Medion has joined Sony, Samsung, Asus, HTC and OQO by announcing the UK launch of a UMPC (ultramobile PC). Demonstrating the company's UMPC RIM 1000, Medion representative Rick Munday confirmed the specifications of what the firm hopes will be seen as "one of the first UMPCs that's going to be affordable". It will be marketed at "commuters and workers who want entertainment on the move", he said.
Although the UMPC RIM 1000 will cost £799 - remarkably similarly priced to Samsung's £800 updated version of its Q1 device as well as those announced by Asus and HTC - Munday hinted that pricing for the Medion device was subject to review and that a price cut later in the year was likely.
Medion's UMPC will sport 768MB of DDR2 RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a 6.5in touchscreen display. This slides up to reveal a full qwerty keyboard with which the user can navigate their Windows Vista Home Premium desktop, access the web via 802.11g Wi-Fi and conduct video chats using the VGA webcam built into the device's upper surface. Two USB 2.0 ports and Bluetooth are included, as is a stylus for those who prefer to input data this way.
Since the UMPC RIM 1000 has no optical drive, content will need to be transferred to the device via USB. Alternatively, consumers will be able to buy an add-on external drive when Medion launches its UMPC accessories in June.
Rather than using a pricey Intel chip to power the UMPC, Medion chose a VIA C7M processor. Partly, Munday says, this was because Intel had yet to sort out power issues when Medion was first designing its device. He claims the RIM 1000 will last between four and five hours on a single battery charge. He likened the difference between Intel's and VIA's processors to that between single and dual-core PC processors and believes the Medion product will prove a lot more capable than comparable devices as a result.
When the RIM 1000 launches next month it will initially do so online at www.medionshop.co.uk as well as the websites of supermarkets with which Medion has tied down distribution deals. Retail distribution will initially be limited to trials in one major supermarket chain's largest stores.
Munday went on to say that Sony, which has launched a £2,000 UMPC known as the UX1XN, was currently price-trialling its own ultramobile device in selected John Lewis stores to gauge demand. Medion will do the same with its limited supermarket retail rollout, which will act as a form of "test market".
Ultramobile PCs were talked up by Microsoft head Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, but few have yet been announced. However, all the manufacturers that have yet to launch one acknowledge they are taking a suck-it-and-see approach to the emerging UMPC segment. Consumer and industry expectations are high, making it tricky for manufacturers to produce devices that live up to expectations.
Samsung came in for criticism last year when, as the first company to launch a model, its Q1 fell short on its battery life claims and reviewers dissed its high price and relatively limited hardware specifications. Samsung has since updated its Q1 with a Q1b model, which sports an improved feature set.
Medion, meanwhile, already plans further UMPC devices including ones with GPS and, possibly, 3G web access provision via an internal slot. As well as a leather case and a docking station for the RIM 1000, a DVB-T tuner will be available as an accessory enabling live TV viewing on the move.