Will Origami Breathe New Life into Mobile PCs?

Updated: Microsoft is targeting its new category of "Lifestyle PCs" to appeal to both enterprise and consumer customers; the first prototypes are due to debut at CeBIT. (Microsoft Watch)

Microsoft is preparing to unfold what it hopes will become a new type of computer: the "Lifestyle PC."

The software giant intends to bring to market a new class of smaller and more versatile, battery-powered computers that offer users greater utility—they could connect to networks and download e-mail or make VOIP (voice-over-IP) phone calls, as well as manage photos, music and videos—but that still use a full version of Windows.

Despite the fact that many others have failed at attempting to create small computers that run full versions of Windows, Microsoft appears to believe it can win thanks to improvements in processors and screens as well as its own internal efforts.

The first of the new devices will be based around a platform code-named "Origami." Prototypes of the first Origami ultra-mobile devices are expected to be shown by a handful of PC makers on March 9 at next weeks CeBIT show in Hanover, Germany.

Signs point to Intel and Microsoft working together on the Lifestyle PC concept, which could dovetail with an Intel initiative, dubbed the Ultra-mobile PC. Intel will share more information on its small portable PC platform at its Developer Forum in San Francisco the week of March 6.

One source suggested that the Lifestyle PCs could use low power and low-cost single-core chips from Intel, allowing them hit the $500 mark, but still offer lengthy battery life. Although, given that Windows can run on all x86 chips, the possibility for PC makers to pair the platform with Advanced Micro Devices or VIA Technologies chips could remain, as well.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more speculation about Microsofts "Origami" project: Could the result be an alternative to the iPod?

Thus far Microsoft has declined to comment on the aim of the Origami project. Instead it has used its www.origamiproject.com Web site to tease curious viewers. The site, however, appears to tip the companys hand slightly by proclaiming "Origami Project: the Mobile PC running Windows XP" inside the HTML source code of one page.

The new devices will be smaller than the smallest of the slate or convertible-style Tablet PCs that are available today. But they will be bigger than PocketPCs and smart phones and are unlikely to ship with keyboards. They are instead being designed with touch and a stylus as the preferred input mechanisms, sources familiar with the matter said.

Although some prototypes are slates with buttons on either side, Origami systems are expected to come in a variety of form factors. Among them will be a convertible-style Tablet device with a hinge, code-named "Kinesis," sources added.

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