Origami – Has the Future Arrived?

Blogs have been abuzz for the last few weeks with one of the worse kept secrets in the technology business — the new Microsoft Origami mini-note computer. Launched at CeBIT Technology Conference in Germany, March 9th, this sub notebook computer creates a newly named category of computers — Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs). [See the Microsoft site for official details] By the way, didn’t anyone tell them this doesn’t conform to the need for a Three Letter Acronym or TLA?

Anyway, heres the skinny on this new device. eWeek reports that:

“The new devices are expected to weigh in at less than 2 pounds, with 7-inch screens offering a variety of stylus, touch and keyboard input choices. Microsoft and its partners are expecting the first generation of Origami systems to offer 2.5 hours of battery life; feature 30GB to 60GB hard drives; and be based on Intel Celeron M, Intel Penium M or VIA C7-M processors.”

eWeek also says that:

Microsoft is betting that these devices … “will eventually become indispensable and ubiquitous as mobile phones are today,” according to officials with the Redmond software maker.

I haven’t put my hands on this device yet, but these specifications don’t make me want to rush out and get one of them — and I am usually an early adopter — well at least I am when I feel like the device has some utility. For example, I had been watching the development of PDAs for years, and when I saw the Palm II i knew that we had a winner on our hands and rushed out to get one. Sorry Sharpe and Psion, you had elements of brilliance – but not the full package.

Battery life of 2.5 hrs pales in comparison to most user expectations. Personally, when I first heard about this, I was looking forward to a device with 10 – 12 hours of operating time; sufficient to make it through a long day without recharging. 60GB drives are passé. How about 120 GB? I like the idea that this device is reported to have a full operating system (Windows XP). At a price point of $599 to $999 (US) it feels like this device has over shot the mark.

Red Herring reports:

Some devices will have built-in GPS (global positioning system), a fingerprint reader, a webcam, SD (secure digital) card readers, compact flash, and digital TV tuners.

Users will have the option of connecting via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. Microsoft did not specify whether it will be ready to connect via a cellular network, saying instead that UMPC users “will be able to connect via wide-area networking.”

In any case, do not despair. Microsoft is a big smart company. This may not be the device to give to every law student, associate or partner; but in time they will get it right. Remember the Apple Newton? Grid Computers?

This is another product in the evolution to a truly portable device. One that will: make me trade in my laptop computer; and, become my computing and network device of choice. Have hope — I still do!


  1. Joel, take a look at the product that Plastic Logic is working on. If they get a decent “e-paper” going, that might make something like a roll-up pda really interesting.