Microsoft To Debut 'Origami' Ultra-Mobile PC Specs For Vista

Ideas include built-in QWERTY keyboard, 3-4 hrs battery life and <1.5 lbs

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Microsoft is at work on a version 2.0 "Origami" experience for Windows Vista on Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPC).

The second set of possible UMPC specifications under consideration calls for ultra-thin PCs that weigh less than 1.5 pounds, incorporate 5-inch or 7-inch displays .and are housed in an 18- to 20-mm footprint, executives said.

Potential features of the next-generation Origami design at the drawing board include an integrated QWERTY keyboard, a touch screen fully integrated into the LCD, at least 1 GB of memory, and battery life of between three and four hours, said Microsoft Vista development manager Vikram Madan, at the Windows Hardware Engineering conference.

Microsoft's first UMPC design, which appeared in 2006, is based on Windows XP Tablet Edition. That design specified systems weighing less than 2.5 pounds, offering 7-inch displays, integrated touch digitizer and thumb-based controls, between 512 MB and 1 GB of memory, and battery life of between two and three hours.

Microsoft revealed plans for its next Origami 2.0 design in 2007 on the heels of two significant UMPC announcements by Samsung and Intel.

In March, Samsung announced an upgrade of its UMPC called Q1P and then in May announced the next-generation UMPC family known as the Q1 Ultra. Meanwhile, Intel recently launched its "McCaslin" UMPC platform and expects systems based on it to ship as early as this summer.

And even as Microsoft plans to move forward on its Origami experience for Windows Vista, Intel last month unveiled a new Ultra-Mobile PC platform, code-named McCaslin. It expects OEMs to begin shipping McCaslin-based UMPCs this summer.

In late 2008, Intel plans to release an upgrade to the UMPC platform, code-named Menlow, and an associated chipset solution, code-named Poulsbo, that will ship on a single piece of silicon. The next-generation UMPC platform will feature a new 45-nm processor, code-named Silverthorne, Intel said.

Meanwhile, AMD is pursuing its own UMPC agenda based on its Geocode LX800 processors. At WinHEC, one AMD executive walked the halls carrying Data Evolution's compact, sleek Cathena XP UMPC weighing less than 2 pounds and running an AMD processor, Windows XP and featuring a 7-inch display. Raon Digital, a Korean OEM, also ships an ultra-mobile PC, Vega, that runs AMD's Geocdoe LX 800.

It remains unclear whether system builders will participate in the burgeoning UMPC market, if at all.

Many whitebox builders that enjoyed success in the desktop PC market were unable to gain a foothold in the notebook market, due in part to the lack of defined specifications.

New platforms, such as Intel's recently released Santa Rosa"Centrino and upcoming McCaslin UMPC based on Core 2 Duo, will provide specifications and reference designs early in the process to level the playing field, said one Intel executive at WinHEC.

David Stinner, president of Buffalo, N.Y.-basd USitek, said he has not heard about Intel's plans, but said it "would be an awesome market to get into." "Executives at the SMB clients I support would easily purchase UMPCs if I had an offering," he added.

But it may be an uphill climb for whitebook OEMs that want a piece of th action.

"Intel is creating a dedicated platform for UMPCs, and if it follows the laptop trend it won't be available to most system builders," said Microsoft's Madan. "But if a system builder can get what they need from Intel, it'll happen much faster."

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