Microsoft wants so hard to be cool, it hurts to to watch. Look at the teaser campaign for the Origami Project: two weeks of slyly suggestive überhip flash animation replete with shots of Rio at night and lower-case dot-matrix text by day. No hint of an actual product, of course. Even Steve Jobs lent a hand by making some of the most lacklustre Apple announcements since the days of mouldy old Sculley, leaving us all hyped up and with nowhere else to go.
Microsoft, however, cannot be cool to save its life. Just as the 'It's a portable X-Box! No, it's a video iPod killer!' buzz started to build up, some bright spark noticed that the source of the teaser web contained "Origami Project: Mobile PC running XP". Then we remembered that Intel has been touting ultra-mobile PCs since last year – two words: small tablets — and the spin fell apart like week-old lettuce in a salad dryer.
Of course, it's unthinkable that it's just a tiny tablet — too small to be productive, too big to be pocketable — so we can continue to tease ourselves with dreams of what else might be in the package. It will have Wi-Fi, of course, but the hint is that it'll have something more. GPS, perhaps, or 3G. Proper universal connectivity? Now there's a fine idea.
The trouble is, 3G and XP are fundamentally incompatible — or rather, Microsoft and the mobile operators just don't get on. No matter how hard you try — and we tried really rather hard — short of disconnecting it you cannot stop XP from sipping away at the Internet at around 2Kbps. We don't know what it's doing; update checking, security tests, universal plug and play, there are plenty of choices. It might even be spyware: we try really rather hard to avoid that, too, but apparently it happens.
Which means if you take your 3G Origami to Rio, you'll be paying between tuppence and fourpence a second in data roaming charges just for having it turned on. Now, try multiplying that by sixty seconds. Then multiply by sixty minutes. Then sit down.
We cannot decide which is more to blame, Microsoft's incontinent OS design or the rapacious greed of the mobile network operators , but a hundred pounds an hour before you do a jot of work seems a little steep. Even an Oracle DBA would look a little shamefaced at that.
Until the networks get sane, the only way a device like a 3G Origami will be cool is the way Ronnie Biggs got to be cool: shameless daylight robbery on a grand scale. Microsoft's not that desperate.