Gartner Calls Microsoft's Ultra-Mobile PC A 'Tweener' Gadget - InformationWeek

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Gartner Calls Microsoft's Ultra-Mobile PC A 'Tweener' Gadget

In a recent analysis, Gartner Inc. said the device was too big to be a personal digital assistant and too small to be a useful notebook.

Microsoft Corp.'s much ballyhooed ultra-mobile PC is more promise than real, as the technology needed to deliver the device envisioned by the software giant is at least two years away, a research firm said.

In a recent analysis, Gartner Inc. said the device scheduled to ship in the second quarter is more of a "tweener" gadget that's too big to be a personal digital assistant, or PDA, and too small to be a useful notebook.

For future models of the UMPC to match Microsoft's hype of a "lifestyle computer," a new category of device, a number of factors need to fall into place, some of which is not technologically possible today.

For one, the 2-pound computer with a 7-inch touch screen will need an eight-hour battery and a sub-$400 price, both of which are at least two years away, Gartner said. Current pricing is in the $799-to-$999 range.

In addition, low-cost, compelling software bundles, which Microsoft and Intel Corp. say they're working on, will be needed to help launch the device in the mainstream, which Gartner defines as unit sales in the millions, rather than the thousands.

Other needed features include a better interface running on Windows Vista, text-entry options beyond thumb-typing and sustained market momentum by Microsoft and Intel, Gartner said.

"Today, we believe it isn't possible to produce compelling UMPC products -- just proofs of concept," Gartner said. "The low battery life, high price and non-Vista operating system will likely hurt the UMPC's market acceptance in this first go-round, and the negative backlash could damage its future chances."

Because the device isn't ready to fulfill the promise, Gartner questioned the timing of the launch, and said it was likely mainstream acceptance wouldn't occur until after 2009.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., and Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled the device March 9, saying that the first version would run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. The touch-screen feature would run on Microsoft Touch Pack software, code-named Origami. The lineup of manufacturers included Founder, Samsung, Asus, TabletKiosk and PaceBlade Japan, Gartner said.

The device is being marketed as a "lifestyle computer" that can store all of a person's digital content, such as photos, videos and MP3 music files, while also providing the interface for anytime access to email. The latter would require a wireless wide-area network card, which isn't currently available, Gartner said.

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