The Real UMPC

Opinion: The second round of ultramobile PCs look slightly more promising, but it's still a dubious market.

HANNOVER, Germany—Round 1 of the ultramobile PC product intros took place here at the CeBIT trade show a year ago. At that introduction, Microsoft, Intel and bunch of PC vendors fell all over themselves extolling the benefits of the UMPC.

Like lots of product introductions, the reality was a bit different. The first round was not particularly mobile with an anemic battery life and limited connectivity. They certainly were not ultralight or small. And without a keyboard, you werent going to do a whole lot of your usual PC activities. Not sufficiently small and stylish to replace your ever-more intelligent phone/PDA and not sufficiently versatile to replace your ever-lighter laptop. Now there is a market for you.

/zimages/7/28571.gifWhere is the UMPCs niche? Click here to read more.

Anyway, this years CeBIT featured the return of the UMPC. Samsung, in introducing the Q1 Ultra, gets some credit for being the first to try to fix some major shortcomings. It has extended the battery life (Samsung claims you can get 3.5 hours on a standard four-cell battery) and put about every kind of network connection you could concoct, including Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g wireless. The system looks less like a brick and has trimmed weight as well. The system runs Vista Home Premium Edition and has a split QWERTY keyboard, which, while a little bit awkward, seems usable. No one seemed to be talking price, but the rumor was between $1,000 and $1,200.

Heres my suggestion: For the next CeBIT, put in a full-size keyboard, extended lithium-ion battery, clamshell cover, lots of ports and a decent-sized screen. Voila, the perfect UMPC. If you notice that youve just built a laptop computer, maybe you can just drop the UMPC moniker and call it what it is, or—more precisely—what it should be.

eWEEK Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at

/zimages/7/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.