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Samsung Q1 Ultra

Asus T83 -- image courtesy Engadget
Microsoft's UMPC platform is a year old, but how far has it come?

Just over a year ago, Microsoft hailed its UMPC platform as the next step in mobile computing. The premise was sound: provide a full Windows-based operating system in a hand-held form-factor that would slot in between a traditional PDA and a notebook computer.

"We believe that (ultra-mobile PCs) will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as the mobile phone today," said Microsoft VP Bill Mitchell when the platform was first launched.

Despite the initial hype, the first generation UMPCs didn't quite make the splash in the marketplace that Microsoft had once hoped for. Samsung says that its UMPC sales have failed to meet expectations and that it sold less than 100,000 of its Q1 during 2006 -- the company hopes to sell 300,000 units in 2007.

There are a number of key reasons why the platform has floundered thus far: High price of entry, high system weight, meager system/video performance and poor battery life. Until these issues are addressed, sales may never take off for the platform.

Samsung is addressing three of the four above issues with its Q1 Ultra. Samsung has managed to lower the weight of its UMPC from 1.7 pounds for the Q1 to 1.5 pounds for the Q1 Ultra. The Q1 offers an 800MHz Core 2-based processor and Intel's 965 chipset to boost overall system performance. And lastly, battery life has been boosted from roughly 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours (6 hours with the extended battery pack).

Samsung still hasn't addressed the issue of pricing, however. The Q1 Ultra is expected to retail for around $1,200 USD when it is released. That's still a far cry from the low of $599 that Microsoft envisioned when it created the UMPC sector and is roughly the same price as a first generation Q1 with a 1.0GHz Pentium M 723 processor.

Acer is less than optimistic about the current state of affairs with the UMPC platform. As it stands, the company is still taking a "wait and see" approach to the platform.

"If you think about the ultramobile PC, you need first of all battery life that is like a telephone. with a telephone, you have 12 or 15 hours of battery life without a problem," said Acer president Gianfranco Lanci. "We need to wait another 18 months or 24 months before this is ready," he said.

Lanci also points to the subpar graphics available with most UMPCs. "You have very good graphics on the notebooks, but you also need very good graphics on the ultramobile PC."

Finally, Lanci points to the need for inexpensive 3G connectivity options. The Samsung Q1 Ultra throws not only WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR at the user, but also WiBRO (the mobile version of WiMAX) and HSDPA connectivity. "[3G and WiMAX] must be available, but at an affordable price, otherwise people won't use it."

The next few months should be rather interesting as we are sure to see more second generation devices announced. So far it seems that UMPCs have taken one step forward with the Samsung Q1 Ultra and one step backward with the new Asus T83 UMPC, which looks more like a miniature Tablet PC than a UMPC. The T83 in most respects is not as evolved as its R2H predecessor: Asus managed to launch a device that is larger, heavier, slower and has less features than the device that proceeded it.

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Who uses these??
By alienbibin on 3/21/2007 12:56:17 AM , Rating: 4
He says the UMPC falls in between a laptop and a mobile phone. In my opinion it lacks the qualities of both. As its obvious that it cannot give u the processing power and display of that of a laptop as well as it cant offer the portability of a mobile phone. This maybe the reason why this sector has not flourished!

RE: Who uses these??
By Alaa on 3/21/2007 1:58:37 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly! UMPCs are still somehow big with lesser functionality than a why should I buy this over a laptop?? or even a tablet!!?

RE: Who uses these??
By Chadder007 on 3/21/2007 2:40:45 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Why not just use a Tablet PC?

RE: Who uses these??
By spartan014 on 3/22/2007 5:03:12 AM , Rating: 2
What it needs is more than just a new name for a bloated PDA.

To be appealing, it needs some functionality that would be exclusive to a UMPC. Anyone already owning a laptop and a cellphone can easily chose to not have one of these. Why dish out another 1200 dollars?

Look how the iPhone captured everyone's attention with a single demo six months prior to its launch.. If these UMPC's had at least one innovative feature capable of turning a few heads, they'd sell more..

RE: Who uses these??
By noirsoft on 3/22/2007 12:54:20 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, Steve Jobs could pull a polished turd out of his pocket at a MacWorld and everyone would call it "An innovative new multimedia device with an intuitive interface"

Back on topic, the PocketPC took several revisions before it began to take off against Palm (and it took Palm dropping the ball as well) -- I imagine the UMPC will eventually find its niche and hardware better geared towards that market, assuming enough manufacturers stick it out.

RE: Who uses these??
By Triring on 3/21/2007 2:30:47 AM , Rating: 4
I think this thing is ahead of it's time and needs more tweeking. The back light for the monitor should be changed into white LEDs and apply larger SSD.
When wireless access points becomes more available in public places it can act as a great tool for skype recievers for visual connections.
It also can act as a home automation control terminal like Harmony if companies pitch in and provide infra red keys on the web.
As for gaming if you look at Sony's PSP or Nitendo's DS Lite success I think it has more to offer then those proprietary hardwares.
It works great as a PDA.

RE: Who uses these??
By Lazarus Dark on 3/21/2007 5:44:20 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the big thing missing from these is linux. Of course MS wants to sell you another copy of vista but I think linux would work much better, the linux community should start on a new distro specifically for umpc's with full driver support (their are a limited number of umpc's and they are not upgradeable/configurable so it shouldn't be too difficult). Linux would run smoother on the lower speed hardware and most especially I think more uses would open up for umpc's and new applications for them.

But that aside, if the price came to say 600, I would jump on it. I never carry my laptop around because it's too bulky. Phones are too small and awkward for anything other than talking in my opinion. But there are times I wish I had a medium sized device for some quick web browsing or for playing a short vid. A umpc with a 64gb ssd would make a perfect pmp for music and video. Home automation sounds interesting too. New uses like video calls over wifi.

So, I could get a phone, pmp, home automation remote, and tablet pc for a couple thousand OR I could get a umpc for <1000 with all the functionality in one device. Hmmm. Doesn't sound so useless or overpriced in that context, does it?

RE: Who uses these??
By Triring on 3/21/2007 9:36:12 AM , Rating: 2
It may sound cheesy but with a built-in vid cam and mic. on these you can actually use them like those recording devices that comes out on Star Trek.
Record visual logs instead of writing them.

It's just a matter of developing new applications for these devices.

RE: Who uses these??
By cheetah2k on 3/21/2007 11:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
You know, the reason why these aren't popular, is because none of the manufacturers are actually listening to industry and user requirements

Until then, they will be a fraking waste of mulah

RE: Who uses these??
By kibets on 3/21/2007 6:37:13 AM , Rating: 2
I use one, perfect if you spend a lot of time in airports and hotels! Fits perfectly in my carry on bag and is great for browsing the net while waiting in long check in lines. A laptop would be akward and clumsy.

Outside of this, not sure who uses them. I have never seen one besides the one I own. And i will be popoping for the Q1 Ultra even at $1200 it is too sexy!

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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