VIA Origami Prototype UMPC Preview

VIA Origami Prototype UMPC Preview

A PDA replacement? A "minitablet"? We try to unfold Microsoft's Origami Ultra Mobile PC platform with this prototype sent to us from VIA Technologies.

Introduction

Occasionally [H] Consumer has the opportunity to get “previews” or “first looks” at products that are fresh and hot on the market. This often does not give us an opportunity to evaluate the full customer experience, but we think there is significant value in showing you just what’s up with an upcoming product. So instead of rating these products as we normally would, we try to give you an inside look at them and hopefully follow up with the retail versions in the future.

The Ultra Mobile PC Platform

Here we’ll look at the fruit of Microsoft’s “Origami” ultra mobile PC (UMPC) platform. MS started a viral marketing campaign recently that cryptically showed what looked like an overgrown media player. While not much was known at the time, there were plenty of rumors and pictures floating around that gave rise to some fairly accurate speculation as to just what “Origami” was all about.

The first such sighting was at the Intel Developer Forum in Japan of last year. Codenamed “Ruby,” mention of the device having a touch screen led to speculation as to just what OS it could or would run. With similar devices such as the Creative Zen running the Portable Media Center OS on top of an embedded Windows CE OS that lacked the ability to utilize a touch screen, it wasn’t until later that it was clear that “Ruby” was essentially a “minitablet” running the Windows Tablet PC OS with a specifically-tailored “Touch Pack” for easy program launching.

Indeed, in October of 2005 at Intel’s Destination Innovation event, it became clear that “Ruby” would run a variant of Windows XP. While touted as a sub-$500 “laptop extension” that had high battery life and could function as a “PDA replacement,” the first devices on the market fall short of the mark—they are heavy, run hot, and suck down batteries at an alarming rate. Oh yeah, and that $500 price point? They must have meant British pounds, because the devices on the market are showing up at over $900.

Update: VIA has let us know that US OEM TabletKiosk will be offering this unit for sale.

A Cryptic Package

We received our UMPC directly from VIA’s offices in Taiwan. Our generic Origami packaging made no reference to the ODM or distributor who would build or sell it. A little digging turned up “PBJ SmartCaddie” as the name for our device, although there will likely be different companies selling the design under different brand names. Initial pricing from Microsoft is $900.

VIA At Heart

Our UMPC is one of the first to feature a non-Intel processor, VIA’s C7-M ultra-low voltage CPU.

Here’s the lowdown on the rest of the components that make up our Origami UMPC:

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