Fujitsu UMPC???

, posted: 6-Apr-2006 22:20

While the Fujitsu UMPC concept may appeal to some and get some people talking, I dont find it anything to really get excited about.

Why?

You have to carry the keyboard around with it.  Sure the device is small, but the keyboard limits the ways you can use the device.  Namely you have to be sitting at a table to use it efficiently.  At least with a laptop you can use the thing on your knee - but with a folding keyboard even this isn't possible.

Besides, with other UMPC models, you have the option of carting around a keyboard (bluetooth keyboards are pretty tiny) if you want to - the EO even can use the stylus as a stand. 

The docked idea is good, but the other UMPC's do that too, so the only feature that stands out is the keyboard which is really not a postive addition.

At least its only a concept.



EO - the good the bad and the ugly

, posted: 6-Apr-2006 22:03

I've been perusing the user manual for the EO UMPC and have come up with a list of good, bad and ugly features.

Full details for all these features are in the manual - feel free to download it.

Good
 - The EO includes a stand and according to page 21 (marked as page 11) the stylus can also serve as a stand. 
 - The EO also includes headphones.
 - Docking port on bottom
 - As well as navigating with your finger or stylus, you also have the choice of a D-Pad (right side of the device) or a pointing stick (left side of the device) - even left handed people should be able to work with it easily.
 - Hardware WiFi switch
 - The ability to remap buttons is included natively
 - 850grams... not too heavy for a first gen device.

Bad
 - The stylus is on the bottom of the device, meaning it will be hard to extract if the device is docked.
 - 2.2 hours @ 26W/h - not a long battery life under "typical" condition.
 - A single SODIMM slot limits memory to 1Gb and forces you to toss out what you get with the device

Ugly
 - The warning on page 20 (marked page 10) to not press on the back of the device.
 - No VGA output - IMHO this is a really bad omission.  You HAVE to get a docking station to use an external screen (assuming they will be available and will have a VGA output).

Miscellaneous notes
 - The image on page 14 (marked page 4) indicates that the device has a single front speaker.  Thus, no stereo sound, however the text on page 55(45) would indicate otherwise.



Why the UMPC will be successful - Part 2

, posted: 6-Apr-2006 18:47

Location adaptability
The second platform design goal for the Ultra Mobile PC is location adaptability.  And it is this that we will cover in this second instalment of our series.


Definition of adaptability
To start this discussion, I had to ask myself: What does Intel/Microsoft mean by adaptability?  This could be interpreted as location awareness, or it could simply be marketing speak for versatility. Here are the three explanations from the design goals:
- Personalized information and services based on location.
- Environment recognition and adaptability.
- Interaction with devices in living room or car.


I've basically surmised that this equates to integration with the environment.  This means a bit of location awareness, but also just the ability to integrate with devices at home, in the car or wherever the UMPC is.  From a practical sense (which is what we really care about) this could be similar to existing devices or something new. 


I've broken this into two categories: location based services and location based integration.  To achieve this, the UMPC will need to have three key ingredients:
- Portability (a given)
- Connectivity
- Extensibility
We'll see how these three ingredients play into this as we go through the services and integration.

Location based services


Existing devices have the ability to detect and log on to (for example) wireless networks without user interaction.  That is they come into a new environment (note the hint of portability) with familiar characteristics and they automatically log on and you just work.  In this sense existing devices are already somewhat adaptable to their location.


However, this simply cannot be where it ends.  If I had a million bucks to spend on a new business, I'd love to invest it into location based services - this is one area that's got lots of potential and is currently largely untapped.  Current location based services generally utilize network triangulation or assisted GPS to try and figure out where you are.  This model will give way to much more compelling and simpler models in the near future and when it does location based services will simply take off. 


When we do see location based services, what will they look like?

Longer term you'll have your car remind you that you are low on gas just before you drive past the last gas station for 100kms or your favourite game tell you that a fellow gamer is nearby and wants to kill some time (or your character) with you. 


How does this fit with the UMPC?  Good question.  The key thing about these services is that they need to connect to you somehow, and there are two ways for this to happen.  Either the service connects to you or your device polls the service.  Neither of these are simple problems to solve.  If the service connects to you, you have to allow it to - which doesn't work well on a device that is security conscious.  If you poll the service, you will ultimately reduce the life of your battery as you'll poll often when there is nothing to poll and hence keep the device awake.  There are solutions to this, but this is outside the scope of this post.

Suffice to say I don't think that we will see true location based services and information in the next 12 months, and probably not en-mass for at least 24 months.


Location based integration

This area has much more potential to change the way we live and work in the near future than location based services, and simply because the key components are already in the market.

By location based integration, I'm meaning both the ability to adapt the device to the conditions you are in as well as integrate with existing devices, not only at home, but also at work, in the car and out and about.

An example of this might be integration with your car stereo to play audio (or the sound track for the movie the kids are watching in the back seat).  Many modern car stereos include a AUX input on the front panel of the device.  Obviously the UMPC will have a 3.5mm headphone jack which makes it possible to integrate the device easily with most other audio equipment.


Docking is another area that will see these devices to be used in new ways.  The idea here is that the device will have an optional accessory - a docking station that will allow you to plug the device in when you are at your desk or at home.  Connected to the docking station will be an external, keyboard and even an external monitor.  This allows these devices to be used as a normal PC with the convenience of being able to be taken out where you go.  Need more storage at home?  Plug in an external 250Gb hard drive?  Need optical drive? Just plug it into the docking station.  This makes the device very versatile and attractive as a device suitable for each family member (should you have nothing to do with your money).


Bluetooth is a technology that has taken some time to mature and still has some way to go, but this technology is built into the platform, meaning that even when a WiFi connection is not available, some connectivity will still be able to be provided through a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone or even a Bluetooth enabled desktop computer.  This could mean that you can leave your UMPC next to your desktop computer and have it retrieve mail through the desktop computers network connection via Bluetooth when the device is in the vicinity.


How realistic is this?
The ability to integrate a UMPC with various other devices is here today.  The limit is your budget and the implementation.  There is not much that couldn't be done today inside the idea of the device adapting itself to its surroundings.  However, it's not cheap to Bluetooth enable everything and often it is fiddly too, so you'll want a certain amount of tech savvy to get it working.  In addition, you'll want to check out the Geekzone Bluetooth guides for some additional help.


The location based services will probably start to take off when there are services available and the devices can figure out where they are (i.e. they have onboard GPS and access to wireless services concurrently).  This is a little way off yet, but it's not completely out of reach.  Watch this space.



EO UMPC Manual now available for download

, posted: 6-Apr-2006 10:41

If you are interested in more details on the UMPC, go here and download the EO UMPC manual.

They've just been uploaded, so you can check out all the details of the new EO UMPC.  The Eo UMPC is also available for pre-ordering from the same page.  Note that the linked page above is for the more expensive of the two models.

Very cool.  I'm off to do some reading.

Thanks to Hugo for the tip off :-)



UMPC Announcments

, posted: 3-Apr-2006 23:16

I thought I'd write up what we've heard so far with regards to UMPC devices being released.  So far we have the following announcments (as of about... um now).

Rumors:

We've also heard Toshiba give an informal "not currently on the drawing board"...

It would be good to see a main stream PC or tablet shop give it the nod...



Dr Neil likes touch

, posted: 3-Apr-2006 22:19

Its not supposed to be a provocatvie title... honest...

Dr Neil has blogged about his first experimental weekend with a UMPC.  If you dont know Dr Neil is one of two Tablet PC MVP's in Australia and New Zealand (the other being Craig Pringle).

He managed to get a pre-production unit for the weekend (who knows where from - note the censored sign over the image) and have a play. 

His comments:
Touch is a very intuitive way to interact with a user interface.
Yes, I suspect it is... unfortunately I can only sit and watch for the moment, but like Dr Neil, I'm looking forward to cutting some code on one too...



Brighthand: Traditional Pocket PCs will give way to UMPCs

, posted: 1-Apr-2006 21:40

I see that Ed Hardy and I agree on the future of Pocket PCs...

Our assessments come from different ends of the spectrum, mine from an analytical perspective and Eds from a market perspective, but they both say the same thing... traditional Pocket PC's are on their way out.

Read Eds article on Brighthand and compare it to what I wrote a week or two back...



Not designed to be pocketable

, posted: 31-Mar-2006 07:48

Layne Heiny has noted that pocketability is not everything...

Good point.  I dont know anyone who puts a Pocket PC in their Pocket - isn't that odd?  I put my K-Jam on my belt because I dont want it to get scratched or dusty, and I suspect many others are the same.

A good number of people put a phone in their pocket, but phones are complimentary to UMPC's where some think that a Pocket PC is a better concept than a UMPC for mobile data entry.

I particularly liked this comment
Personally, there is absolutely no way the phone would be carried on my belt. Phones are not fashion statements. Phones are interruptions. Thus, my phone is usually lost and I wait for someone to call so that I can spend a few minutes listening to the ring and trying to find it.
I think the average person often considers their phone to be a fashion accessory of sorts (isn't that the appeal of the RAZR?).

I expect that my UMPC will live in a leather folder and will accompany me that way.

via onlyUMPC.com



Why the UMPC will be successful - Part 1

, posted: 30-Mar-2006 23:12

So the UMPC is about to hit store shelves.  Lots of people are wondering whether these devices will make any sense in the market and if they will sell at all.  Here's my take for what it's worth.

Looking at the platform design goals, there are four key advantages of the Ultra Mobile PC:

  • Full PC and internet capabilities
  • Location adaptability
  • Anytime connectivity
  • Ultra mobility

In this series I'll look at each of these and try and figure out why this advantage is compelling.

Part 1. Full PC and internet capabilities.
Three are currently two categories of mobile devices in the market today (and I've probably simplified this a little too much). 

Category One - Laptops and traditional Tablet PCs
The first category is laptops - and I'd include traditional tablets in this too.  These devices are normally quite heavy, A4 size or more and normally require that you are sitting down at a table (or at a struggle you can put one on your knees).  Tablets are a little different in this sense in that you can use them standing up, but they are still quite awkward - just as an A4 pad is awkward standing up.  Don't get me wrong - tablets are definitely better than laptops, but I still find them awkward to work with in many scenarios.


Obviously this category of device has lots of capabilities - after all it is a full blown computer - albeit a portable one. Most laptops and many tablets have all the functionality of a PC in a portable form, meaning that when you are sitting down at the coffee table in your local café you can do everything that you can do when you are sitting at your desk.  Obviously networking capabilities are a key requirement to fulfil this scenario though, and thankfully most are now equiped with full wireless capabilities.

Category Two - Mobile devices
The second category of mobile device in the market is mobile devices and in the Windows world this would be the Windows CE based devices such as Windows Mobile Pocket PC's and smartphones.


Devices in this category run an operating system that is designed for the embedded device market.  This means that they can get quite small and increasingly have good battery life.  The drawback to having an embedded operating system (and this is a general statement - there are exceptions) is that they generally run on processors that are designed for low power devices - which are generally not the same as the processors we run on our desktop/laptop/tablet PCs.  This means that the OS is generally different to the desktop OS and doesn't run the applications that any laptop will run.


Having said that, I think that the Windows Mobile community has come a long way in this regard.  There are tens of thousands of applications available for Windows Mobile devices now and while some are low quality and low value, a great many of them are very useful and well written. 


But this still isn't the real problem with Windows Mobile devices… the real issue with them is that unless you have got the time and inclination to be somewhat compulsive the screen size is often too small.  This fact requires that applications be designed specifically for the screen size, which is not a trivial thing to do well.  Again, there are lots of well written applications (Sygic Mobile contacts comes to mind) that make great use of the Windows Mobile screen size, but most applications on the Pocket PC retain the familiar Windows layout, which is a strength and a weakness.  It's a strength in that it is familiar, but it is a weakness in that it doesn't necessarily make the best use of the screen size.


So I guess that's three things about the Pocket PC (and its worse on a smartphone) that make it hard - different applications to the PC - and fewer of them, small screen and bad use of screen real estate which makes using these devices fiddly for most people.  To test this theory, ask the average person who owns a Pocket PC Phone edition how many applications they've downloaded and installed on their device and the answer will often be very few or none.  There is a group of people (and I'd include myself here) who would install applications and spend the time working with these devices, but there is an even greater group of people who use the devices and would never install any applications on there.  Why? Because the applications are unfamiliar and have a learning curve with them that is often not worth it.  They are great for those of us who love gadgets and geeky things, but the average man doesn't want a bar of it.


Enter the UMPC…
The UMPC is smaller than a tablet, but bigger than a Pocket PC, thus it overcomes the Pocket PCs screen size obstacle, and the larger form factor of the Laptop and Tablet.


With the UMPC standing up and working with this device becomes feasible, not only because you can hold it in one hand (as opposed to cradling it in one arm like a tablet) while you use it but also because you can use the dial keys (see the dial keys in action here). 


While we are talking about standing use, you'll find the UMPC easier to work with than a tablet while standing because the tablet generally requires that you cradle the tablet in your arm (tiny tablets such as the Motion LS800 would be an exception).  This limits the distance that you can have it from your face meaning you have to move your head towards the device to get a closer look or revert to using two hands to hold it further away.  With the UMPC you can move the device closer or further away easily as you are using it one handed.  Why does this matter?  Often with stylus and touch screens you want to see the point of interception more clearly so that you can be more accurate with a particular action - this can be awkward on a tablet (although perhaps a little less necessary).


In addition the dial keys should allow you to enter data more easily than a stylus.  I spend much time with a keyboard typing everyday, and I can type as quick as I think in most cases.  When I go back to writing, I'm constantly frustrated by how slow it is to enter anything, tapping is so much quicker, and so the dial keys should help in this particular situation.  Even if the dial keys are no quicker than writing, they will still be less frustrating because they are more like the data entry method I'm used to and I'll still feel productive - rather than frustrated.  In this way the data entry on the UMPC suits both novice users and power users - those familiar with a pen and those happy with tap entry - i.e. the full power of a PC.


In addition, the UMPC will allow users to run the applications they know and love.  This is a great thing.  I have a couple of applications that I run on my home PC that I'd love to have with me wherever I go.  I also have applications on my work laptop that should really be on my home laptop.  These cross over scenarios should be a think of the past with the UMPC as its small enough to take most places with you, but it's powerful enough to run the applications you commonly use on your desktop.

So the UMPC has the full functionality of a full blown PC, all the familiarity of Windows XP and is small enough to travel with you most places.


What about the drawbacks?
The most common concern you see about the UMPC is that it's too big or the battery life is not quite what you'd like it to be. 


For those who are really like Pocket PCs it will probably be too big.  If you have the time and inclination to work with a small device, that's fair enough, a UMPC may not be for you.  But this is not the experience of the average person.  The average person wants something small enough to carry around, but that has the functionality (i.e. applications) of their desktop/laptop PC and a short learning curve.  Well - that's where the UMPC fits perfectly. 


Battery life will be a problem to start with.  Although, its battery is no worse than a laptop devices, many people perceive that their requirements will be to have the device running all day.  This situation will slowly get better.  Last week we saw the announcement of the Samsung flash hard drive which should require less battery power than the spinning mechanical things we have now, which will lead to less drain and longer periods between charges.  In addition I think that cradles will be a popular accessory for these devices, allowing users to plug the device in for a charge when they get back to their desks/office/wherever. 

Finally I think that we will just have to get used to carrying a power cable around with us.  We do it with laptops, so we'll have to do it with these too.  Sad but true - for the moment at least.


Full PC and internet capabilities?
I haven't gone into the internet side of things yet, I'll cover that in one of the future posts on this subject. 

Hopefully what you see above is a sampling of some of the reasons why I think this is a device that is primed for it's time.  There's more to come, but that is for another day.



UMPC - coming downunder next month!

, posted: 30-Mar-2006 11:16

I just got of an MSN call (MSN 8 is really good for voice now) with Hugo Ortega from Tegatech.

They're now taking pre-orders for the UMPC from their website.  It looks very nice - its the same design as the screen emulator.

I ordered the model with a 40 Gig hard drive and 512 Mb RAM, although I'm hoping to get it bumped up to 1 Gig if I can.

So I've ordered and prepaid, and Hugo tells me that I'm going to be one of 300 people world wide included in the first shipment.  Nice.

I'll post my experiences here when it arrives in a few weeks.



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Darryl Burling
Wellington
New Zealand



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