'Botched Marketing' Or Just A Product Nobody Wants?

from the not-interested dept

Microsoft created a lot of buzz earlier this year with its mysterious marketing for something called The Origami Project, which turned out to be a type of device called the Ultra Mobile PC, basically a tiny tablet computer. The idea’s been tried before without much success, and accordingly, most people didn’t care. Now, an article is extolling the virtues of the UMPC and blaming a lack of interest on Microsoft’s botched marketing. The author claims, essentially, that the UMPC is a fantastic device with all sorts of wonderful uses. However, most of the uses he cites (checking email in line at Starbucks, checking email between meetings, running remote desktop sessions during his kids’ sports games, working from home) seem to be the interrupt-your-life-with-work variety rather than the use-technology-to-improve-your-life kind. The only advantage he can cite over a PDA or smartphone is a larger screen and the ability to run Windows XP, which gets to the heart of the “problem” with the UMPC: does it offer features that many people really care about? Between smartphones and laptops, the mobile computing market is fairly well covered, with niche devices like portable video players filling things out. Throw in other attractive UMPC features like a short, two- to three-hour battery life and a high price tag, and it’s clear that the problem isn’t marketing; it’s that the UMPC simply isn’t very attractive to a wide group of consumers. That’s something that marketing won’t change, as Microsoft is discovering with the Zune.


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Comments on “'Botched Marketing' Or Just A Product Nobody Wants?”

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28 Comments
Pud says:

Gee, with the white hot sales of network appliances, it’s amazing that these aren’t selling well.

The marketing droids have been trying to polish this turd for years now. Cheap laptops are around $600- I’m sure they would try to sell this UMPC for twice that. Besides, a smartphone can do everything these can do and more. This is like tablet PCs- the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

jimmy says:

These should sell but

the real trick is replacing the keyboard before anything remotely like ‘wearable’ computers takes off. A few companies market “glasses” that mimic a monitor or a large screen t.v. for reasonable prices $200ish, so that’s already available. But between a twiddler (one handed keyboard), gloves that sense your finger motions (pricey for accuracy not to mention not something you’d like to wear around all the time), or the laser keyboard that gives you carpel faster than you can say Unreal Tournament; the real thing holding technologies like these back is replacing the keyboard. And I for one will not be happy to hear everyone not only talking on their cell phones but also to their cell phones one day.
Oh and yeah- 3 hr battery life is nonsense. Maybe if they’d finally give VERY scaled down versions of XP on boot that wouldn’t be so bad.

Paul says:

Take a hint

“from the not-interested dept”

I think this accurately reflects my opinion of this “article”

The page that is linked to actually has a number of insights on the future of the umpc and recent or nearing technological advances which will make the umpc a more viable device.

People scoffed when palm pilot style pda’s came about and swept over their calculator style ancestor. An operating system on a pda? psshh who needs that, who wants that?

Well when you have a full blown winxp in the palm of your hands that is lightweight, affordable and good battery life.. Just think of this moment.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

strangely enough

I’m reading this on a Samsung Q1. My first UMPC.
My battery life is about 5 hours. 2 Hours short of a PSP. But what else would I expect from a device that has a 128M video card. This thing is realy useful for my job in ways that a Hand held PC with windows mobile isn’t. Plus My dad has a Hand held PC and he says thay’re glitchy and the ultra small screen doesn’t do well with terminal services. This thing is just a small tablet PC and It runs as such. I don’t see why anyone is expecting anything more.

Woadan says:

People just don't get it

Windows Mobile and Palm OS are very glitchy, and they are not full-blown OS’. Try using your PDA to make a presentation with a spreadsheet with lots of formulas and VBA embedded in cells. It won’t be happening.

The Samsung Q1, of which I am a PROUD owner, is perfect for taking notes at a meeting, or recording the meeting. It’s dual mics record in stereo, and have excellent pick-up. Everyone could be clearly heard when I recorded a meeting my boss was unable to attend.

The Q1, as other origami UMPCs, has an XP embedded partition, With it, I get a media player. So I don’t have to turn on the full OS, saving power, I can make a slide presentation of pictures, listen to audio files, or watch videos.

I upgraded my HDD on the Q1 to 80MB, which doubled the original 40 GB of storage. With a PDA, you can get to, at best, 4GB with the newer ones, and 2 GB with the older, by sliding in a CF or SD memory card.

This article/blog entry is just so typical of the technorati wannabes–they don’t take, or don’t have, the time to investigate the product, and in their ignorance, they condemn that which they do not know. Personally, I’d just prefer they stick with what they know, but then, that might mean little to say in their blogs, and that doesn’t drive visitors.

BTW, James Kendrick of the excellent jkOnTheRun site is the author of the most excellent article linked to. Go on over to http://www.jkontherun.com if you want to see what real technorati are talking about. Virtually everything that James Kendrick and his partner Kevin C. Tofel write about, they have tested extensively. I own several items primarily because they have reviewed them. i also have passed on others, again because of their reviews.

Finally, if you’d like to hear what those who actually use the Origami UMPCs think of the devices (we damn things when appropriate), go on over to http://www.origamiproject.com/. For more general comments about the UMPC devices, or to see what’s out there, see Steve (Chippy) Paine’s excellent Carrypad site at http://www.carrypad.com/.

Merry Thingy y’all!

Dan Oblak - MacBigot.com (user link) says:

We want it, we just haven't seen it yet...

This ‘niche market’ that the UMPC is targetted at is not a group of people with ‘new needs’: the idea is that instead of having a portable device (I carry a Blackberry) and a computer to sync it to, you now can get away with carrying ONE DEVICE.

Sure, it might seem a pipe dream for many consumers; but if packaged and marketed correctly, there are bound to be lots of folks who need a better communication and organizational tool in their professional lives.

So far, all the entries have been aimed at professional users (with professional budgets). But it’s an easy leap to the notion that the right risk-takers are not in the boardroom, but on campus.

Perhaps Apple can do better.

Student optimist says:

I think the niche for these is in health care. I am a medical student and I don’t want a weak little pocket PC as my side kick, I want the real deal, a computer that can run any program windows can. For someone who is used to running around with the barely visible pocket PC screen, these things are going to be an upgrade. Sure, these things need some time to get the glitches out, but I am pretty enthusiastic. Afterall, they are almost the right size to fit in a white coat, and my laptop isn’t.

SH (user link) says:

UMPC and small rugged wireless devices

Interesting.
1. there are about 50 Samsung Q1 units on ebay all the time. they crack and are not very sturdy. not enough wireless options, and very difficult to see outdoors. seems like a lot of people want to sell them quickly after trying.
2. the PDA and mobile windows products just don’t have the horsepower required for distributed computing.
3. input (as mentioned) can be a chore
4. screen size of 3″ is too small to really navigate, read, etc.
5. none of the current screens are outdoor viewable

Here are the plus’ of a well thought out UMPC:
800×600 screen miniumum, 6″ or 7″ screen
handwriting recognition, speech recogn.
wlan, wwan, gps with maps, bluetooth
rugged (drop 3′, waterproof, outdoor viewable screen)
full blow XP/Vista with tablet additions

for many industries (medical, field research, public safety, supply chain managment, appraisal/inspection, etc.) these are more than a consumer PC, they are a tool that makes people more productive in the field. Now with the pervasive wireless connectivity options, one can actually be productive if one has the ability to access the same programs, applications, and connectivity of the office. Tablet PCs tend to be heavy, very fragile, and not outdoore readable.
UMPC initiatives from companies like Xplore Tech and others actually see this as a pretty good size market!

why do people get hooked on blackberry? if it was even more friendly for productivity and fit into a 6 or 7″ screen formfactor- wouldn’t it seem to be a logical step forward?

DigitalBomb says:

This will never take hold in the consumer market. The problem is servicability and upgradability. If someone ever wants to add more RAM or a larger HDD they’d need to buy a better unit altogether. Not to mention places like the Geek Squad, where I work, can’t just fix one if it has problems. We’d have to send it off to our service center – and without a warrantee, that would cost more than the unit itself for pretty much any problem.

Woadan says:

Re: Marketing?

DigitalBomb, you don’t know of which you speak.

I upgraded my Q1 by unscrewing 6 screws and popping out a .5 GB RAM module and replacing it with a 1 GB module. I also upgraded the HDD from 40 GB to 80 GB. Total time spent was about 20-25 minutes.

Since it was a new HDD, add another couple of hours for re-installing the sotfware.

Can you upgrade anything else? Unlikely. But once I get to the point where I want that sort of upgrade, a newer model will be on the market I’ll have been eyeing, and the Q1 will be relegated to the dustbin.

Eventually these devices will be $500 or less. And the question of upgrades will, at that time, be moot.

Cell phones and PDAs right now don’t get serviced. If something major doesn’t function, the unit gets replaced. The manufacturer may refurbish the defective unit, but for the person who had the faulty one, they get a new one. Who’s to say the same won’t happen with the UMPCs?

Don’t look at a UMPC as another PC, look at them as adjuncts to you current one. I can lounge in the chair, or in bed, with the Q1. Can’t do that with a workstation, nor comfortably with a laptop.

JohnnyZTS says:

Geek squad

They are just trying to make money doing what capable people won’t take the time to do themselves. If someone has a real problem and expects the “Squad” to fix it they are living in a dream world. I can’t really knock them because they are just like most other service companies. The days are gone when you took a problem to a bench tech who knew the difference between a diode and a resistor. The only way to get anything fixed in today’s world is to be sure you have a replacement warranty and trash the old one. You cannot expect the service companies of today to keep up with the rapidly expanding technology. It’s not cool to be a technician and thats a shame.

Pud says:

why do people get hooked on blackberry? if it was even more friendly for productivity and fit into a 6 or 7″ screen formfactor- wouldn’t it seem to be a logical step forward?

A blackberry is a cell phone- most users carry them 24/7. It fits in a pocket (mostly).

People aren’t going to carry a laptop (minus the keyboard) 24/7.

Think about it.

If somebody has to make provisions to carry a PC-sized (or near PC-sized, as a UMPS will be with a reasonably sized battery), why would they want to ditch the keyboard? On-screen keyboards and handwriting recognition still suck (I’ve tried, recently, to use both).

PhysicsGuy says:

Re:

People aren’t going to carry a laptop (minus the keyboard) 24/7.

i sleep with my laptop… 😛

If somebody has to make provisions to carry a PC-sized why would they want to ditch the keyboard? On-screen keyboards and handwriting recognition still suck (I’ve tried, recently, to use both).

what?!?! o.O … i agree on screen keyboards and handwriting recognition suck (as handwriting recognition always WILL suck, there’s no way to recognize everyone’s handwriting… it’s a futile task. anyone who has ever seen a doctor’s handwriting knows this…) … but… wtf is PC-sized? … seriously… my mid-tower’s pretty big for a mid-tower (and weighty), however, it doesn’t compare to my friend’s “full” tower or whatever the hell they’re called (server case or whatever [not those boxy fucks]) so… yea… wtf is PC-sized?

(and as i said in the other article… holiday intoxication… please excuse the horrible grammar and spelling)

Geren (user link) says:

Could be userful...

… for the right person. If it weren’t so pricey, I’d be on one in a heartbeat. As a professional photographer who uses digital SLR cameras, it looks like a great way to download images off my camera a preview them in the field, without having to drag a full, and relatively delicate laptop along. Add good “entertainment” potential to the practical aspects, and I’d consider it a winner.

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