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'Origami' Revealed

by Rainier on March 9, 2006 @ 3:52 a.m. PST

At the CeBit in Germany Microsoft finally lifted the veil off its latest secret project dubbed 'Origami.' Initially rumors were that the device was going to compete with other handheld gaming devices, eventually pegged as a mini xbox, but in the end it turns out to be an ultracompact computer (UMPC) running WinXP with a touchscreen and wireless connectivity.

UMPCs combine the power of the Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system and other innovative new technologies from Microsoft and its partners, making them more mobile and simpler to use than previous mobile computers. For example, the new, pre-installed Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows XP software optimizes the touch screen user interface for UMPCs to simplify navigation and ease-of-use while on the go. The Touch Pack’s customizable Program Launcher organizes software programs into categories, and uses large buttons and icons to make it easy to find and open your favorite applications. The Touch Pack also includes a thumb-based, on-screen keyboard that’s touch-optimized for easy text input. It also helps improve a user’s portable media experience with the inclusion of the new Brilliant Black for Windows Media Player skin. Touch Pack software also helps keep you entertained with the introduction of Microsoft Sudoku, a highly entertaining touch and ink enabled game. While the first generation of UMPCs will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, future models will run on Windows Vista.

According to current baseline physical specifications, Windows-based UMPC devices will weigh less than 2 pounds (.9 kilo), with a 7-inch (17.8 centimeters) screen size that offers the user a choice of text input methods. The touch-enhanced display can be used as an on-screen QWERTY keyboard (called dial keys) to navigate, or users can employ a stylus to input handwritten information. They can also input content with a traditional keyboard, linked either by USB port or wireless Bluetooth connectivity. UMPC devices will have a battery life of two and a half hours or more, and feature 30-60 GB hard drive for storage, with Intel Celeron M, Intel Pentium M or VIA C7-M processors. Some devices may include additional built-in features such as GPS, a webcam, fingerprint reader, digital TV tuners, and compact flash and SD card readers. UMPCs can be connected through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet networks. Some UMPCs will be able to connect via wide-area networking.

Since UMPC runs the Windows XP operating system, software developers who already target Windows XP will be able to utilize existing Windows development knowledge when building UMPC-optimized applications.

Using Intel processors, UMPCs from Founder and Samsung in the second quarter of 2006, with a model debuting from Asus shortly thereafter. Models using the VIA processor are expected to arrive from TabletKiosk and PaceBlade Japan, also in the second quarter of 2006.

Pricing will be determined by Microsoft's OEM partners, but is anticipated to be in the US$599-$999 price-range.

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