortably (no scrolling sideways!).

There's a big market here. And e-reading program plus portable device equals the central advantage of the printed book.

03-12-2006, 02:58 PM
Is it only the form factor that makes the UMPC dissimilar from the TabletPC? Your short list seems to say so.

Yet that wouldn't seem to justify bringing out this "ultra-mobile" and pushing it so hard.

I think we have to look beyond today's models — we won't see larger models in future but only smaller, and less expensive. I don't think people would even ask How is it different? if the 5.5-inch models had come out now.

Of course, the market for the UMPC is radically different than the TabletPC's. This isn't a laptop substitute for somebody mobile like a doctor making the rounds; it's intended to supplement your other computer(s) and do what they don't do well — access the internet instantly from spots where you don't have (or don't want to bother with) your laptop, and see a whole web-page's width (unlike a PDA).

Today, the devices have VGA and Ethernet connectors and hard drives, but people will find they don't need them. Those sorts of things will drop away as the untethered web is refined in people's minds (and as WiFi clouds become more common and Web 2.0 tools like Writely solidify).