Will Project Origami Crumble or Fly?

I was hoping it would be cooler because I’m looking for a portable device. But (so far) color me unimpressed by Project Origami.

Microsoft Unveils Ultracompact Computer

HANOVER, Germany (AP) – After months of cryptic Web marketing and word-of-mouth hype over Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Project Origami, the company finally showed off the product: an ultracompact computer running Windows XP with a touchscreen and wireless connectivity.

It’s everything a full computer or laptop is, minus the keyboard. It has a 7-inch touch-sensitive screen that responds to a stylus or the tap of a finger.

Two models from different manufacturers are expected to hit stores shelves by spring, and Microsoft says they’ll be about an inch thick and weigh less than 2 1/2 pounds – about the size of a large paperback book.

It will run on a full version of Windows XP, the same operating system used on larger tablet PCs, and newly developed software called Windows Touch Pack will handle touch-screen functions. Future editions will support Windows Vista, a version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system that’s due out in the second half of this year.

“It really opens up new possibilities for PC use,” Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Platforms Division, said Wednesday.

The device will be officially unveiled Thursday at CeBIT, the annual technology trade show in Hanover.

It won’t be called Origami. Instead, the company is marketing it as a category it’s calling the ultramobile PC, said Mika Krammer, a marketing director for Microsoft’s Windows mobile unit.

Though Microsoft is not manufacturing the hardware, it took a guiding role from the start.

“We’ve done more than just provide the software. We’ve built the reference designs to sort of get the category started,” he said. “We had the first prototypes about nine months ago and started working with partners early on.”

One of those partners is Intel Corp. (INTC), which makes the Celeron M microprocessor that runs the device. Three companies have built working models – Samsung, Asus and the Chinese manufacturer Founder.

The Samsung and Asus devices are expected to be in stores by April, and the Founder device in June, Krammer said.

“A lot of the early engagement we have had has been with nontraditional PC vendors, although there is a lot of interest from traditional PC vendors as well,” Mitchell said. “It ideally brings the best of what a Windows PC is and marries it to what the best of a very capable consumer electronic device is.”

That, said David Bradshaw, a principle analyst with London-based Ovum, is key.

“I really would hope that it would be something that works,” he said, adding that he had not seen one of the models. “Something that is wirelessly connected. Hopefully it will have a wide range of wireless options so that you would be able to use Wi-Fi when available or a (wirelesss) carrier’s network if you can afford to pay through the nose.”

Krammer said device is expected to retail for between $600 and $1,000.

Origami, Mitchell said, sporting Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless access. At CeBIT, he said they were using their models by connecting their cell phones to it via BlueTooth.

Microsoft did the right thing working with vendors to set up a reference platform. One of the major reasons Macs “just work” is because Apple controls both the hardware and the OS. So that part I like…

But -unless I’m reading the market wrong- this is a solution in search of a problem. A 7″ screen PDA for approaching $1000 bucks? I can get a fullblown Core Duo laptop with a 15″ screen and a DVD burner for under $700. With no (apparent from this story) EV-DO support, it fails to get me excited. What is the point of ultra-portability if you can’t connect to the net reliably?

If I have to carry a USB keyboard then why not have it bolted to the screen?

I dunno, I’m planning on getting my hands on one ASAP because I’m about to buy something. Unless there is something I’m missing, I don’t know this will be it.

(As everyone predicted) Microsoft is now suffering backlash from the over-hype. Anytime you give the market that much hype they expect a free pony. To some degree, I admit I fall in that number. I was hoping for more.

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Postscript: Now if they just added EVDO support and made it easy to turn it into a EVDO hotspot, they would probably sell a few more. OR if they had S-Video out and MPEG-2 hardware. OR cell phone. OR…

I’ll read all the pundits/reviews tongiht. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like a lot of money for not much power… Maybe as new models hit the market that will change.

George Clooney is no Hero
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  1. Eric March 9, 2006
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