Manufacturers unwrap first ultramobile PCs

At CeBit, Samsung, Asus and Founder deliver minitablets, though early models seem to have poor battery life. Photos: Origami handheld devices

HANNOVER, Germany--Intel lifted the lid on Microsoft's Origami project on Thursday by showing off three ultramobile PC devices at the CeBit trade show here.

As expected, one of the UMPCs was . The others were built by Asus and , a Chinese technology company.

Ultramobile PCs

But it appears that significantly more work will have to be done before UMPCs are ready for the mass market. Pankaj Kedia, Intel's manager for low-power Internet access marketing, told ZDNet UK that these first devices have a battery life of between two and three hours, depending on whether they are used to play video.

And while the Samsung and Founder devices were operational and being used to play video at CeBit, the Asus UMPC--the R2H--appeared to have run out of power.

Intel's general manager for Europe, Christian Morales, told a crowded press conference at CeBit that UMPC devices represented the start of a new form factor for the PC industry. He also promised that Intel would help make UMPCs much more efficient over the next few years. "We have plans over the next five years to deliver a 10fold improvement in power usage," he said.

All three UMPCs on show had touch-sensitive color screens, measuring 7 inches across diagonally. They support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and have two USB ports. They weigh just less than a kilogram (2.2 pounds), with hard drives of 30GB to 60GB, and run on Intel's existing ultralow-power Pentium and Celeron chips.

Samsung's device, called the Q1, is scheduled to launch in May this year, costing about $1,190 (1,000 euros).

Bill Mitchell, Microsoft's vice president for mobile platforms, joined Morales on stage and demonstrated that the UMPCs ran Windows XP Tablet PC edition, with the addition of a piece of software called the Touch Pack, providing an innovative on-screen keyboard that lets people type with their thumbs.

"We've been working very hard for five years to leverage the full power of the Windows XP Tablet (PC platform)," said Mitchell. He showed that UMPCs would include modified versions of Internet Explorer, OneNote and Windows Media Player.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from Hannover, Germany. ZDNet UK's Charles McLellan contributed to this report.

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