UMPC and Tablet PC mobile goodness at WinHEC

For some reason, whenever Microsoft launches a new wave of non-PC form factors, it’s websites do a terrible job of pointing to the available hardware and how to buy one.  The sites are seldom updated with the latest hardware as it’s released.

Take for example Pocket PC Phone devices.  Go to Microsoft browsing site.  If you live in the US, you are immediately limited, largely because you are presented with what the carriers carry.  I buy most of mine through Expansys which can get me pretty much any device from Europe (where there’s always more choice) and yet the Microsoft sites seem to dutifully segment customers in a way that effectively limits choice to the uninformed.  HTC isn’t listed as a brand, and yet not only are they the original manufacturer for a huge proportion of carrier-badged Windows Mobile device, but they do sell their own brand – browse for HTC at Expansys and pick the appropriate country.

Back to the UMPC.  Take a look at the Microsoft UMPC site – click on the Hardware link at the bottom of the left-hand list.  You get to see just two devices and they are from the earlier round!

So here are some of the new devices that Bill Gates showed during the WinHEC keynote – see around 11:40 (video) and 13:00 (on stage) into his keynote video)

  • Fujitsu FMV-U8240
  • HTC Shift
  • Samsung Q1 Ultra (which is a horrible name since the previous one was just the Samsung Q1 and Ultra is the first world of UMPC so you’ll likely see the old model mixed into the results if you search for the new model)

These devices have varying availability.  On the surface, I’m inclined to look at the Shift because of the keyboard versatility and I’ve had plenty of HTC devices.  I also have a Fujitsu Tablet PC however, and that’s lasted quite nicely.  The Samsung Q1 was not cheap and I’m not sure about the split thumbing keypad – althrough it may actually be the most practical.  Having HSPDA built in, may also be a great plus.

You’ll probably want to consider things like:

  • Does it run Vista Aero?
  • Does it have built in 3/3.5G?
  • What Wifi spec does it have?
  • How long does the battery last?
  • How big is the screen and what resolution is it?

Bear in mind that none of these devices is likely to be that much cheaper than a regular notebook.

A number of new Tablet PCs were also shown on stage and in video.  I recall seeing the Gateway E-155c and E-295c.  There was also an official-sounding video from Dell posted yesterday to confirm rumours that they will have a Tablet PC coming later this year (but no specs). 

In a new Tablet PC I’m looking for these things (in no particular order):

  • Windows Vista with Aero
  • Convertible
  • Windows SideShow (which may be difficult wiring-wise with the convertible hinge)Widescreen
  • LED-backlit
  • Windows ReadyDrive-capable HDD
  • 6+ hours of battery life with standby swap capability
  • Pen and touch interface

I’m beginning to wonder if a UMPC would do it for me at home, rather than a full-blown tablet.

Tablet PC needs to push into the mainstream such that all notebooks at least have the pen and touch digitizers (and the stylus) – this isn’t as easy as it sounds though.

UMPC seems to be stepping up with specs, but battery life and price is still not there on the 2nd generation.  I think they do make a great round-the-house ad-hoc computer with the full power of Windows.

3 thoughts on “UMPC and Tablet PC mobile goodness at WinHEC

  1. Glad I found your site, I’m considering my next IT purchase to support my travelling lifestyle, usually from the UK to dveloping or recovering region; I’m currently in Kosovo.
    I have a Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet, November 2004 vintage. Despite its size, it’s still a bit too big for flying in economy/cattle class and for using easily at meetings, seminars, restaurants etc. So I want a UMPC to supplement my M200 which will remain my main computer for now.
    Of all the podcuts announced so far, I also think the HTC Shift is the one for me, and I also have an HTC product already.

    Roger J

  2. I carry around an i-mate K-JAM Windows Mobile phone all the time (which is actually a branded HTC device). I go between that, a Tablet PC and a desktop with large screen real-estate.

    Even though the K-JAM has wifi and the slide-out keyboard, I rarely find myself tapping out anything on it. A UMPC is almost the kind of thing I’d keep around the house for quick emails, browsing and idea sketching, or perhaps in the car, if it has HSDPA.

    I think UMPCs would make great meeting room paper-savers, if only they didn’t cost as much as a notebook.

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