Microsoft offers guidelines for next-gen UMPCs

Summary:At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles this week, Microsoft officials outlined some of the "possibilities" the company sees for next-generation UMPCs that will be optimized to run Windows Vista. Here's a list of the hardware specs to which Microsoft is encouraging its partners to build the next generation of handhelds.

Microsoft still thinks there's a bright future for Windows-based ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), the small-form factor PCs that haven't exactly taken the world by storm.

At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles this week, Microsoft officials outlined some of the "possibilities" the company sees for next-generation UMPCs that will be optimized to run Windows Vista.

Development Manager Vikram Madan noted that the next-gen specs he outlined during his talk on May 16 were "guidelines of what is possible, not promises." (However, Fujitsu launched at WinHEC a new Windows Vista Business UMPC including many of these next-gen features.)

With that disclaimer, Madran told attendees that they might see in 2007 and beyond UMPCs with the following features:

* Not only seven-inch, but also five-inch displays * Lower-power LED-backlighting * Screen resolutions of 1024 X 600 (not the 800 x 480 minimum common with the first-wave UMPCs) * WiMax and integrated WWAN connectivity (supplementingthe existing 802.11 b/g wireless and Bluetooth connected devices) * New input options, including thumb/QWERTY keyboards, along with the more-standard touch, stylus and thumb-based controls on current UMPC models

Madran said Micrososft foresees more second-wave UMPCs with 1 GB-plus of RAM; WDDM/DX9+ graphics support; and three to four hours of 3-cell battery life. The 2007+ UMPC models will be under 1.5 pounds (compared to the 2 pound average for current models) and thinner (possibly as small as 18 to 20 mm in thickness).

On the storage front, Microsoft is expecting to see partners deliver 100 percent solid-state storage models. It also is expecting to see more integrated add-on features, including multiple cameras, GPS and biometric technologies, Madran said.

Microsoft is still hoping to see UMPCs in the $499 to $599 price range, Madran said, and (no surprise) believes there will be much higher interest in these devices at lower price points.

By producing Vista-based models, system vendors and their customers will be able to take advantage of Vista features that are especially applicable to the portable handheld market, Madran said. Among these features: Improved power management, the integrated Mobility Center, better ink and touch support and Windows HotStart, a little-known Vista feature that launches users directly into any "Windows experience" from any on/off/sleep state.

Madran emphasized that Microsoft is committed to investing in the UMPC category and Windows mobility, going forward, and believes Vista will help spur the market for these kinds of devices.

Would you be more interested in using a UMPC if it featured some of the 2007+ features outlined by Microsoft -- even if they don't hit the $500 sweet spot?

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Storage, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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