Ever since Microsoft proposed it’s ORIGAMI UMPC (ultra mobile personal computer) initiative back in 2005, people were skeptical about the practicality and cost of such small computers.  The fears were ‘largely’ realized as the early devices were bulky, over priced, under-performing, and lacking sufficient battery life to get through more than a single commute.  Manufacturers tried to remedy the complaints, and certain devices received much needed revisions – the mostly excellent Samsung Q1UP coming to mind.  Unfortunately at an average of $1000-1500, the revised products came as too late and too expensive.  With the release of Apple’s Ipad, manufacturers have seemingly become galvanized with the prospect of an (re)emerging mini tablet market.  Note I did not say mini Tablet “PC” market.

The seemingly bare and simple iOS powering apple’s latest craze, the ipad, doesn’t look very appealing on paper – sure thousands of apps exist on the appstore, yet very little feature the productivity and control featured in a traditional Windows and OSX operating systems.  What was considered to be exemplary in a handheld phone/music/video player seems  less innovative and productive on a full sized tablet.  Granted, software aside there are many perks to running such an operating system and Intel is certainly not too pleased.

One of the complaints many consumers had with early UMPC’s was their poor battery life and high cost for – naturally – higher spec parts.  Aside from Intel’s core solo line, the CPU’s powering the devises were inadequate from anything besides the most rudimentary windows tasks, and yet consumed the battery very quickly.   This compounded with the inadequate supply of system ram made the machines nearly incapable of running, at the time, Microsoft’s newest OS, Windows vista; an operating system that some manufacturers chose to ship with these devices.  The issue of battery life was mitigated to a lesser extent when Intel began to ship their Atom Cpu’s – unfortunately many manufacturers had already began to abandon the UMPC market to focus on netbooks.  Apple clearly paid attention to market trends, deciding against competing in the netbook market, and instead  chose to expand their ipod/iphone product line to fill the void left by UMPC’s.

Sales don’t lie, and at $500, the ipad sold (and is still selling!) like hot cakes.  Numerous imitators have since emerged, such as Samsung’s Galaxy, Dell’s Streak, Archos, etc – all running Google’s Android OS, and none with Intel chips.  Nvidia is poised at grabbing market share with its upcoming Tegra 2 platform, which features an ARM Cortex A9 and a powerful integrated GPU.  We’ve seen what the A9 is capable off last month at SONY’s NGP handheld video game system unveiling.  Granted the NGP is running a quad core A9, the dual core still should  be no slouch.  With a reported power draw of 1.9 watts at peak operation, the dual core should provide plenty of battery life while still flexing its muscles.  The Android platform is also getting an update and Android 3.0 is looming around the corner.

Both Microsoft and Intel need to get their act together: improve user accessibility and reduce cost while at the same time maintaining the strengths of the aging x86 platform, compatibility and user control.  Entertainment and accessibility aside the x86 program is still the choice of software for professionals on the go.  If current trends continue, we consumers will have to rely exclusively on an ‘appstore’ for our software.  As iOS  and android continues to evolve that can change we must remember : choice is key in the computer industry, even when applied to the ultra mobile sector of the market.   I for one am not looking forward to the $.99 menu maze that is looming over the horizon should the current trends completely and utterly dominate the entire mobile computing market.

Source Used:  http://siliconangle.com/blog/2011/02/07/android-spurs-tablet-os-innovation-motorola-xoom-has-high-hopes/

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