Ultra Mobile PC’s panned by New York Times

David Pogue says that the Ultra Mobile PCs that are starting to ship answers the who, what, when, where, but left out the "why."

I must apologize. I'm very bullish about UMPCs, but there's something more flawed than what David hints at: the price.

I assumed that OEMs would be able to get the price down closer to $500 than $1,000. At $1,000 you can buy a high-powered laptop. These things just won't do well until they drop in price.

If they were cheaper, I could answer the "why" for David. But they aren't. Until they are, we're doomed to a niche market, no matter how useful or cool they are.

Pricing +is+ important here. It's embarrassing that we haven't been able to get the price down to a noticeable gap between low-end laptops.

When the pricing comes down I'll get excited again. I still will probably buy one at $1,000, because I can see enough geeky uses for it (coffee table picture frame, remote control, GPS device and media player for car, etc) but I'm a geek. The fact that I get excited by something doesn't mean the normal person on the street will get excited by it too.

Comments

  1. “Standard screen resolution on the Ultra Mobile PC is an oddball 800 by 480 pixels. Those are such peculiar dimensions, in fact, that many of Windows’s own dialogue boxes don’t fit. Even when they’re up against the top of the screen, they extend past the screen’s bottom edge — so important buttons like OK, Print and Cancel are unclickable.”

    How do such issues make it into products that are in the market?

  2. “Standard screen resolution on the Ultra Mobile PC is an oddball 800 by 480 pixels. Those are such peculiar dimensions, in fact, that many of Windows’s own dialogue boxes don’t fit. Even when they’re up against the top of the screen, they extend past the screen’s bottom edge — so important buttons like OK, Print and Cancel are unclickable.”

    How do such issues make it into products that are in the market?

  3. I’m surprised there is no pull out keyboard similar to the Windows Mobile devices. $1100 really is an insane price for something like this. I’d much rather have a smartphone or laptop for much cheaper. However, it’s only v1 and I’m sure costs will come down (and features go up) over time. It definately has promise.

  4. I’m surprised there is no pull out keyboard similar to the Windows Mobile devices. $1100 really is an insane price for something like this. I’d much rather have a smartphone or laptop for much cheaper. However, it’s only v1 and I’m sure costs will come down (and features go up) over time. It definately has promise.

  5. UMPC will as as successful as the TabletPC. May be Microsoft can do to UMPC what it did to XBox, subsidized it to the tune of $4-5 Billion!

    From Media Center to TabletPC to UMPC, the ability of MSFT to package technology has been a sad joke. Frankly, they should just pay AAPL $5 billion to get remedial lessons on that.

    Meanwhile you wonder why Wall Street dumps on MSFT. Where the hell is the excitement? What exactly IS the point of introducing UMPC at over $1K with the feature set it has and the abysmal user experience it cobbles up? Where’s the beef MSFT?

  6. UMPC will as as successful as the TabletPC. May be Microsoft can do to UMPC what it did to XBox, subsidized it to the tune of $4-5 Billion!

    From Media Center to TabletPC to UMPC, the ability of MSFT to package technology has been a sad joke. Frankly, they should just pay AAPL $5 billion to get remedial lessons on that.

    Meanwhile you wonder why Wall Street dumps on MSFT. Where the hell is the excitement? What exactly IS the point of introducing UMPC at over $1K with the feature set it has and the abysmal user experience it cobbles up? Where’s the beef MSFT?

  7. Anona,

    Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does. Therefore, you can lay most of the blame with other companies. Microsoft can’t really do anything if the technology isn’t there yet, or the manufacturing companies decide to charge what the market will bear.

  8. Anona,

    Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does. Therefore, you can lay most of the blame with other companies. Microsoft can’t really do anything if the technology isn’t there yet, or the manufacturing companies decide to charge what the market will bear.

  9. Aaron: someone has to take responsibility.

    Something I read on Dell’s forums yesterday: “My Dell mp3 player doesn’t work with Xbox360, I called Dell Cust Service, they don’t even know what a 360 is. And I don’t think Microsoft would be interested in on of the millions of devices out there.”

    My experience with my iRiver H10 was similar. It would not copy playlists from my computer to the player. Nor would it transfer ratings from the player to the computer. I call up iRiver and they say the software (WMP10) is Microsoft’s responsibility. And who in Microsoft is going to take up on this? I tried, no one did. I sold my H10.

    There is no ecosystem. Or there is in which there are a lot of parasites and predators. Trick is to be one of them. Not an easy life as it is advertised, exciting none the less :)

  10. Aaron: someone has to take responsibility.

    Something I read on Dell’s forums yesterday: “My Dell mp3 player doesn’t work with Xbox360, I called Dell Cust Service, they don’t even know what a 360 is. And I don’t think Microsoft would be interested in on of the millions of devices out there.”

    My experience with my iRiver H10 was similar. It would not copy playlists from my computer to the player. Nor would it transfer ratings from the player to the computer. I call up iRiver and they say the software (WMP10) is Microsoft’s responsibility. And who in Microsoft is going to take up on this? I tried, no one did. I sold my H10.

    There is no ecosystem. Or there is in which there are a lot of parasites and predators. Trick is to be one of them. Not an easy life as it is advertised, exciting none the less :)

  11. “Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does.”

    No kiddin’. I wasn’t the one to stick to this design philosophy for two decades, MSFT was. Let’em reap what they sowed.

    When the iPod first became successful, Amir and other Microsofties viciously attacked Apple, claiming Apple was “restricting choice” whereas MSFT was promoting it, and how this was going to kill the iPod, etc.

    So now, they can’t turn around and say, it’s not our problem, it’s someone else’s. Won’t wash.

  12. “Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does.”

    No kiddin’. I wasn’t the one to stick to this design philosophy for two decades, MSFT was. Let’em reap what they sowed.

    When the iPod first became successful, Amir and other Microsofties viciously attacked Apple, claiming Apple was “restricting choice” whereas MSFT was promoting it, and how this was going to kill the iPod, etc.

    So now, they can’t turn around and say, it’s not our problem, it’s someone else’s. Won’t wash.

  13. Because of the accessories I’ll need to buy with it (keyboard, extra battery), I’m holding off until they hit $700

  14. Because of the accessories I’ll need to buy with it (keyboard, extra battery), I’m holding off until they hit $700

  15. Looks to me like the reason the price of the Origami can’t come down is because it runs a bloated OS: Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. That takes memory and CPU power. Now in theory XP can be adjusted in size with the embedded edition, but I doubt that has been done.

    I can’t imagine how you’d get these things to work with Vista.

  16. Looks to me like the reason the price of the Origami can’t come down is because it runs a bloated OS: Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. That takes memory and CPU power. Now in theory XP can be adjusted in size with the embedded edition, but I doubt that has been done.

    I can’t imagine how you’d get these things to work with Vista.

  17. Oluf: totally not true. Actually the cost of making these devices is well under $500. The OEMs don’t want to reduce the price on them. RAM and hard drives are cheap. The most expensive thing in these things is the screen and digitizer.

  18. Oluf: totally not true. Actually the cost of making these devices is well under $500. The OEMs don’t want to reduce the price on them. RAM and hard drives are cheap. The most expensive thing in these things is the screen and digitizer.

  19. Robert:

    If that’s the case. then Microsoft has (sadly) lost more hearts and minds. Why? Look at the Portable Media Centers: Video, Audio, pictures, Sync my Recorded TV from my Media Center on it. It’s really neat! But at what a cost. (Wasn’t it something like 500-600 dollars).

    Then Apple releases the Video iPod. Does practically everything the PMC could do, minus the recorded TV. BUT it allows you buy TV from an online store. At half the price. Shortly thereafter, I saw 200-300 dollar rebates on the PMC.

    Until the OEMS can learn to gain a small profit (and make up in lots of sales), any “cool” thing Microsoft does is drastically weighed down.

    Suggestion: Robert, you have some influence.. :) Convince Microsoft to spend some of its billions to start making this “niche” hardware. Maybe not full-fledge PCs, but some of this cool stuff and show the OEMs it can be done.

  20. Robert:

    If that’s the case. then Microsoft has (sadly) lost more hearts and minds. Why? Look at the Portable Media Centers: Video, Audio, pictures, Sync my Recorded TV from my Media Center on it. It’s really neat! But at what a cost. (Wasn’t it something like 500-600 dollars).

    Then Apple releases the Video iPod. Does practically everything the PMC could do, minus the recorded TV. BUT it allows you buy TV from an online store. At half the price. Shortly thereafter, I saw 200-300 dollar rebates on the PMC.

    Until the OEMS can learn to gain a small profit (and make up in lots of sales), any “cool” thing Microsoft does is drastically weighed down.

    Suggestion: Robert, you have some influence.. :) Convince Microsoft to spend some of its billions to start making this “niche” hardware. Maybe not full-fledge PCs, but some of this cool stuff and show the OEMs it can be done.

  21. Is this not just the natural downturn of interest after the most incredible build up in the history of product launches?

    Sure, everybody got excited about it and could see themselves using one, but the key missing ingredient in defining the likely audience was that there were very few price guidelines flying around at the same time.

    Yes, prices were being quoted, but the blogoshpere was largely filled with people speculating about the product NOT the price.

    As a result, the massive audiences that were built up did not turn into customer because the price shocked them so much.

    Robert, I would be a willing test pilot for a European version if you had one lying around!

  22. Is this not just the natural downturn of interest after the most incredible build up in the history of product launches?

    Sure, everybody got excited about it and could see themselves using one, but the key missing ingredient in defining the likely audience was that there were very few price guidelines flying around at the same time.

    Yes, prices were being quoted, but the blogoshpere was largely filled with people speculating about the product NOT the price.

    As a result, the massive audiences that were built up did not turn into customer because the price shocked them so much.

    Robert, I would be a willing test pilot for a European version if you had one lying around!

  23. WOW! And I was balking at spending $200 on the Logitech Harmony remote… you’re gonna spend $1000 for one.

    You can get a ceiva picture frame viewer for $99 and your going to spend $1000 on it?

    Dude, you are not a geek, you are a RICH geek!

    Now, if you said for reading online books and surfing from the throne room… I’m with you! (Then again, I’m waiting for the Sony book reader to ship!)

    BOb

  24. WOW! And I was balking at spending $200 on the Logitech Harmony remote… you’re gonna spend $1000 for one.

    You can get a ceiva picture frame viewer for $99 and your going to spend $1000 on it?

    Dude, you are not a geek, you are a RICH geek!

    Now, if you said for reading online books and surfing from the throne room… I’m with you! (Then again, I’m waiting for the Sony book reader to ship!)

    BOb

  25. Robert,
    I agree. The Origami (I refuse to use UMPC) is almost exactly what I’ve been looking for. I say almost because: 1) it’s priced too high, 2) it should have longer battery life and 3) slow processor (less than 1 GHz..c’mon).

    However, if it were $500, I’d buy one immediately and upgrade later. As it is, I’ll wait. If I’m going to spend $1100 on an Origami, I’d go all out and buy the Fujitsu slate (but it’s not really what I want).

  26. Robert,
    I agree. The Origami (I refuse to use UMPC) is almost exactly what I’ve been looking for. I say almost because: 1) it’s priced too high, 2) it should have longer battery life and 3) slow processor (less than 1 GHz..c’mon).

    However, if it were $500, I’d buy one immediately and upgrade later. As it is, I’ll wait. If I’m going to spend $1100 on an Origami, I’d go all out and buy the Fujitsu slate (but it’s not really what I want).

  27. Pricing for the featureset is what has kept me out of the tablet pc as well… It’s too hard to justify the same price for a tablet pc with a smaller screen at lower resolution and a slower proc than I could get in a non-tablet version.

    I played with one of the lenovo tablets recently, and while it’s interesting, it’s very limited and yet still very expensive.

  28. Pricing for the featureset is what has kept me out of the tablet pc as well… It’s too hard to justify the same price for a tablet pc with a smaller screen at lower resolution and a slower proc than I could get in a non-tablet version.

    I played with one of the lenovo tablets recently, and while it’s interesting, it’s very limited and yet still very expensive.

  29. The *price*?

    Robert, did you read that review? I mean, really read it? How the hell are you supposed to do work? If it was FREE, it still wouldn’t be more than a badly designed PSP.

    “Look, the thumb keypad! You can type! You can’t read what you’re typing, because it eats up 90% of the screen, but you can type!”

    “It plays DVDs well. It doesn’t have a DVD Drive! Attache one! Look, it’s now bigger and bulkier than a laptop!”

    “Use it instead of a cell phone! It’s 4x as big, heavier, and total battery life is equal to the talk time on a phone you get for free from any provider! It’s a bad phone!”

    “It has a bad name! It’s boring, non-functional, and does nothing well! Buy one now!”

    Robert, this thing has NO FOCUS. None. It has no one thing it does really well except get sold to technophiles who get IBS if there’s a toy they don’t have. While the market segment that covers “Has money and no common sense or brains” is a very real one, it’s not one poised for long term growth.

    Tell me again, exactly WHAT does this do well, I mean other than make Bill Gates not need Viagra?

  30. The *price*?

    Robert, did you read that review? I mean, really read it? How the hell are you supposed to do work? If it was FREE, it still wouldn’t be more than a badly designed PSP.

    “Look, the thumb keypad! You can type! You can’t read what you’re typing, because it eats up 90% of the screen, but you can type!”

    “It plays DVDs well. It doesn’t have a DVD Drive! Attache one! Look, it’s now bigger and bulkier than a laptop!”

    “Use it instead of a cell phone! It’s 4x as big, heavier, and total battery life is equal to the talk time on a phone you get for free from any provider! It’s a bad phone!”

    “It has a bad name! It’s boring, non-functional, and does nothing well! Buy one now!”

    Robert, this thing has NO FOCUS. None. It has no one thing it does really well except get sold to technophiles who get IBS if there’s a toy they don’t have. While the market segment that covers “Has money and no common sense or brains” is a very real one, it’s not one poised for long term growth.

    Tell me again, exactly WHAT does this do well, I mean other than make Bill Gates not need Viagra?

  31. John C W: Of course Robert will blame the manufacturer. He is a Microsoft employee, so OS problems are seen as “that’ll be fixed next release” — and in his mind are no longer a problem.

    Hence he only sees non-Microsoft problems, such as price (mfg’er problem), lack of DVD drive (mfg’er problem), CPU speed (mfg’er problem), etc.

  32. John C W: Of course Robert will blame the manufacturer. He is a Microsoft employee, so OS problems are seen as “that’ll be fixed next release” — and in his mind are no longer a problem.

    Hence he only sees non-Microsoft problems, such as price (mfg’er problem), lack of DVD drive (mfg’er problem), CPU speed (mfg’er problem), etc.

  33. The Toshiba Gigabeat S has not yet shipped. Wasn’t it shown a year and a half ago by Bill Gates at his keynote?
    I guess time to market is not an issue.

  34. The Toshiba Gigabeat S has not yet shipped. Wasn’t it shown a year and a half ago by Bill Gates at his keynote?
    I guess time to market is not an issue.

  35. I too do not see the purpose of this thing. a half-assed laptop that can’t do anything really well? for $1k? who will really be using it? and for what? as a phone? a remote? a video display?

  36. I too do not see the purpose of this thing. a half-assed laptop that can’t do anything really well? for $1k? who will really be using it? and for what? as a phone? a remote? a video display?

  37. “Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does.”

    First, Microsoft created the concept and the software for the mfrs, and encouraged them to go ahead. But MS did not seem to recognize the actual cost that mfrs would have to sell it for in order to include a feature set that someone might actually want and oh, by the way, make a profit. Maybe Xbox has warped MS; since they take a loss for each one they sell, they must think other mfrs can afford to do the same.

    Second, the software isn’t ready for prime time – virtual keyboard, dialogs below the screen, etc.

    If it wasn’t ready or cost-effective for the market, MS could’ve kept it in the labs rather than push it out to the mfrs. But MS must’ve thought it was ready and doable for close-to-$500, which just shows how far out of touch MS must be. The result: once again, MS jumps the gun and attempts to deliver “technology” for technology sake. And gets panned for it. And then MS people complain about getting panned.

    A while back, someone wrote about how this culture of MS is so different from Apple’s based on a visit to the MS Mac BU. How very true. How very sad. When long will it take for MS to learn?

  38. “Microsoft doesn’t have total control over the whole thing like Apple does.”

    First, Microsoft created the concept and the software for the mfrs, and encouraged them to go ahead. But MS did not seem to recognize the actual cost that mfrs would have to sell it for in order to include a feature set that someone might actually want and oh, by the way, make a profit. Maybe Xbox has warped MS; since they take a loss for each one they sell, they must think other mfrs can afford to do the same.

    Second, the software isn’t ready for prime time – virtual keyboard, dialogs below the screen, etc.

    If it wasn’t ready or cost-effective for the market, MS could’ve kept it in the labs rather than push it out to the mfrs. But MS must’ve thought it was ready and doable for close-to-$500, which just shows how far out of touch MS must be. The result: once again, MS jumps the gun and attempts to deliver “technology” for technology sake. And gets panned for it. And then MS people complain about getting panned.

    A while back, someone wrote about how this culture of MS is so different from Apple’s based on a visit to the MS Mac BU. How very true. How very sad. When long will it take for MS to learn?

  39. “Oluf: totally not true. Actually the cost of making these devices is well under $500. The OEMs don’t want to reduce the price on them. RAM and hard drives are cheap. The most expensive thing in these things is the screen and digitizer.”

    Baloney!!!!

    The 2 OEMs making them so far have never made a profit margin of more than 30% on any product… Now you want us to believe that this one device is netting them 80% margins at $900!!!????? Hilarious!!! We all knew that they couldn’t be made for less than $750 months ago.

  40. “Oluf: totally not true. Actually the cost of making these devices is well under $500. The OEMs don’t want to reduce the price on them. RAM and hard drives are cheap. The most expensive thing in these things is the screen and digitizer.”

    Baloney!!!!

    The 2 OEMs making them so far have never made a profit margin of more than 30% on any product… Now you want us to believe that this one device is netting them 80% margins at $900!!!????? Hilarious!!! We all knew that they couldn’t be made for less than $750 months ago.

  41. Hi, Robert,

    I guess you have seen this – The Pepper Pad – suggested at $800. Perhaps not such a big spec as the Origami devices but seems to me that it could meet the needs of many people.

    “Overall, the Pepper Pad is a sleek ultra mobile PC in a nice form factor with a great touchscreen for navigating, launching applications, watching video and surfing the web. With the advent of AJAX web-based applications for calendaring, editing video, word processing, creating spreadsheets, and more, you can have some good fun with the Pepper Pad and get a wee bit of work done as well. The Pepper Pad won’t replace a Sony PSP-type game platform, or a PDA, or a notebook, but it will do some things that those devices won’t do.” Pretty much what I think about the UMPC at this stage in its evolution!

  42. Hi, Robert,

    I guess you have seen this – The Pepper Pad – suggested at $800. Perhaps not such a big spec as the Origami devices but seems to me that it could meet the needs of many people.

    “Overall, the Pepper Pad is a sleek ultra mobile PC in a nice form factor with a great touchscreen for navigating, launching applications, watching video and surfing the web. With the advent of AJAX web-based applications for calendaring, editing video, word processing, creating spreadsheets, and more, you can have some good fun with the Pepper Pad and get a wee bit of work done as well. The Pepper Pad won’t replace a Sony PSP-type game platform, or a PDA, or a notebook, but it will do some things that those devices won’t do.” Pretty much what I think about the UMPC at this stage in its evolution!

  43. I don’t think this is going to be a mass market item until prices drop to about 7-8 hundred dollars. However, I think in the beginning stages I think they should offer more upgrade and config options. So you can tailor the device to your needs instead of having to wait for the next generation of devices. I think MS hit the nail right on the head with the size and I have been waiting for some time for this kind of portability. I’m just disappointed with the specs,features and price of the the initial offerings. I have usually always been an early adopter. Most of the time I find myself diappointed by real world functionality. Seeing as this is a real PC not a ce device I see real potential in it.

    I do like the The Sony UX but even the venerable Sony corp only manages to offer up a package only a bit above the rest. It is by no means ground breaking but it sure will put a major dent in the wallet. No to mention Sony’s cowboy attitudes towards its customers needs and market trends.(i.e. memory stick& minidisk)LOL

    Now I wonder will these devices be able to be reloaded with the os of your choice. Are device drivers going to be easy to come by,will they be native to WinXp? Or will cracking the case to install more Ram and a bigger harddisk invalidate your warranty. I think the track they take here should be more Pc based instead of laptop based. I wouldn’t mind shelling out the dough if I could upgrade it like a normal desktop.

    Kevin

  44. I don’t think this is going to be a mass market item until prices drop to about 7-8 hundred dollars. However, I think in the beginning stages I think they should offer more upgrade and config options. So you can tailor the device to your needs instead of having to wait for the next generation of devices. I think MS hit the nail right on the head with the size and I have been waiting for some time for this kind of portability. I’m just disappointed with the specs,features and price of the the initial offerings. I have usually always been an early adopter. Most of the time I find myself diappointed by real world functionality. Seeing as this is a real PC not a ce device I see real potential in it.

    I do like the The Sony UX but even the venerable Sony corp only manages to offer up a package only a bit above the rest. It is by no means ground breaking but it sure will put a major dent in the wallet. No to mention Sony’s cowboy attitudes towards its customers needs and market trends.(i.e. memory stick& minidisk)LOL

    Now I wonder will these devices be able to be reloaded with the os of your choice. Are device drivers going to be easy to come by,will they be native to WinXp? Or will cracking the case to install more Ram and a bigger harddisk invalidate your warranty. I think the track they take here should be more Pc based instead of laptop based. I wouldn’t mind shelling out the dough if I could upgrade it like a normal desktop.

    Kevin

  45. [...] Tomorrow I’m going into work and I need to setup my umpc so its totally optimized for taking notes and generating tasks. Do any of you out there use some 3rd party utilities? I have put OneNote 2007 on it. Let’s see what happens when the rubber meets the road….I know scoble said he would buy one, did you drop 1G on this toy yet scoble? Posted by Nikhil Roy Filed in Microsoft, tablet pc, umpc [...]

  46. “I think the track they take here should be more Pc based instead of laptop based. I wouldn’t mind shelling out the dough if I could upgrade it like a normal desktop.”

    Definitely. I’m not a geek, but I’d buy it if it were cheaper and more configurable. Who wants to lug a laptop around anymore? I want something small and functional that will be the interface between work and home. Something I can set just the way I like it.

  47. “I think the track they take here should be more Pc based instead of laptop based. I wouldn’t mind shelling out the dough if I could upgrade it like a normal desktop.”

    Definitely. I’m not a geek, but I’d buy it if it were cheaper and more configurable. Who wants to lug a laptop around anymore? I want something small and functional that will be the interface between work and home. Something I can set just the way I like it.

  48. The problem is not price. The real problem is these devices are not what most people what thus price and other things get raised. Most people want a touch type keyboard and they want a computer small enough to fit in a pocket yet not too small to affect touch typing. Thus what the industry has been never able to deliver is good pocket computer running standard OS.

    The technology is there to build it now. Just have some engineers copy something like the old Psion 5mx which had an expanding keyboard easy to type very fast yet the unit was a mere 3.5″x7.5″ and less than an inch thick. It has a thin ergonomic feel; only issue proprietary OS.

  49. The problem is not price. The real problem is these devices are not what most people what thus price and other things get raised. Most people want a touch type keyboard and they want a computer small enough to fit in a pocket yet not too small to affect touch typing. Thus what the industry has been never able to deliver is good pocket computer running standard OS.

    The technology is there to build it now. Just have some engineers copy something like the old Psion 5mx which had an expanding keyboard easy to type very fast yet the unit was a mere 3.5″x7.5″ and less than an inch thick. It has a thin ergonomic feel; only issue proprietary OS.