Intel is showing four ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) designed around its Menlow chips at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Two of the UMPCs are highly anticipated devices from Lenovo and Toshiba.
The Lenovo Intel UMPC has a 4.8in touchscreen and runs a Linux OS from Chinese developer Red Flag Software. It has an onboard camera and other features. The Lenovo UMPC also has what appears to be a phone dialing pad on the right side, but there were no Lenovo personnel around at Intel's CES booth to talk about the product, nor any specification sheets detailing features of the device.
Intel personnel at a booth detailing its Menlow chips called the Lenovo device and two others 'Mobile Internet Devices' (MIDs), saying that their smaller screen sizes and use of the Linux OS make them different from UMPCs, a category created by Microsoft.
However, many companies have come up with new terms for small, mobile PC designs these days, and the new names given to them are becoming confusing.
The devices all work with a wireless broadband internet protocol called WiMax.
See our CES 2008 Blog for more news from the Consumer Electronics Show
Toshiba and Clarion, both Japanese companies, also showed off small handheld PCs with touchscreens. The Clarion device runs a Red Flag Linux OS, while Toshiba's handheld has Microsoft Windows Vista.
A portable PC designed by Taiwan's Gigabyte Technology was also displayed at the booth.
Earlier this year, Intel launched the MID Innovation Alliance in an attempt to solve engineering troubles associated with creating small devices able to connect to the internet. A number of companies joined the alliance, and several are expected to launch handheld PCs using Menlow microprocessors in the first half of 2008.
In October, Intel offered a glimpse of six other devices designed by alliance members and based on Menlow. Five of them were designed by Taiwanese companies: Asustek Computer, BenQ, Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics and Inventec. The final device shown was from Finland's Elektrobit.
Menlow is the code name given to a set of chips that Intel is developing for UMPCs and MIDs, due out next year. Menlow will include a new low-power microprocessor, code-named Silverthorne, and a chipset code-named Poulsbo.
One of the key aims of the chip package is to extend battery life in the small PCs now coming out. Many of the UMPCs, MIDs and other handheld PCs that have launched so far boast hefty price tags of as much as £500, yet offer little to users that a laptop can't do better. Relatively short battery life on most of the initial devices and the lack of widespread wireless broadband Internet have also contributed to disappointing sales of the much-hyped gadgets.
Companies developing UMPCs and similar small handheld PCs hope longer battery life of six to eight hours, the ability to connect to the internet wirelessly from just about anywhere, and features found on smartphones such as digital cameras and music players will entice more people to try them out.