Samsung Electronics has announced full details of the reduced price and upgraded performance for its Q1 Ultra ultramobile PC.
Samsung first exhibited the Q1 Ultra in March at the Cebit tradeshow in Germany. Yesterday in New York, Samsung released full details of US pricing and specification for the Q1 Ultra. At the time of writing no UK details are available on the Samsung website. Samsung officials told PC Advisor that the UK release had slipped until June, and that UK pricing has yet to be decided.
Samsung will sell four models of the Q1 Ultra for a range of $799 to $1,499, significantly below the price range of $1,300 to $2,000 for the original Q1 product. You can pick up a Samsung Q1 for around £700 in the UK.
The lower price helps Samsung to pitch the Q1 Ultra UMPC as a lightweight companion device to a user's desktop or notebook PC, as opposed to a stand-alone computer. Samsung hopes it could help it win market share from competitors Sony and OQO.
The Samsung Q1 Ultra has the same size 7in display as its predecessor, the Q1, but adds a split qwerty keypad for thumb-texting, offering similar operation to RiM's BlackBerry or Palm's Treo smartphones. The Q1 Ultra also has 802.11 wireless networking and optional HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) connectivity. Samsung was careful to avoid comparing the Q1 Ultra to a smartphone.
"A smartphone will always be the ideal platform to be used as a phone. I would never suggest the UMPC as a phone replacement; it's just too big to fit in your pocket," said Bret Berg, senior Samsung product marketing manager for mobile computing.
Instead, Samsung hopes to sell the 0.68kg Q1 Ultra to frequent business travellers and to users in vertical markets such as sales force automation, field surveys and education.
The Samsung Q1 Ultra uses Microsoft's "Origami" interface, offering a touchscreen version of Windows XP or Vista that allows users to perform most PC functions. These range from editing Excel spreadsheets to writing Word documents or answering email, Berg said.
Samsung said its focus groups had complained they found it too difficult to do those tasks on competing devices such as the Sony Vaio Micro PC UX, the OQO model 02 and products from FlipStart Labs, Motion Computing and Tablet Kiosk.
The Q1 Ultra uses Intel's new "McCaslin" A100 and A110 ultramobile processors instead of the power-hungry Celeron and Pentium chips used in the first-generation.
Combined with an improved type of lithium ion battery, the design extends battery life from a minimum of 1.5 hours to at least 4.5 hours, Berg said.
Previous versions of UMPCs have earned criticism for their short battery life and large size, leaving them stranded between notebooks and smartphones. But the Samsung Q1 Ultra is drawing nearer to a winning design, one analyst said.
"The technology business is littered with the corpses of initially failed ideas that came back again to be huge successes.
"I think the UMPC or some morphing of that idea will be the same thing," said Stephen Baker, vice president for industry analysis at the NPD Group.
Just as the digital cameras in mobile phones have not driven pure cameras out of the market, there may ultimately be room in the market for UMPCs as well as smartphones.
"Convergence doesn't mean you have to fit every single function on to every single device," Baker said.
Samsung will sell an entry-level version of the Q1 Ultra called the Q1U-EL for $799 including a 600Mhz Intel A100 processor, 40GB hard drive and Windows Vista Home Premium. The midrange Q1U-XP version will cost $1,149 with an 800MHz A110 chip, 60GB hard drive and Windows Vista Tablet Edition. The similar Q1U-V will cost $1,199 with Windows Vista Home Premium. And the Q1U-CMW will cost $1,499 with the A110 chip, 80GB hard drive, Windows Vista Home Premium and HSDPA connectivity.
Samsung will sell all four models in the US by August.