How the Ultra-Mobile PC Works

Samsung Q1 Ultra-mobile PC. See more computer pictures.
Image copyright © 2006 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052-6399 U.S.A. All rights reserved.

It isn't often that Microsoft announces a completely new concept in computing, but at CeBIT 2006 in Hanover, Germany, the software giant finally unveiled details about its Origami Project to a worldwide audience.

Microsoft created the Origami Project to develop (with various hardware and software partners) a new type of computer that falls in-between the size of a typical PDA and tablet PC, uses a standard Windows operating system and costs less than $1000: the Ultra-mobile PC, or UMPC.

The Microsoft team originally used "Origami" as a code name, and they liked it so much that they kept it for the project's public community Web site. One of the program's managers was interested in Japanese culture and liked the name, which refers to the art of intricate paper folded sculptures.

Clearly, there is a need for a smaller form factor than the traditional notebook PC. PDAs don't run standard Windows OS, and many tablets are too heavy to carry around all the time. Gartner, an IT research Web site, posits that the UMPC space should have the following advantages:

  • An eight-hour battery life
  • A sub-$400 price
  • Low-cost, compelling content bundles from partners like Intel and Microsoft
  • A better Microsoft shell/interface running on top of Vista
  • Text entry options beyond thumb-typing
  • Dock-and-go synchronization, requiring minimal user interaction
  • Sustained market momentum from Microsoft and Intel

­ These are all worthy goals, but the initial UMPC units won't deliver on all of these points at first. In this article, we'll show you what Microsoft has planned for the UMPC and what is still to come. We'll also talk about how these new computers will work and how they differ from tablets and PDAs.