UMPC- the end of the PDA?

17 Comments

Microsoft MVP Darryl Burling has posted a prediction that the high-end PDA will disappear in the next few years with the release of the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC).

The UMPC will probably mean that the larger form factor Pocket PC’s will dissapear over time. This of course makes perfect sense, given that the larger Pocket PC’s fill a niche that would be better served with a UMPC – i.e. something that has a form factor big enough to use comfortably, but powerful enough to do most tasks with. Unfortunately high end Pocket PC’s have largely failed in the latter regard – as they just dont have the power to easily handle applications that you’d want in the larger form factor. Not to mention that most of these devices dont have phone functionality, so they are not even connected all the time.

Darryl may be on to something but it is important to take the form factor into account. The UMPC is much larger than any Pocket PC or PDA and I don’t see a lot of owners of these devices dropping them for a device that is two times the size. While it is true that the full power of the UMPC makes it a much better alternative to the PDA (at least for me) that alone won’t necessarily entice PDA owners to drop them. I think even when UMPCs are released that rival the PDA price-wise there will still be those who prefer a smaller device, especially one that will fit in a pocket. What do you think?

(via UMPC Buzz)

17 Comments

Scotty

Here are my specs for a PDA killer… it will likely violate the $149 rule, :-), but its durability and features should pretty much demolish PDA’s (and tablet PC’s…)

My idea of a Ultra Mobile Personal Slate Device

Lets begin with the side everyone will spend the most time with: the display.

The display is edge to edge with a small margin due to technical constraints. The material is polycarbonate thick enough to survive being dropped on concrete from 1m. The polycarbonate is coated with enough scratch protectant resin that you can use it to strop your ginzu after using the ginzu to cut pennies in half. The polycarbonate wraps around the face of the unit creating 5 sides of a cube that is perfectly hermetic on the 5 polycarbonate sides. This renders the unit 100% water proof on the 5 sides.

The display is composed of a mixed array of organic LED and photo diodes ink jet printed on a sheet of polythiopene. The LED’s compose the color display which is 18cm diagonal with a PPC of 80. The photo diodes compose a touch sensor that works with either a infrared inked stylus or bare human fingers (both being good IR targets to track). The array is capable of “multi touch” detection aka “Minority Report UI”. The polythiopene sheet is through holed with a surface mount interconnection on the backside which is then conformally bonded and connected to the logic board.

The logic board is some sort of x86 capable system with the specs up to the various makers. The major spec that isn’t up for negotiation is that the unit uses either 4 2GB or 4 8GB Samsung NAND Flash memory chips as its solid state disk drive. This spec removes a large heavy power hungry shock vulnerable part from the system (making it possible for the polycarbonate to easily withstand that 1m fall).

The other major spec for the logic board is inductive charging (more on this in a second).

The CPU is thermally connected to the back of the unit via a thin polymer heat pipe. The thickness of the heat pipe is set by the thickness of the NEC Lithium Polymer 5 minute charging battery (the thickness of the battery being mandated by the CPU selected). It is anticipated the unit will be approximately 9mm thick.

The back of the unit is gasketed into the polycarbonate 5 sided cube. The gasket would be sufficient to take a shower but not a bath with the unit aka can stand being sprayed with water but don’t take it swimming. That back plate is tungsten nickel alloy (practically unscratchable, undentable, non-ferrous, uncorrodable, non-reactive to human skin oils and will stay shiny to assist in applying makeup or shaving for the life of the unit) that has been specially treated on both sides with “spider foot” nano structures (similar to those on Glad Press n’ seal wrap). These nano structures serve two purposes. A) they vastly increase the surface area of the panel to facilitate heat disipation. B) They make the unit “tacky” so it tries to stay where you put it which will help keep it from testing the polycarbonate’s impact resistence.

There will be at least two bases available for the unit.

One unit will be a simple hub and charger. The base provides the 750W of energy required to charge the NEC battery via an inductivly coupled charger into the unit. It could also be possible to make units that charge the battery in a half hour and require only 100W of wall power. Maker’s choice.

The hub features are a Wireless USB hub with 4 USB 2.0 ports and an optional dedicated ethernet jack and optional RJ45 phone jack and optional RCA line in/out SPDIF audio hookups.

The super hub would feature an optical drive and/or hard drive.

Both hubs would tilt the unit to a nice angle.

The car hub would feature recharge capability (100W only) and optional GPS and optional speaker phone and would mount the unit for in car navigation usage.

First generation units would feature Wireless USB, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, WiFi A/B/G and either no WAN or EVDO/1xRTT or GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA as BTO.

Second generation units would have a 3 channel software defined radio capable of Bluetooth (any version), WiFi (any version a/b/g/n)/WiMAX/EVDO/1xRTT/GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA and Wireless USB.

The unit would be capable of 16 hours of continuous operation and would 100% recharge in 5 to 30 minutes when placed on top of a hub.

Stylus? Use your finger, if you insist on a stylus tacky it to the back of the unit or carry it in your pocket. We’re not giving up the water tightness and compactness of the unit to store the stylus.

Audio? Use a bluetooth headset and/or get a hub with audio in/out.

D-Pad and/or buttons? Its all about that multi touch capable touch sensor.

Expected weight < .5Kg.

Now that’s an ultra mobile personal tablet “PDA killer”.

Hopefully Steve will make us all one for Christmas. :-)

Rick Mahn

For the time being, a Pocket PC Phone is what I’ve been waiting for for close to three years. In the T-Mobile MDA (a HTC Wizard based device), I’ve found the convergence of PPC, phone, and (reasonably) fast Internet access in one small pocketable device.

In the future, I may go for a Smartphone and UMPC combo, but I just got rid of a two-device setup and couldn’t be happier.

For now, the UMPC will be a curiousity for me – I’ve a need for a new high-end laptop if I was to spend any more coin on a computer.

dbrotzen

For me the UMPC will be the pc around the house, for surfing, controlling the home entertainment center, perhaps bring with me in the car etc etc. For business use I prefer a small convertible tablet. UMPC to replace the PDA? I gave up my Palm when the SonyEricssonUIQ smartphones arrived, and I’ve never looked back.

Scotty

What is being mentioned that PDA’s are dying. They are dying for reasons that the UMPC has ignored and in my opinion is not just ignoring but amplifying.

The Palm Pilot kicked the Newton’s butt because it was cheap, had a smooth workflow, didn’t try to do too much, had excellent battery life, rock solid synchronization and was durable enough you didn’t worry about it breaking.

I’m much more willing to toss a $149 device in my pocket than a $999 device that if it loses the battle with pocket change I’m not going to have an apoplectic incident over.

I understand the choice of the touch film, so folks can use their fingers. But I’m still not convinced the bad old days of touch film have been put behind us. A coin, pen or some hard piece of plastic pressing to hard against the touch film in a pocket/bag will damage it. Rendering the device fairly useless, and as Murphy predicts, at the wrong time. :-)

The LS800 and LE1600 both made the leap to 1.8″ disk drives. Why are the UMPC’s built on 2.5″ hard drives? Could you image babying a 2.5″ drive in an iPod? I have been so happy to know I have a 1.8″ in my LE1600 and wish I could have 30GB of flash instead. I certainly don’t want to turn back the clock and carry around a portable with a 2.5″ drive.

And I hate to say it, but it isn’t truly ultra mobile to me unless you can get a week out of the device. When they claim 3 hours that usually means 1 hour in the real world. And I’m sorry but 1 hour (or even 3) is even less than I got on my Newton’s. With the lack of a backup power source (AA’s anyone?) that means the device can go dead and leave me in the lurch, especially if I have my entire digital life in it. I fly to China all the time, how will the UMPC stay away on the flight to keep me entertained? Microsoft expects me to buy a business class ticket so I can get a power jack for my UMPC?

The term Ultra Mobile means it keeps up with me. It means to me I don’t need to be thinking ahead for my buddy. I go and it comes along with me and doesn’t let me down. If I have to always plan ahead for it, it isn’t ultra mobile. Will it get bumped? Will it get wet? Will it have power? Will it be able to get on the ‘net?

Richard

What I don’t understand about this origami thing is why Microsoft didn’t wait a few months until Window Vista was ready. Vista will probably need some serious hardware to run, and maybe none of these UMPC machines will be capable or running it.

Steven Hughes

Darryl used to be a Mobile Devices MVP, he is currently employed by Microsoft as a Developer Evangelist in Wellington,NZ. :)

Screen size and resolution(besides overall size,battery life, included wirless technologies) are huge factors to making the mobile experience usable. We had WAP, but not enough info was displayed on the screen or it was just too little. The larger the screen the greater potential for more content, higher resolution, etc. The hard part is finding a UI and making applications work on a small screen. Hopefully the Touch Pack and new UI of UMPC will fill that void for smaller screens and will trickle down to screens smaller than 7″ for the uber pocket experience.

But there will never be an uber device for everyone, “One Ring to Rule them All”. People have different needs and user scenarios, just like cars if there was one perfect car we would be like the folks on the Jetsons buzzing around in the same car that folds into a briefcase. :)

Trying to find a sweet spot and having a choice of devices to fit people’s lifestyle and work flow is the best way to go since people have different wants,needs,etc.

We are getting closer to having a device that can do alot and are advancing on making an “almost all in one device” from the likes of OQO and DualCor, but only time will tell as these devices evolve.

I do however feel (and I am sure I am not alone in this) is that the standaone PDA as we know it today is slowly fading away(generally people who want one- already have one or are looking to upgrade to an occasionaly connected model)- with only a small number vertical markets that are starting to emerge. The PDA as we know it has already started to evolve into either a small slate PC or always connected device like a Pocket PC Phone edition/Smartphone that can be easily pocketed. I too have always fell into a dual device camp with a smartphone device for being connected and quick triage, pulling up information,etc and having heavy lifting apps done on a laptop/tablet size yet to be determined…:)

Then again thats my 2 cents with 3 cents change…

Steven Hughes

Darryl used to be a Mobile Devices MVP, he is currently employed by Microsoft as a Developer Evangelist in Wellington,NZ. :)

Screen size and resolution(besides overall size,battery life, included wirless technologies) are huge factors to making the mobile experience usable. We had WAP, but not enough info was displayed on the screen or it was just too little. The larger the screen the greater potential for more content, higher resolution, etc. The hard part is finding a UI and making applications work on a small screen. Hopefully the Touch Pack and new UI of UMPC will fill that void for smaller screens and will trickle down to screens smaller than 7″ for the uber pocket experience.

But there will never be an uber device for everyone, “One Ring to Rule them All”. People have different needs and user scenarios, just like cars if there was one perfect car we would be like the folks on the Jetsons buzzing around in the same car that folds into a briefcase. :)

Trying to find a sweet spot and having a choice of devices to fit people’s lifestyle and work flow is the best way to go since people have different wants,needs,etc.

We are getting closer to having a device that can do alot and are advancing on making an “almost all in one device” from the likes of OQO and DualCor, but only time will tell as these devices evolve.

I do however feel (and I am sure I am not alone in this) is that the standaone PDA as we know it today is slowly fading away(generally people who want one- already have one or are looking to upgrade to an occasionaly connected model)- with only a small number vertical markets that are starting to emerge. The PDA as we know it has already started to evolve into either a small slate PC or always connected device like a Pocket PC Phone edition/Smartphone that can be easily pocketed. I too have always fell into a dual device camp with a smartphone device for being connected and quick triage, pulling up information,etc and having heavy lifting apps done on a laptop/tablet size yet to be determined…:)

Then again thats my 2 cents with 3 cents change…

DSN207

I think the higher-end PDA (with or without phone capability) is in even more serious trouble with the advent of the UMPC. I’ve used Pocket PCs (PPCs) since before they were PPCs and have chafed every day of that time over their shortcomings. Almost every aspect of the experience has been a compromise at best. Either the applications lacked important features for smooth interoperability with their desktop equivalents (Outlook and Word) or the screen size didn’t permit a viable user experience (web browsing). Phone capabilities and connectivity via wireless carriers just adds more problems than are solved. A PDA needs a good keyboard to be a good phone, and none of the approaches to adding a keyboard to PPCs result in a device that’s both a good PPC and a good phone. Then throw a wireless carrier into the mix, restricting important features to enhance their revenue position. No thank you. For me, the future will be a smartphone device running Windows Mobile for my “always at hand” information needs and a UMPC-like device to replace the notebook that I’ve continued to carry since the PPC was never really enough.

Scott_H

Here was a comment I posted on a thread posing a similar question (will the UMPC be a Palm-killer?) on the Brighthand Palm forums:

“The UMPC is basically just a half-sized tablet PC with a few more trade-offs, but otherwise with most of the same pros and cons as a full-sized tablet. I don’t see this being a Palm-killer any time soon any more than any other competing “portable” device has been a Palm-killer (and there have been smaller, full-fledged Windows devices for many years, now).

“While it would be great to be able to carry a full-fledged Windows PC with me everywhere, the UMPC still doesn’t make that much more convenient than any other tablet. In my view, the OQO is closer to my vision of something that could make me give up my Palm TX. But, of course, it’s too expensive and still too big to be pocketable.

“My Palm TX is an adequate laptop replacement for me, right now. It’s by no means perfect, but it has enough capability that when I’m out and about I can do most of the things I used to use my laptop for when I was travelling — email (with attachments), IM, casual document creation and editing (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), and web surfing. And, I really like the fact that I can slip it in my pocket just as easily as my wallet. I carry it everywhere.”

Jeff Singfiel

In addition to what’s been said, that battery life is going to be an issue as well. My Sony CLIE TH55 can go almost a full work-week before it really needs to be charged. I would love to have a UMPC, but until it’s instant-on and has better battery life it won’t fill the PDA niche.

That said, I’d still love to have one and I think that, in the future, these are going to make PalmOS and Windows Mobile really struggle. If/when the issues we’re talking about are resolved I would be ecstatic to do away with conduits, hotsyncing, etc.

msafi

Remember, the first generation of the Origami is not exactly what Microsoft invisioned. They wanted it to be smaller and better, and they hope to acheive that in the following generations, so when that’s acheived, the UMPC could take a bite from the PDA market, but i don’t know if it’ll completely eliminate it…

Burning Orange

I use a pdaphone (Imate JAM) for my PDA+phone needs, and it is small enough to always be on me. I’m a big fan of the PDA, but needed one with a phone. No keyboard and no antenna sticking out (the Treo is a horror).

My LS800 (essentially a UMPC for me) is my work laptop+media player in one. Bluetooth Activesync between the two, and my PIM are identical on both at all times.

And with the ORB software running on my home theatre PC, I have wireless access from anywhere to all my media: music in lossless FLAC, movies, videos, photos. Although not TV, because my TV card isn’t recognised.

If the LS800 had inbuilt GPS and a camera for video-skype (like the upcoming Asus R2H UMPC), and a good battery life, it would be perfect.

So in all, I think that the UMPC + small PDA(phone) complement each other very well.

Alslayer

People really like being able to stick a device in their pocket. I personally don’t have large enough pockets for pda sized stuff. I usually keep it in my laptop bag.

Who knows if we will have a UMPC that is low cost and pda sized. I think it will come.

JoeT

I agree. Pocketability is important to me (also instant on, flash toughness, long battery life). My walk-around computer is a PDA rather than my U750P, which has evolved to be used like a typical (though very small) laptop. Don’t know if there are enough people like me to be a continuing market, so may be driven to a Treo or similar. Will buy again a UPC when it’s flash and instant on and maybe 6-7″ screen (with technology that eliminates jaggies caused by resting your palm on the screen).

Alslayer

People really like being able to stick a device in their pocket. I personally don’t have large enough pockets for pda sized stuff. I usually keep it in my laptop bag.

Who knows if we will have a UMPC that is low cost and pda sized. I think it will come.

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