Bob Russell asks: why do we want a UMPC?


Mobileread_logoThis is why I love blogging; the conversational-ism of blogging puts thoughts together in a synergistic way that bring more value than blog posts by themselves. Over the weekend, I wrote up a post talking about how some folks just don’t get the concept of UMPC devices. A short time later, Bob Russell (who writes on the awesome MobileRead site run by Alexander Turcic) shot me an e-mail indicating he blogged more on the topic.

Bob "gets it" and not only that, he sees one of the main reasons why others don’t "get it". Say what you want about specs, usage and functionality, but there’s a business issue here as well and Bob points it out in these few excerpts:

  • "mainstream press isn’t the problem. We techies love it because it’s really neat. It gives us a small form factor, but with a screen big enough to do "real things."
  • It’s no wonder that the mainstream press isn’t really high on the device. They are looking at the average user and what the entire owning experience would be like for them. A laptop has all those same issues, but there are very compelling reasons to have one. "
  • "The public and the mainstream media don’t understand the UMPC and keep comparing it in the wrong way to laptops (saying it’s too underpowered, the screen too small and input is hard). But maybe the problem is with Microsoft and UMPC sellers. With the rollout of a new class of device, doesn’t the burden fall on them to help us understand why it’s relevant? They clearly haven’t done that very well…. yet."

These salient points are just the tip of the iceberg from Bob’s post. Some of you have pointed out similar issues in the comments (which I greatly appreciate). Hop over to MobileRead to see all of what Bob has to say and then don’t be shy: join in the conversation!




There’s an episode of Sex In The City where the gals are busy analysing their sex lives, thinking up excuses to justify their lack of success and the only guy present says “He’s just not into you”.
People have an intuitive and emotional response to a lot of technology; that’s why the wheel caught on. The UMPC just doesn’t grab folk even if (and it’s a big if) it’s on their radar. There’s no denying it’s a neat idea but so is the personal jet-pack and the flying car.


For a lot of people out there, buying a computer is like buying a washing machine. They recognize that they need one and they may be willing to pay extra for added features or power or capacity, but after they buy one they don’t expect to buy another one for a long time. Then, there are others like me, who just flat out enjoy technology and can see value in owning more than one device. Heck, in my little one person office, I might be running applications on 3 different machines at the same time. For me, buying an UMPC as a companion device seems natural because I can understand how it can fulfill specific roles in my workflow and daily life. But, if you are a washing machine person, spending $1000+ for an “underpowered” computer with a 7″ screen is just “crazy talk”.


Just commenting on Bob Russell’s first scenario point:
“Communicate: Wifi at the airport, connect through a Bluetooth phone, e-mail and IM, photo sharing before the vacation is even over. Now we’re talking! That sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? But somehow, I think that even that looks abstract on the web page if you aren’t a techie.”

Didn’t Microsoft use that scenario when they revealed Origami in the Spring?
Best one, was at that leaked marketing site, DigitalKitchen (click Work and then BrandTheatre):

Here’s the Origami pre-site:

Bottom line is that I’ve shown the Sony U and the OQO to no techies and older people (cough…my parents) and none of them get why I like such a small device running XP even if I can look stuff up while on the road through my cellphone.

I tried showing my folks some land we were buying and my Dad asked that I stick the pictures on a USB drive and show it to him on his Thinkpad, which has a much larger screen.

My school teacher friend tried using my OQO to surf the Net, and she immediately got frustrated, telling me that the thumboard was too difficult to input text with. She’s on the far-end of the spectrum in user. She’s definitely a novice and uncommitted user.

But these are the rest of the world users to me, so if they say that they don’t get it, I have to listen.

The Handtop/UMPC is a niche.

I wish that it weren’t, but it’s another geek toy in the same vein the PocketPC became a geek toy and obsolete.

Lucky for the PocketPC that it morphed into a Smartphone.

I hope some more visionaries in the industry can emerge that can help guide the UMPC/Handtop market.


i would like to see a umpc marketed more as a media player. adding more powerful speakers could help. more colors to chose from would be nice too. but another killer concept would be to add video game controller like buttons so we can play games.

Dave Zatz

I wonder if I’m the “public” or if I’m the “mainstream” media, because I still don’t get it. ;)

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