Simon says: UMPCs are a disaster

Simonsez_1After reading yet another "UMPCs are doomed" article, I think it’s time to roll up my sleeves; I’m about to get my hands dirty. The tabloid-like site that covers technology, "The Inquirer", has the latest gossip on UPMCs from the Computex show. Simon Burns used three of the UMPCs and basically says that the devices are a disaster. We’ve heard what Simon says (I never was good at that game), so it’s time for Simon to hear my side. Right off the bat: like so many others, Simon just doesn’t get it.

Simon says: "most of the software was designed for larger PCs and is totally unsuited to the UMPC’s unique features. "
Kevin says:  "Due to screen resolutions, some applications can present a challenge; I’ve even outlined one of these outliers, but was able to work around it relatively easily. Additionally, I’ve yet to find an application that I actually need to use that doesn’t work on the UMPC."

Simon says: "the UMPC is getting such atrocious reviews from technology publications. Because these reviewers are serious PC users – and if you try to use the handheld UMPC like a PC, you’ll soon throw it to the floor in disgust (or you might just drop it when the weight overcomes you)."
Kevin says: "Technology publications have missed the point of the device, so these poor reviews are expected. How many of these pubs have on-staff experts in mobile technology? How many of these reviewers do their work in a car, at a Little League game, at a neighbors house, in a shopping mall, or while a child is taking swim lessons at the local YMCA? I’d likely say none of these reviewers do that on a daily basis, but I have and do since all of the situations I’ve outlined are real. Oh, and just how much does your heavier laptop weigh since they have much more power and usability? I’d guess that they weigh more than two pounds so exactly why are you complaining about the weight of a UMPC?"

Simon says: "This dilemma highlights one of the unresolved contradictions that undermines the UMPC concept. You have the ultimate pointing device here: a touch screen. It’s the only input device that lets you simply point at what you want. Until we have USB ports on the back of our heads, things won’t get any simpler than this. So you have the perfect pointing device. But you can’t use it. With both hands gripping the edges of the UMPC, your thumbs only reach the bottom corners of the screen. Most of the standard Windows software has controls which are out of your reach."
Kevin says: "Exactly how do you use your laptop (or desktop, for that matter) with one hand? Now, THAT would be a great article that I would read. Take a chance and hold your UMPC with one hand Simon; if I can hold the 2 pounder in one hand (and I’m a minuscule 125 pounds), I’m betting you can too. Ironically, at only 5’5", I can hold my Q1 with two hands as you suggest and still reach every bit of the screen with my thumbs. Oh and one question for Simon and all of the other reviewers: how long have you used and how proficient are you with the Windows XP Tablet Edition OS?"

Simon says: "It’s particularly telling, I think, that current UMPC’s have shorter battery life than many of the devices above them on the mobile product ladder (notebooks), and also below them (smartphones). "
Kevin says: "I’m disappointed in the battery life as well, yet I can get through the day with my power adapter or a secondary battery. There’s definitely a compromise in battery life for weight and the first laptops faced the same challenge. While there’s much room for improvement, I can be mobile for a full 3 hours with my Q1; if I expect I’ll be away from all power sources for that long, I’ll make the sacrifice of carrying around a secondary battery."

I really don’t mean to bash Simon here; he’s entitled to his opinion and I respect that. I’m simply using his article as an example because I’ve seen enough of the so-called technology experts miss the boat here. They’re not missing the boat on the actual hardware and software (even though they seem to keep focusing on it), they’re missing the concept of the UMPC devices.

Here’s my basic interpretation of the concept:

  • This device will be a companion device for most, a primary device for very few.
    UMPCs must make compromises, just like every other class of device out there. You sacrifice computing power for mobility or battery life for weight. Every other device starting out did the same, so let’s cut the UMPCs some slack.
  • You will be able to take this device places that you would leave other devices behind. What good is the best laptop if it weighs seven pounds and has a 15-inch screen if you left it at home?
  • You’ll have a wide choice of input methods available to you, giving you greater choices over other device input methods, i.e.; the UMPC is more of a "personal" computer than anything else out there today.

It wasn’t that long ago, say about 7 or 8 years ago, when we started to see PDAs that brought the same types of reviews. The Pocket PCs were underpowered, didn’t provide much value, didn’t have a keyboard, etc….so what good were they? Look at what those devices have evolved into given today’s Smartphone convergence with Pocket PCs. Is anyone still calling them "a disaster"? Simon and others: give the UMPC a chance and recognize it for what it IS and not so much what it ISN’T.

By the way: I wrote this entire post while on the road in varying locations with my UMPC. As a disclaimer, I’d be thrilled to know where Simon was and what device he used for his article, but Simon didn’t say.

-kct

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