How the Ultra-Mobile PC Works

Ultra-mobile PC Hardware
The Samsung Q1 UMPC
The Samsung Q1 UMPC
Image copyright © 2006 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052-6399 U.S.A. All rights reserved.

This isn't the first time that Microsoft has tried to promote touch-screen tablets: Windows Tablet PCs have been around for nearly a decade. But the UMPC is another step in this evolution.

In one report, Bill Mitchell said, "The touch-enhanced display can be used as an on-screen QWERTY keyboard [using 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."

Not all implementations of all UMPCs will have Bluetooth ports, but the initial crop of vendors have promised this, along with support for various USB and BT keyboards. This is very similar to the tablet PCs that are currently on the market: some come with keyboards and all offer support for either pen or keyboard input devices.

Other input ports are planned for the devices, including:

  • Wired Ethernet and WiFi networking connectors
  • Compact Flash card slots
  • USB v 2.0 ports
  • An external VGA monitor port
  • Various buttons and connectors for audio operations
  • Support for stereo microphones with built-in noise reduction and echo cancellation
  • A remote control for the Media Center PC application

There will be units with a variety of processors, including the Intel Celeron M, Intel Pentium M and VIA C7-M. No AMD chipsets are in any of the announced plans yet.

Microsoft's goal was to use off-the-shelf displays that are in common consumer electronics devices to keep the costs down. They settled on 7-inch VGA displays that had 800 x 480 native resolution and can handle 800 x 600 with some loss of quality.

"The form factor was based around a 7-inch display panel, a size that is currently a standard size in the electronics industry due to broad adoption of that size display in the portable DVD player and automotive markets," said Microsoft's Otto Berkes in a newspaper interview. "Why use some new custom size when a potentially good one already exists?"

These plans for the UMPC differ from the existing Motion Computing tablets. The Motion displays use high-contrast, non-glare, active digitizers, meaning that the pen sold with the tablet is the only way to enter information. The UMPC displays are general touchscreens that can work with a finger or any other object for input. "We designed our 8.4-inch display to meet the needs of legacy enterprise applications, because many of these applications are designed for SVGA (800 x 600) resolution," said Bert Haskell, a product manager for Motion Computing. The UMPC displays are designed for showing widescreen movies.

Top and side views of the Samsung Q1 UMPC, showing some of the ports and the power switches
Images copyright © 2006 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052-6399 U.S.A. All rights reserved.