Wednesday, 2 January 2008

2008 - the end of the UMPC?

Well it's certainly what Warner Crocker over at GottabeMobile has predicted, and it's an interesting prediction that I thought was worth touching upon.

Nicely enough GottabeMobile put up this link regarding their prediction on the rise of the UMPC in 2008 though they refer only to the Asus Eee PC as the basis of their predictions.

For me, there have always been attractive bits of equipment on the market that satisfy mobility requirements. For instance a few years ago (around 2004) I owned a Dell X1 laptop, and it was awesome. It had a 12.1" widescreen TFT screen, 4 hour battery life, 1.1GHz ULV Centrino CPU and 1GB RAM/60GB HD. Ok I got a bit lucky on this one as I bought it new from the Dell online warehouse for £660. This was 4 years ago!

Move forward to the present, and I paid £575 for a 2nd hand UMPC that has a 900MHz Celeron, 512mb RAM/60GB Hard Drive and a battery that lasts 3 hours if i'm lucky. So aside from a Touch-screen and GPS, i've lost power and performance - I really miss that X1 you know!

So what has defined the (Origami project specifically) UMPC? I'll divide this into subsections:

Market: While the UMPC had a difficult birth due to market confusion (and I suspect it still does judging by sales) the UMPC is a very flash note taking device, capable of showing a few films and brilliant for browsing in front of the telly. The reason why i'd miss the device so much by far is the form factor. While the Asus R2H could do with losing some weight I just love the one handed freedom, or the Sega GameGear double handed control for reading PDF's. I love the stand, the "grab and go" functionality and obviously the ability to use your finger to do stuff is just ace. I think the problem is that the market doesn't think the touch screen niche is worth the extra cash because the majority of people can't think of a reason to use it. That reason is OneNote 2007...

Handwriting/Inking: From the Origami project perspective this is the big point. Once you ink you just don't go back! Though how important inking is to you will have a big impact on what you buy. If you don't ink often, buy an Eee PC.

Price/Technology: As I talked about above with the Dell X1, the price and technology of UMPC's is a disaster. I just don't understand how I could buy a laptop 4 years ago that's more powerful and had better battery life (and was almost as light as the UMPC) for around the same price as a UMPC nowadays. Price will be the death of Origami.

So is the Eee PC a UMPC? It's a cheap, note-taking device that's capable of (probably) watching a film and is light enough to sit in front of the telly and browse. Sound familiar? The only real difference is about £400 and the ability to ink. I don't think that 2008 will be the death of the UMPC, but I think now that the Eee PC has broken the ice with it's price point, i'd love to see touch technology end up on an Eee PC-like device for £350-£400 ish. Fingers crossed that the form factor doesn't disappear!

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