Microsoft today presented Origami, the new Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, at CeBIT. This device provides full Windows functionality with an enhanced touch screen, pen and keyboard input. The UMPC will be launched later this year by various OEM partners for $599 to $999.
Here's the press release and the interview from Microsoft about this new product:
Microsoft today unveiled details for Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs), a new category of mobile computing devices that features small, lightweight, carry-everywhere hardware designs coupled with the full functionality of a Microsoft Windows-based PC and a choice of input options, including enhanced touch-screen capabilities. The debut of UMPCs here at CeBIT, the world’s largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions, follows Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates’ call in 2005 for the computer industry to develop a new category of PCs that are less expensive, lighter and more functional. PressPass asked Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Mobile Platforms Division, to discuss UMPCs and explain how these new devices are different from other mobile computers.
PressPass: What are Ultra-Mobile PCs?
Mitchell: UMPCs are a new category of mobile PCs designed to support our increasing mobile lifestyles. They support mobile-tuned user interface features such as touch, pen and dedicated buttons as well as keyboards for convenient access to Windows-based applications on-the-go. The extremely mobile nature of these devices, together with the richness of Windows PC technology, combine to create a powerful platform for mobile communications, entertainment, gaming and new scenarios such as location-based services as well. The "Origami" project is really our first step toward achieving a big vision. We believe that UMPCs will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as mobile phones are today. We are working toward that goal with a sequence of advances in hardware and software. Our next step along the roadmap will take place in the Windows Vista release timeframe. But today’s UMPCs are 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
PressPass: Can you briefly describe the technology behind UMPCs?
Mitchell: UMPCs combine the power of the Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system and other innovative new technologies from Microsoft and its partners, making them more mobile and simpler to use than previous mobile computers. For example, the new, pre-installed Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows XP software optimizes the touch screen user interface for UMPCs to simplify navigation and ease-of-use while on the go. The Touch Pack’s customizable Program Launcher organizes software programs into categories, and uses large buttons and icons to make it easy to find and open your favorite applications. The Touch Pack also includes a thumb-based, on-screen keyboard that’s touch-optimized for easy text input. It also helps improve a user’s portable media experience with the inclusion of the new Brilliant Black for Windows Media Player skin. Touch Pack software also helps keep you entertained with the introduction of Microsoft Sudoku, a highly entertaining touch and ink enabled game. While the first generation of UMPCs will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, future models will run on Windows Vista.
Although hardware designs will vary by manufacturer, UMPCs will all feature small, lightweight designs that are optimized for mobility and ease of input. According to current baseline physical specifications, Windows-based UMPC devices will weigh less than 2 pounds (.9 kilo), with a 7-inch (17.8 centimeters) screen size that offers the user a choice of text input methods. The touch-enhanced display can be used as an on-screen QWERTY keyboard (called dial keys) to navigate, or users can employ a stylus to input handwritten information. They can also input content with a traditional keyboard, linked either by USB port or wireless Bluetooth connectivity. UMPC devices will have a battery life of two and a half hours or more, and feature 30-60 GB hard drive for storage, with Intel Celeron M, Intel Pentium M or VIA C7-M processors. Some devices may include additional built-in features such as GPS, a webcam, fingerprint reader, digital TV tuners, and compact flash and SD card readers. UMPCs can be connected through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet networks. Some UMPCs will be able to connect via wide-area networking.
PressPass: Why has Microsoft created the UMPC category?
Mitchell: Microsoft has researched the development of highly mobile, small form-factor PCs for a number of years because they are so well suited to addressing the evolving needs of consumers, whose lives are increasingly mobile. We began this work over a decade ago with some of the pioneering Windows CE efforts that I helped create. As people use PCs to stay in touch, work together, manage music, store pictures and build customer relationships, they need the freedom and flexibility that smaller, more lightweight PC designs such as the UMPC offer. Increasingly, people need to perform these activities from wherever they are, and more and more, these locations extend beyond work and home.
Additionally, the enhanced functionality and mobility of the UMPC category is made possible by specific technology advances in both hardware and software. Microsoft developed the concept for this type of UMPC based on our own research, combined with key new developments by industry partners. These developments include new low-power, high-performance processors, extended battery life and enhancements to Tablet PC software such as the Touch Pack interface tools. While Microsoft will continue to provide leadership in the development of this category, the creation and continued evolution of UMPCs will happen through a broad collaboration between Microsoft, Intel and a wide range of OEMs, ODMs, IHVs and ISVs. We’re excited to have such industry-wide commitment for this new category as it evolves and provides new value to a wide range of users.
PressPass: How does a UMPC differ from other notebook PCs and other mobile computers currently on the market?
Mitchell: A UMPC is smaller, lighter and far more portable than most other fully-functional PCs. UMPCs are also the first to feature our Windows Touch Pack software that optimizes the touch screen user interface for smaller form factors to simplify navigation and ease-of-use while on the go It can be used in a hand-held mode of operation rather than on a desk top, and can be used in places and situations where notebook PCs can’t. It also has a more flexible set of interaction and input methods, including a touch screen, stylus and hardware controls. A UMPC can easily be synchronized with a non-mobile, larger, primary PC at home or work, making it easy to take music, movies, photos, and Office documents on the go. The UMPC is also different from other small Windows XP-based PCs like the OQO and the Fujitsu LifeBook P1500D, which are designed for enterprise environments.
PressPass: What is the price of a UMPC and when will they be available?
Mitchell: Pricing will be determined by our OEM partners. We anticipate pricing in the US$599-$999 price-range. Part of our objective in creating the original reference design for the UMPC category was to engineer a platform that’s both very compact and, through careful component choice, possible to sell for $500 MSRP. A number of OEMs will launch UMPCs in multiple markets in 2006. Using Intel processors, we anticipate UMPCs from Founder and Samsung in the second quarter of 2006, with a model debuting from Asus shortly thereafter. Models using the VIA processor are expected to arrive from TabletKiosk and PaceBlade Japan, also in the second quarter of 2006.
PressPass: How is Microsoft supporting developer efforts related to the UMPC?
Mitchell: Because the UMPC runs the Windows XP operating system, software developers who already target Windows XP will be able to utilize existing Windows development knowledge when building UMPC-optimized applications. Some software developers will fine-tune their existing programs for a smaller screen size and touch input. Microsoft’s premier Mobile PC Developer Center, http://msdn.microsoft.com/mobilepc, will contain user interface (UI) design guidelines, technical articles, sample code, tools and utilities to help developers build first-class mobilized software applications for UMPC as well as other types of mobile PCs. We expect to announce ISV software designed for UMPC in the coming months.