The misunderstood UMPC


Jk_icon_100pix_5All of the bad press that the UMPC/ Origami has been getting finally got to Kevin and he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.  Kevin does a great point/ counterpoint with the Inquirer reviewer and even though I have already chimed in on this topic the Inquirer review that got Kevin hopping mad is worth a response from me too so here it is.

Mobile PC– a PC designed to be used away from the normal setting one might use a computer.  That means away from the desk and all the peripherals one usually finds attached to a PC.  The point that most reviewers are missing is that also means a mobile PC can be used virtually everywhere else.  Now I don’t know about you but I don’t want to carry a 5 pound notebook computer with me on vacation, but I have no problem carrying a Mobile PC.  I don’t want to carry the 14 inch screen with me as it’s too bulky and well, big.  That’s why I love a 7 inch (or smaller) screen.  Out in the real world a smaller screen (and thus device) is an advantage, not a disadvantage.  People who don’t work in the field have no business reviewing Mobile PCs if they can’t see that.  It is simple, really.  It is all about using the proper tool for the task at hand.  If I wanted to do some intensive video editing I wouldn’t do it on a UMPC, nor notebook either for that matter.  I’d get the biggest, baddest, most powerful desktop PC I could find.  That’s just common sense because it’s the right tool for the job.  But if I need to get some work with email, or web surfing I don’t need that honking desktop.  I can use a notebook computer for that.  And if I want to do that work in a restaurant at lunch in a place with very limited space, I’ll use a Mobile PC. 

Everybody wants long battery life but to compare the UMPC battery life with that of a large notebook or worse yet a Smartphone is simply missing the boat.  The battery in my car lasts a couple of years, should I compare that to a Smartphone’s battery?  I think not, it’s a silly comparison and I find it just as silly to compare the battery life of a device like either a UMPC or a notebook PC with a Smartphone.  Totally different animal.  Battery life gets better as technology progresses and so it will be with the UMPC.  I have used so many different notebook computers over the years and I always bought a second battery when I bought the computer.  It is the best way to extend the use of any mobile computer and the UMPC is no different.  In this scenario the UMPC is at an advantage as the UMPC spare battery is probably going to be a lot cheaper and smaller to carry in the gadget bag than the larger notebook battery.

Kevin took umbrage at the statement in the Inquirer review that “reviewers are serious PC users” and the fact that that’s why they hit the UMPC so hard.  Excuse me?  I have been using mobile devices (no I’m not going to say it) for years and I am confident I can get more done during the unexpected chunks of time that present themselves during a day (that the reviewer will miss because he can’t use his notebook) than just about anybody.  This is only possible because I can easily pull out my Mobile PC anywhere and be productive when those precious free moments present themselves.  That’s a serious PC user, to me.  The truth of the matter is that most reviewers write for a living and depend on a good keyboard and large screen (due to their failing eyesight) to facilitate their work.  I write a lot too and I can sympathize with them but that is not the normal type of work that most people who are interested in a Mobile PC do each day.  When you read such a review as the Inquirer piece just remember that. 

This entire article was created on a Mobile PC running the Tablet extensions for Windows XP by dictating it into the PC, using the speech recognition software included on all UMPCs.  Serious PC user, indeed.



Alan, a full size keyboard is at least 10 inches wide so what you want, a small PC with a full touch type keyboard won’t work. Me, I prefer a very small Tablet PC and a portable keyboard to use when I need it.


I think the umpc is great in that it proves the tablet OS can be made into a small device; the problem is not necessarily price, battery life, etc. What I believe the root of the issue is that what people want is a computer small enough to carry with you, that uses the standard desktop os so collaboration is direct and easy and we want a keyboard touch type input. If a new umpc was say 3.5 ” to 4″ wide and about 7.5″ long and under one inch thick, had a touch type keyboard then it would be worth up to $1500. But when these devices fall short of what we really want then we worry about the price as it does not meet our full desires in a mobile device.

The closest is the Dualcor, I only wished it had a touch type keyboard. It also would have been beter to be a bit longer to enable room for a nice keyboard and also allow them to design the unit thinner?


i just want to use it as a detachable computer car. i’m getting the eo ‘tricked out’ with 1gb ram and 160gb hdd for nonstop music and dvds!!!!!

live tv streaming via evdo phone thru slingbox!!!

i dont care about nothing else. thanks jk


i bought my q1 2 weeks ago and since then i have done soo much work more than ever. i’m a physical therapist and all we do is note writting thats wat i use my q1 for work. at home i use the the bluetooth connection for my sound system which is received by my surround home system via motorolla dc800, as i browse the web in bed and listen to yahoo top 100. i am just waiting for my car cradle and i am gonna use my q1 for music, gps and video.
my point is that i have so much use for this device like my car i was thinking about getting a dvd player for my deck now i dont have to and gps, the use for this device for me is endless…. can you put your desktop or laptop on the AC vent and use it as your gps, or music/video app. if you dont see the use for this device then i guess you have everything that i use it for but in a bigger package and more expenssive one.

Loulou Desbois

I saw a CNET journalist in front of a camcorder who describe one UMPC like a technical and medical first approach ! Funny but what is the “plus-value” of the video here ? So much bandwith for a little journalist “flop” exercise ! With video, I want one or two days in the town speedy activities to expertise the usability of compact PC like Origamis. Not a simple point of view with no real test. Test and no more personnal “Blah-blah” comming of a quick circular point of view !

And after this approach, what is available for changing some bad points of this first UMPC generation. For example, i use Portable Firefox on my Samsung Q1 and for a wide and comfortable screen use, i put some extensions : Grab and drag to have a simply way to navigate with a grab hand. FirefoxMenuButtons to have a full screen button and a letter button for biggest or smaller text by simple clics, SuperDragandGo to drag url to get a new tab automatically (force compatibility with Nightly Tester Tool extension) and GeckoTip (with Floatingtip.exe in the role of rescue “gri-gri”)….. Web is really nice now on a 7″ screen.

Some “gadgets” like “Calculator for tabler PC” (PowerToys) are good soft accessories… I hope the same handwriting way for a “Launchy” future clone (launcher freeware). And what about a virtual trackball on screen like a Yahoo Widget way ?

And so much like that…

Best regards from Paris (France)

Loulou Desbois



I am so glad that someone finally said it. I was going to write a humorous post explaining that the UMPC would only be worth it if it had a 12-volt battery, four tires, leather seats, and GPS installed. Oh, and it would definitely need a Lexus logo on it. Very few reviewers understand the point of these devices. I have a Tecra M4 and love it, but it is too big to use in every situation. Nor do I want to haul it from meeting to meeting across town just to take notes. With the new beta of OneNote, I could share my notebooks with the Tecra and a UMPC and lighten my load considerably. I understand that the price is high right now, but productivity and convienence comes at a price. This device is not for everyone, just like a Bentley is not for everyone. People need to give it a chance and realize that the price will drop eventually and more consumers will be able to afford it. But until then, it definitely has a value to the highly mobile with the funds to afford it.


I disagree, the problem is that microsoft hyped these things as being the next great wonder.

Suppose you bought a car that was touted to get 50 mpg and it only gets 20, you might get a bit peeved at that.

I don’t think that attacking the reviewers as ‘not getting it’ is the right way to go, I think they do ‘get it’. It’s just that they don’t see it being worth the money and (again) hype. Perhaps they looked at the ultra portables (as opposed to your 5lb 14″ notebook) and don’t see the sparkle that you do.

I don’t think that telling me to purchase an extra battery is the solution and the statement that it *should* be cheaper isn’t really a good argument. These devices *should* be cheaper to begin with.

If the manufactures stay with the platform for a couple years and we get some decent selection (say, more than one model) then I think that a couple versions from now might be worthy. Problem is that Microsoft really blew it with the over hype.

Microsoft should have known what the expected price was going to be and how long the performance would be (I do get a true 5 hours on my Sony without the wireless (because I’m on an airplane)). Of course the upside is that I can watch a dvd or use a real keyboard.

If Microsoft didn’t know that the price would be high or the battery life would suck then there are much bigger problems than them just lying to us.

I think you need to compare the UMPCs to the ultralight notebooks, not the 5lb 14″ unit or your desktop since that’s just silly. I used to compare my car to a dragster until my wife told me that it was just wrong.

I tend to be an early adopter and as such have been burned a lot of times over the hype, I have a pile of stuff in a corner gathering dust.

On the PDA front I’ve finally left the smartphone arena where I had 2 phones, one PDA phone and one smart phone (the smartphone was used when I went jogging, etc). The battery life stunk, the functionality was poor and now I’m back to JANP (just a normal phone), sure is nice to go a week without having to charge a phone).

I would love to have something like a UMPC to use while watching my son at sports practice (a large part of our lives it seems) but these just aren’t there. I’m probably going to get a DS Lite to carry me though the wait :-)

What would be really cool is a slate tablet with both an active digitizer and the ability to use your finger.. that would be cool..


Hi there,
Im loving my samsung q1, i haveacually sold my desktop computer bar the 23″ ACD and the altec lansing speakers, just waiting for my vga-dvi convertor from then i can output straight to my monitor!! The Q1 runs everything i want it to:
Office 2007 beta 2
Autoroute 2006 with tom tom gps
Macromedia Studio 8
Photoshop cs2
Sonicstage 4.0
Nero 7
most importantly: first curacao and hsbc business banking.
Loads of Games and xvid movies.
Got when home i have all my other devices connected to it:
Sony Ericsson M600i
External 200gig Backup Drive
External DVD Writer
Bluetooth mouse and keyboard
wingman 2

Its light, responsive, dead easy to use, snappy (as long as you get the 1 gig stick of ram, quiet, doesnt get as hot a my old powerbook, Battery life is just as good as laptops.
I even think fo new tech the price was very good here in the uk, i paid 750+vat for the q1 and 1gig memory.

I can actually have all my paperwork, the q1, power adaptor, trust bluetooth mouse, sony walkman and psp in my bag without breaking my back.

I will however probably buy the official keyboard and case when i can find one.

A true desktop tower replacement (everything but latest pc gaming that is) in my eyes.

Its only a matter of time before people click on and realise the full potential of the umpcs.


Frank, you are absolutely right in everything you say but what I want to make sure happens is that when reviewers compare UMPCs to notebooks they compare everything, especially usage scenarios. It is an accurate statement to say that UMPC X gets less battery life than big laptop Y but to be fair explain to readers where the UMPC can do things that laptops can’t. That’s all I am saying.


When I showed some friends the pics and pieces of video from your UX50 review, most people said what’s the point. They don’t see how it would be useful in how they use computers. I think the UX50 and other UMPC like devices are going to be more common place eventually and I am fully convinced that once someone actually tries it and gives it the honest college try, that it will definitely take off.

How would I use a UMPC in my job? Let me count the ways….

1. I am a sysadmin and something like this equipped with a evdo or free wifi would be very useful. I could use it almost anywhere and would be able to fix just about any server issue. When I need to do the 5 minute fix I don’t need a 17 inch screen. The screen on a UX 50 or UMPC is perfect for this use.

2. E-mail….what better way of doing e-mail then using the SAME app as you use on your desktop and laptop. The UX50 is even more suitable then the Samsung Q1.

3. Laptop replacement…..for a work issued device, I would rather have this. At home and at work I would just have a dock and drop it in and use it like a normal laptop. In the field I would use it anywhere a laptop would not work.

4. GPS Mapping software….this thing is small enough one could mount it on a a stalk and have a better moving map then a BMW has….in thier Chevy.

5. Meetings….this would be awesome in meetings and in classes and speechs as it would totaly eliminate the picket fence effect and be just as useable as a laptop.

6. Calendaring and Project management…again, you’d have the SAME app as you would on your desktop. You could access the same file anywhere on your corporate wifi network.

7. Data collection….you could have multiple UMPC’s and be walking down a line of people asking questions to see if they need to be in a line. Need to look something up or assist them or even take the order you could do it right then and there. You could also use it for recording survey data (do you like the taste of the new fudgy bar??). Nurses could use this in the room for looking up medcines (I belive this is a vertical category, but I would use it to collect data also).

8. PDF reader….the UMPC would instantly become my PDF reader…if the umpc has a rotateable screen, I would rotate it and view the PDF in portrait mode.

9. Media player….with NO limitations…watch MP4, Quicktime or WMA or Theora….your NOT limited by the company who ships you your umpc.

Finally, the size of any umpc makes it perfect for those trying to get work done on a cramped comuuter plane or in the airport lounge or at lunch.

Frankly, I wish more reviewers would actually try ro adopt it and use it for more then just a few hours.

Frank McPherson

I think you guys need to think back to the Pocket PC and Handheld PCs days. You are fighting a losing battle because the real issue here is price. The $1K or greater price of the current UMPCs leads to higher expectations in functionality. At that price reviewers and anyone that is NOT an early adopter are going to draw comparisons to notebook computers and not be willing to accept compromises. If the UMPCs were priced at $500 the reviews would be different because one would be thinking about they great value they are getting for that $500 and be much more willing to accept compromises.

We went down this same path with Handheld and Pocket PCs when the priced significantly north of $500. As early adopters of a new technology you have to be willing to accept that noone else “gets it.”

charles pritt

I agree with you and kevin completely. I too have been around the mobile computers since the early days of the steel compaq 30 pound wonders. I suppose the dude from the enquirer would praise a Dell 4 pound laptop as being not heavy when compared to a 6 pound laptop but yet he thins the 1.5 pound UMPC is too heavy????

And as you both have stated, he is missing the point of the value of the mobile uses of the UMPC, when you are having to carry through the airport with all of the other luggage and need to jot some important information in or are stuck somewheres at the Doctor’s office waiting in the waiting room.

Myself, I can’t wait for the Dualcor cPC, I have been saving my dollars and pennies and am hoping it comes out sooner than their last announcement.

By the way I check your blog daily and I think you guys do grat work.

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