"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
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.