UMPC’s, the new wave.
Laptops are everywhere. They’ve replaced many desktops in the home due to their ease of use, mobility and performance. No longer are you confined to a desk in the corner from which you browse the web. Add in a decent wireless connection and you can even spend time in the garden enjoying the good weather whilst you write articles for your favourite directory. The only problem with a laptop is the size. Yes, they’re portable but you still need to sit down with a decent amount of space in which to work. Imagine leaving all this behind. Being able to carry your laptop in your pocket sounds ideal. True, many mobile handsets offer browsing and text capabilities but these aren’t enough for mobile workers or even users who need that little extra.
PDA’s did a relatively good job of bridging the divide between mobile phones and laptops but didn’t quite hit the mark required by many consumers. Battery life and processing power were another factor that prevented the adoption of the PDA as a productivity device.
The advent of low heat, low power consumption CPU’s has opened the way for a new generation of mobile devices. Admittedly, the Intel Atom is new and hasn’t been widely adopted yet but products such as the Intel A110 have been adequately powering XP based devices for some time now. Various terms are used to describe this new generation of mobile tech: Ultra Low Cost PC (ULCPC), Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) and Mobile Internet Device (MID). For this article I’ll stick to UMPC.
There is debate amongst analysts of exactly successful the UMPC market will be. Personally, I think it’s going to be big. Home users may not buy wholesale into this market but businesses will. Reducing the hardware size whilst maintaining a full productivity suite is a compelling sales pitch for any business. Many hardware vendors recognise the potential value of this market with the likes of Samsung, HTC, Asus and Acer releasing hardware to the market. Oh, don’t forget Apple. Did you really think the iPhone was simply a ‘must have’ mobile phone? No, Apples knows how the market works. The release of the iPhone api and integration into corporate networks shows that Apple is determined to capture a large slice of the mobile worker market.
The only aspect that slows the adoption of the UMPC as a true business device is processing power. As shown earlier, the Intel A110 was widely adopted for devices such as the Q1 Ultra running Windows XP. The advent of Windows Vista has shown that a new generation of CPU’s will be needed to give the devices the punch they need. Yes, Linux is alive and well in the UMPC market. Adoption of this Operating System will grow as more businesses integrate open source products into their infrastructure. For now we’ll just say that Linux is happy to run on older hardware.
The Intel Atom solves the CPU issue. Dual core processing power crammed into a device the size of a penny, whilst reducing power requirements and heat output – problem solved. But, as yet, not many hardware vendors have announced the inclusion of the Atom in future products – this will change. The UMPC future is looking good.