SAN FRANCISCO—Samsung Electronics on May 1 launched its Q1 here—not the companys latest quarterly earnings results, but its first ultramobile PC. The device is the first using the “Origami” mini-Tablet reference design from Microsoft and Intel, introduced in March at the CeBIT expo in Germany.
According to officials, small computers, running the Tablet version of Windows, will be available from Best Buys online story starting May 7 and in stores in the summer.
The device, which runs Microsofts Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system, costs $1,099 and comes standard with a 40GB hard drive, 512MB of memory and a USB cable. A variety of accessories are available from Samsung for the Q1, including a keyboard, DVD drive and extra power packs.
As he walked across the podium, H. S. Kim, executive vice president and general manager of Samsungs Computer System Division, used the Q1 to drive his Microsoft PowerPoint slides during his presentation. He said the Q1 is the first in a forthcoming line of “Q,” or ultraportable, products.
“The target markets are quite wide,” Kim said, pointing to the ultraportables use as a platform for mobile business applications as well as entertainment, such as consumer audio and video playback. Potential markets for the device include sales force automation and education, as well as a mobile content player.
Kim said that research by Samsung and Microsoft shows that the top five capabilities for an ultramobile computer platform like the Q1 are mostly business uses: Internet access for Web surfing (84 percent), checking e-mail (81 percent), viewing Microsoft Office documents in their native applications (71 percent), voice telephony (69 percent) and authoring Office documents (68 percent).
In a series of application demonstrations, representatives from Samsung, Microsoft and Intel showed capabilities aimed at both business users and consumers, including GPS map-based search and quick resolution switching for video playback and games.
Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Microsofts Mobile Platform Division, introduced a new set of applications and input methods called “Touch Pack,” designed specifically for the smaller mobile platform. This bundle includes “Dial Keys,” a thumb input interface using a modified QWERTY interface divided half-and-half on each side of the screen; a modified video player; and a Sudoku puzzle game designed for touch input.
Bob ODonnell, an analyst with IDC, said price may be a sticking point with both businesses and consumers. “At a $599 price, this [ultramobile PC] device is compelling, but at $1,099, its competing against full-blown notebooks. That price will get you a full-featured notebook today,” he said.
Samsung officials at the launch event compared the Q1s capabilities with notebooks in the $1,800 to $2,200 price range.
While the Q1 may have the goods for a “sales weapon,” Samsungs device isnt hardened, ODonnell said. And this segment is a limited audience, he noted.
“Ironically, against some of the verticals its reasonably priced, but the problem is that the vertical products are more robust. For those buyers, the durability issue may be a challenge,” ODonnell continued.
According to the analyst, the Origami platform was originally positioned as a consumer device and thats where it has the most potential. Still, he pointed to a range of other factors that could slow acceptance, such as lack of synchronization and, particularly, license costs for software applications.
“[The Q1 is] a second seat. Its an nth PC, a second or third machine, and because of that there will be the desire to sync [with primary notebooks or desktops],” he said. And users may balk at the current software licensing situation that is tied to use on a single CPU. “Im not buying two copies, one for my notebook and another for this [Q1].
“All in all, the concept is right and theres a lot of interesting capabilities that people would enjoy having, but this price point will be tough to swallow.”