- page 2

But Windows XP Tablet Edition just sounds like too heavy an operating system for a device like this. How long will we have to wait for it to boot? Surely the Windows Mobile instant on model would be a more user friendly one to take.

And what, you may ask, in the real world, and not the Star Trek world, is an Ultra Mobile PC for? What niche(s) can it fill that aren’t already filled by other devices? Microsoft shares some thoughts in its video here, and Intel, also helping to drive the project forward, expresses a few ideas here. Please examine both when you’ve finished reading this, but don’t expect anything you see to knock your socks off.

When Microsoft launches a new platform it likes to announce its hardware partners. In that kind of game it’s a case of the more the merrier. Having many hardware partners is a pointer to the buying public that important players are serious about the platform. It also means more exposure in stores, more people getting a chance to see and use the kit.

How many hardware partners did Microsoft announce? Three. Asus, Samsung and Founder (a Chinese company). You can see images of the kit here.

In no case does the hardware set me alight. It looks chunky, the screens look small in their surroundings, and I am minded more of large portable media players than slim-line Star Trek do anything devices.

Of course, without hands on experience I might be getting the wrong impression. But it seems to me that there’s a bit of a gap between fantasy and reality which leaves Microsoft stuck between a rock and a hard place with the Ultra Mobile PC.

For example, real kit has to be powered, and that means the hardware needs to provide space for batteries. It also needs to accommodate a current generation screen technology, current generation hard drive storage, current generation circuitry, and so on. These factors mean that as existing technology stands, an Ultra Mobile PC can’t be half a millimetre thick.

First generation kit rarely hits all the right spots, but even if points like these are ironed out down the line, and we get, for example, longer battery life and slimmer, lighter hardware, (and at a price we are prepared to pay) the Ultra Mobile PC might still end up being stuck between that rock and hard place for two very important reasons. One: to use it for data entry in any serious way you are going to need a keyboard – which adds to the bulk. Two: to carry it around you are going to need a bag or a pretty large pocket, which is a disincentive to the “carry it everywhere” ideal.

I’d love the Ultra Mobile PC to work out, so that I can live in Star Trek land, and I’m right up there at the front of the queue to get my hands on first generation devices, which will happen sooner rather than later.

But I am going into this one with eyes wide open. You never see anyone on Star Trek complaining about boot times, whingeing about not having enough RAM and so on, or cramming their device into an under-sized pocket, or rushing off to recharge batteries. But that’s just a story, and in the real world, these things matter.

comments powered by Disqus