If you watched the video of Bill Gates demonstrating the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) at the WinHEC keynote address like me you probably oohed and ahhed at the thought of such a mobile Tablet PC. What is not clear from the demonstration (since his UMPC is just a mockup) is whether the proposed specs would include a full implementation of the Tablet OS or not, among other things. I’ve given this device a lot of thought since watching the video and thought I would compare this UMPC with the Sony U750 I am currently using. I run it with the full Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system so it’s a fair comparison, I think.
The UMPC is certainly thinner than the Sony and that is very appealing when taken in conjunction with the low proposed weight. The UMPC is reported to be around 500 grams (1 pound) in weight while the Sony weighs in at 1.2 pounds. Looking at battery technology today and advances that have been made in the last few years I can’t see any battery deliver the hopeful 8 hours of UMPC battery life and maintain that svelte form any time soon. The battery will have to cover the entire back of the UMPC to have any chance of extended battery life, just as the Sony battery does now. The Sony gets 3+ hours on a charge which is pretty decent but the battery is probably half the weight of the entire device.
Here are a couple of photos comparing the UMPC as photographed at the WinHEC conference with my Sony U750. I have tried to give a decent comparison of the screen, overall device size, and the Tablet OS Text Input Panel (TIP). Please excuse the fuzzy Sony pictures as my Canon S50 died (won’t power on at all) and I took these with my daughter’s HP camera which doesn’t do closeups very well.
Left: UMPC mockup Right: Sony U750P running Tablet Edition
As you can see the screen on the mockup is bigger, reported to be a 6 inch screen compared to the 5 inch screen on the Sony. The additional screen resolution would be very nice I admit but having used the Sony for months I believe the omission of the buttons and joypad controls would be a big mistake. A mobile device such as these must have the ability to quickly turn it on and check information and then turn it back off, something the Sony does very well due to the controls that surround the screen. The additional hardware controls make this easy to do without the stylus when it’s not convenient to bring the stylus out and interact via screen taps. Having a full emulated mouse is a big plus as any Sony U owner will tell you.
This comparison should make at least one thing very clear- it is almost possible to build a UMPC right now, as Sony has nearly done it already. If anyone from Sony is reading this, please make a device like the U750 that has the Tablet Edition OS, a little bigger screen, and the biggest hard drive you can put into it. Don’t worry about the weight as the 1+ pounds of the U750 is not a problem at all. Don’t worry about it being too thick as the U750 now is not too thick for everyday use. Above all else, don’t strip down the functionality of the Tablet OS. Trying to sync two devices is never easy and not necessary if the little Tablet is a full Tablet and not stripped of OS features. It also means that owners can likely use programs they already own instead of having to purchase a whole set of special versions that would be needed on a device with a non-standard OS.