Microsoft 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 presentation of this new platform happened during the CeBIT 2006 in Germany, the world’s largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions.
In an interview, Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Mobile Platforms Division, presented the UMPC concept and explained how these new devices are different from other mobile computers.
Accordin to Mitchell the UMPCs are a new category of mobile PCs designed to support 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 "Origami" project was Microsoft's first step toward achieving a big vision, in which UMPCs will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as mobile phones.
UMPCs combine Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system and other new technologies, 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.
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.
UMPC devices can 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.
Pricing for this new categoru will be determined by OEM partners. Microsoft predicts pricing in the US$599-$999 range.