Do you remember the hype around the "Origami" earlier this year? There was hardly any gadget and IT site (including TG Daily) that did not go nuts over a mysterious device that promised to "change" our life. Origami was promised to be in our office, on beaches and golf courses, on top of mountains and in the subway, in our home and on vacation.
What did we get? A scaled down tablet PC with underpowered processors, disappointing battery life and high price tags. After seeing the UMPC specs and devices for the first time, we were motivated enough to publish an article with the headline "What were they thinking?" The Origami turned out to be the first generation of the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC): It was famous for one or two weeks. Today, no one talks about it anymore.
From the time we somewhat knew that Origami would be the name for the first-generation UMPC, we actually were excited about the possibilities of such a product. Intel, which apparently was involved in the creation of the hardware platform of UMPCs said these devices would integrate processors consuming less than half a watt (ULV Celeron M CPUs), the 915 GMS chipset as well as full-featured wireless connectivity, including Wi-Fi, GPS and EVDO or HSDPA. Sources also indicated that a second generation UMPC, with support for Windows Vista, was on track to be released from several more companies, including LGE, Acer and Averatec.
UMPCs from Asus and Samsung
Clearly, that second generation did not come and we are still waiting for the kind of wireless connectivity that would make the UMPC a killer product. Especially the lack of WWAN integration and a price tag similar to that of mainstream notebooks (about $1000) make the UMPC look like a very immature product and a rather strange attempt to establish yet another notebook niche and platform that runs Windows. At this time, Samsung and Asus remain pretty much the only manufacturers that are offering UMPC models.
Our most recent information about the UMPC is that more convincing devices (with WWAN) could become available in the first half of next year, wile a "breakthrough" is expected for late 2007 or early 2008.
We still believe that a connected portable computer positioned between the smartphone and the smallest notebooks has tremendous market potential, provided the hardware and software are ready, it is less expensive than today's UMPCs and it does not compromise on wireless features.
The first generation UMPC, however, was the wrong product at the wrong time.