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Intel, Microsoft team up on ultramobile PC

Origami times three

Intel and Microsoft today announced the first three devices developed around the new ultramobile PC form factor they teamed up to develop over a year ago, in a project code-named Origami.

Unveiling the inner workings of the project, the companies said Microsoft fine-tuned its Windows XP Tablet edition for the new style of device, while Intel focused on the hardware. However, Intel did not specifically produce a microprocessor for the ultramobile PC.

One of the three devices, made by Samsung, carries a 900MHz Intel Celeron M microprocessor, a product meant for mobile devices but not specifically for the ultramobile PC.

Intel plans to work to increase the performance of the microprocessors inside the device by a factor of 10, including lowering power consumption and heat, within the next few years, said Christian Morales, a vice president of sales and marketing for Intel, speaking at the CeBit IT show in Hannover, Germany.

Microsoft spent over a year and a half working on the specialised ultramobile OS, a company representative said, ensuring it would enable touchscreen work, and include support for buttons on the right and left sides of the ultramobile's screen. The OS retains capabilities already built into the tablet edition of Windows, such as the ability to take notes on the screen.

"You can count on the continued partnership of Microsoft and Intel to bring together thousands of developers to work on this category," said Bill Mitchell, vice president of mobile platforms at Microsoft, speaking at the show.

Three product makers showed off their ultramobile devices at the Intel-Microsoft presentation: South Korea's Samsung, Taiwan's Asus, and a company tied to China's Founder Group.

There appears to be great flexibility in the kinds of functions companies can add to the devices. They are meant to be used as work-and-play devices, with video and internet functions supported by wireless connections standard in each device, WLAN (wireless local area network), 802.11a/g and Bluetooth. But the ultramobiles will also support 3G (third-generation) wireless networks if a product developer wants to add that capability, Intel said.

In addition, companies appear to be able to add features to make their devices unique. The Asustek model, for example, has a 1.3Mp camera on board, while the other two did not appear to have any sort of picture-capturing ability.

Samsung said its device, called the Q1, is aimed at business users and the company played up the multiple connectivity options. The Q1 can be hooked up to a LAN, WLAN, Bluetooth or mobile phone to get network access. A version of the device for South Korea also includes support for digital multimedia broadcasting services.

Commenting on the inevitable comparisons that will be made between the ultramobile PC and Tablet PCs, Samsung said these networking options are key.

"We believe the difference is connectivity," said David Steel, vice president of Samsung's digital media business, in an interview. Samsung has yet to gauge the potential market for the devices, he said.

"We're going to have to wait and see. We're not launching it with the same certainty that we see with a new laptop," he said.

Samsung plans to put the Q1 on sale in Europe before the end of June. The device will cost around €1,000 (£700), it said.


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