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Microsoft whispers Origami details

Unable to stay completely mum, Microsoft confirms Origami is a Windows XP-based mobile PC.

Microsoft updated the Web site for its secretive Origami Project on Thursday, offering a more elaborate tease, but also confirming key details about the Windows-based minitablet.

"I am everywhere you are, but never in the way," reads the cryptic text of the site, with pictures showing a mountain peak and a subway. "Who am I?...Find out 3.9.06."

However, right-clicking outside the flash animation of the main Web page and viewing the source code provides this: "Origami Project: the Mobile PC running Windows XP."

Although Microsoft continues to play somewhat coy, sources have provided a pretty clear picture of the minitablet devices. They will carry Microsoft's software, but be made by several other companies, sources have said. They will also be larger than a typical handheld computer, with at least some of the devices using a roughly 7-inch screen.

Microsoft refused to go into details, but offered up a statement saying: "As promised on the website, we are offering more details today about Origami, including that it is a new category of mobile PCs that will run Windows XP. We're excited to share more information with you on March 9."

Opening up Origami
Origami devices are expected to do most of the tasks that a low-end PC is capable of--things like playing music and movies, editing documents, viewing e-mail and surfing the Internet. Many models are expected to include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, though some may also have pricier add-ons, such as GPS navigation tools or cellular modems.

Sources have said they expect Microsoft to run through the Origami effort at CeBit trade show, which takes place March 9 to 15 in Hannover, Germany.

Microsoft has managed to conjure nearly unprecedented buzz for the product, although it has talked in the past about such a device. Chairman Bill Gates displayed a prototype concept at a hardware conference last spring, outlining his ambitions for a 1-pound tablet with all-day battery life and a cost of $800.

"There's a lot we need to do in the software to make this something that's very easy to work with, and probably having a touch screen," Gates said in the . "We want to get down below 2 pounds, as close to 1 pound as we can, get an all-day battery life in this thing. We do believe this is achievable."

Sources say the company has actually been pushing to create a device that can sell for $500, but the company is unlikely to reach that lofty goal with the initial generation of devices.

Chipmaker Intel is also touting a similar idea, something it calls the ultramobile PC, or UMPC. Intel has a teaser site of its own. The Web site encourages people to check back on March 7, which is also the first day of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

"How do you turn a big idea into something small?" the site asks. "Stay Tuned...Ultra-Mobile PC."

Origami would not be the first minitablet PC to run Windows. At January's Consumer Electronics Show, start-up Dualcor Technologies showed the $1,500 cPC, which had a 5-inch screen and the ability to act as both cell phone and tablet PC. Tablet PC specialist Motion Computing also has its LS800, an 8-inch, 2-pound tablet that starts at $1,699. Others have tried to make smaller laptops, notably OQO.