Microsoft is betting that these devices, dubbed ultra-mobile PCs or "Origami" systems, "will eventually become indispensable and ubiquitous as mobile phones are today," according to officials with the Redmond software maker.
Prototypes of a variety of Origami systems will make their official debut at the CeBIT trade show in Germany on March 9.
The first Origami devices from Samsung and Founder are due to start shipping in April. ASUS Origami devices will start shipping in June.
While device makers will be determining their own prices, Microsoft is expecting the first generation of devices to be in the $599 to $999 per unit range, officials said.
The new devices are expected to weigh in at less than 2 pounds, with 7-inch screens offering a variety of stylus, touch and keyboard input choices.
Microsoft and its partners are expecting the first generation of Origami systems to offer 2.5 hours of battery life; feature 30GB to 60GB hard drives; and be based on Intel Celeron M, Intel Pentium M or VIA C7-M processors.
VIA is showcasing a new chipset at CeBIT that will reduce the VIA-based Origami core chipset from 3 to 2 chips. According to VIA this will reduce board space requirements, which will help with the next-generation of smaller-sized UMPCs, and will also reduce costs and power consumption, which are critical requirements for the success of the devices.
The new chip, called the CX700, combines VIAs VN800 northbridge and VT8237A southbridge plus some other logic, and is designed to work with VIAs C7-M ULV processor as well as with Pentium M and Celeron M processors.
Ultra-mobile devices are designed to be synced with non-mobile work or home PCs, "making it easy to take music, movies, photos and Office documents on the go," Microsoft officials said.
But Origami systems are not meant to replace existing consumer or business devices, like cell phones or laptops, Krammer said.
Instead, he said, the Origami backers believe these units will supplement users existing devices and be one element in a whole family of emerging "Lifestyle PCs"
Editors Note: This story includes news from LinuxDevices.com about the VIA chipset for Origami.