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CeBIT: Samsung 'surprised' at UMPC interest

If press interest is anything to go by, Samsung's new ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) is destined to be a hit. This morning's press conference at Cebit launching the new Q1 Ultra was packed to the rafters, with journalists from across the world desperate to get a glimpse of the new product, which we reported earlier this week. Even Samsung spokesperson Hartmut Woerrlein said he was “extremely surprised” at the number of people crammed into the room for the Q1 Ultra's launch.

Of course, much of this could be because the UMPC is a relatively new and breakthrough category – Samsung launched the first model at last year's Cebit – and technology lovers like to see new angles on technology.

Microsoft's Tablet PC and Smart Displays concepts also attracted a lot of interest from IT journalists in the months after they hit the market – yet the former has so far failed to catch on in anything other than niche markets, while the latter was canned by Microsoft within its first two years on the market.

But whether or not you see yourself as a potential UMPC user, Samsung's new version is well worth a look. The new Q1 Ultra is 90g lighter than its predecessor, has a 40 percent longer battery life (now lasting for seven hours) and includes HSDPA wireless technology. But the biggest change could be the inclusion of a QWERTY keyboard, which is split into two on each side of the 7in screen. Samsung said the keyboard was added in response to customer complaints that touchscreen technology is not always appropriate for data entry.

The Q1 Ultra also includes a biometric finger-print scanner, a mouse and joystick, and two cameras – one digital camera for taking photos, and one webcam.

Microsoft corporate vice president Bill Mitchell was also on hand to talk about the benefits Windows Vista brings to the UMPC platform. He, like many other Microsoft executives before him, described Vista as “the most important product Microsoft has ever launched” and said its impact on UMPCs should not be underestimated. For example, the Q1 Ultra can now be switched on and off in an instant, so users won't have to go through the sometimes-lengthy suspend/resume process that was required by the previous XP-based UMPCs. Mitchell said that particular advance required some “deep work in the OS”. Other advances brought by Vista include improved handwriting recognition and a more touch-friendly user interface.

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