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Summary:

Few devices in recent memory have generated the near fanaticism as have the devices that fit in the category of ultra-portable computers (UPCs). Devices like the OQO and Flipstart have whole websites dedicated to these specific machines and they are not even released yet. Both devices […]

Few devices in recent memory have generated the near fanaticism as have the devices that fit in the category of ultra-portable computers (UPCs). Devices like the OQO and Flipstart have whole websites dedicated to these specific machines and they are not even released yet. Both devices have been vaporware for more than a year and still the followers are talking about them in forums like they exist. Why does this genre of device generate such excitement for mobile tech geeks?First let’s define what has come to be described as a UPC. A UPC is a full laptop-like computer, typically running some flavor of Windows XP, that is a small enough size to be used in the hand. Slightly bigger than a PDA, since they need a larger screen to be usable, with a hard disk of at least 20 gigs, and enough memory to make Windows XP run acceptably. Some of these devices have a touch screen allowing pen input and control, and others are keyboard/ mouse only. The form factor is important as the device must be small and light enough to take anywhere, as the key to a successful UPC is how easily you can carry it with you. If you don’t have it with you it can’t help you. It’s this “always with you” attribute that has all these potential customers chomping at the bit for one of these devices. Is that reason enough? I think so and I’ll tell you why.

I take my UPC with me everywhere, just like I have always carried a PDA. I never know when I’ll need it or when I’ll have some unexpected free time to actually do something, so it’s always with me in a little gadget bag. Yesterday my wife and I stopped by her aunt’s house for a short visit. During our conversation I mentioned this blog and told her about the from the heart article posted here. I have received a lot of emails from potential heart surgery patients, and some cardiologists who’ve seen the articles. She seemed really interested in seeing the article so I whipped out my Sony U-70 and connected to the Internet via my Bluetooth phone. Went straight to the article and passed the UPC to her so she could read it. She was really happy to read the article, and reading it while sitting in her favorite chair in her living room was icing on the cake. None of this would have been possible if I didn’t have the UPC with me. I would have written down the web site URL, and then written down instructions on where to go on the site to find the article. Most likely she would not be able to follow the directions (she’s not computer literate) and would never have seen it. It would have been forgotten.This is why so many people are so excited about this class of computer. Full computer, all the time.

  1. Are you sure it’s not just the “early adopters” who get excited? I know I love this stuff….but I mention it to people I work with and it I get a “hmmmmmm…intersting” response…. I think you should talk about what is wrong with our genetic code that makes “us” get all reved (sp?) up about this stuff! and why do I care about how “reved” up is spelled?

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  2. The fact that you have a Toshiba e805 and a Motorola V710 puts you firmly in the early adopter category. :) The difference between you and those people you work with are that they say “hmmmmmm…interesting” and you do something about it. Revved.

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  3. Interesting post James (as usual). It seems to me that pocket pcs have only a couple of pluses at this point: instant on and relative cost. I can picture these pluses becoming irrelevant within a year or so, as early adopters (me included) find an ultra-portable and smartphone combo that makes having a ppc unnecessary (and undesirable).

    Later,
    Bruce

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  4. Actually I think there will be a firm place for PDAs due to price factors. Ultra portables will never be as cheap as people want and still have the features that consumers want. Let’s face it, the PPCs that are selling like hotcakes now are the $200 – $300 models. The high ends are not moving very fast as the majority of users are just looking for simple PDAs.

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  5. bk, it’s not just the early adopters that get excited by this technology. Over 50,000 reads of the Sony U-70 review in the first 18 hours, and most of those Linux users from Slashdot. There are tens of thousands of people wanting power that’s portable.

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