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Microsoft Origami unfolded: Hands on with Samsung Q1

We all knew it existed, but what exactly is the Microsoft Origami project? We kick down a few doors to get the skinny on one of the hottest computing stories of 2006

Braving the near-arctic conditions of CeBIT in Hanover, Crave has infiltrated Samsung's secret lair to get a hands-on session with its version of the Microsoft Origami. We wanted to be excited, but we weren't. Turns out, it's just another attempt to sell us Tablet PCs, this time in a cuter form factor. Who knows, maybe they'll have more luck this time.

This particular model is known as the Q1, and is part of a broader product category known as the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). It's not as 'ultra mobile' as we'd hoped (228 by 140 by 25mm and 779g), so you can be forgiven for thinking of it as a tragically overweight portable video player, or a very fat PSP.

The Samsung Q1 uses an Intel Celeron M Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processor, 512MB of RAM and runs the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, so it's capable of a whole lot more than the above-mentioned devices. Wi-Fi comes as standard, and you can add a GPRS module via a CompactFlash card slot at the top of the unit, or via one of the two USB ports on the left and right hand sides.

The Q1 has an Ethernet port, an on-board Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) Bluetooth adaptor, which is said to be 83 per cent faster than devices running first-generation Bluetooth modules, and some models even feature an integrated GPS receiver for enabling satellite navigation.

Graphics processing is handled by an Intel GMA 900 video adaptor, which pumps images through a 7-inch 800x480-pixel touchscreen display. Samsung says the Q1 can handle literally any type of multimedia file without the need to install additional codecs, but Crave forgot to bring its extensive MPG collection so we'll have to wait until we get one back to the lab before we can verify this.

What we do know is that the unit will have a 40GB hard drive (80GB versions will be available in the future) and it'll support DMB TV -- a method of delivering digital television on the move. As a result, it can be used as an in-car TV system, but it'll also work as a household TV tuner that can be connected to an external display via the VGA-out port mounted on the unit's left-hand side.

The Q1 can be controlled with the bundled stylus, or via an eight-way directional joystick. Text can be entered via a bizarre dual half-moon on-screen keyboard but this swallows up most of the display when activated, so users may prefer to use the optional external keyboard. There's also a special task-based interface known as the 'Touch Pack', which provides easy one-touch access to common functions.

Crave isn't sure what to make of the UMPC concept. It's a great idea in principle, but like the portable Media Center before it, we find it impossible to imagine many people will actually use it. We'll do our best to smuggle one out of Germany without causing an international incident, so watch this space.  -RR

See the device in action in our Samsung Q1 video, or visit the CeBIT 2006 Special Report for all the latest news, product announcements, photos and videos from CeBIT.