Ultra-Mobile Computing Predictions for 2010.

Updated on 11 March 2010 by

For customers wanting full desktop PC capability in their hand, 2010 will be a frustrating year where you’ll see a lot of game-changing news, and very few products based on it.

On the positive side, Vista has been replaced by Windows 7, a much more efficient operating system that supports HD video decoding on the GMA500, native H.264 support, better tablet features and advanced networking. With fast SSD’s dropping in price we should see some exciting and capable devices based on this OS. On the negative side, Windows 7 is not as efficient as Windows XP and requires more memory, more processing and more storage at a time where platform performance will remain static. Intel’s Menlow, the only platform for advanced, long-battery-life UMPCs, will enter it’s third year of production but continue to be the only ultra mobile PC platform choice. Windows 7 will only be an option for high quality UMPCs and that could mean rising prices.

Moorestown, Intel’s next generation mobile computing platform is not expected to make an impact for UMPCs based on its unique position of (initially) being a Moblin-only platform. Moblin will develop of course and the release of version 2.1 for handhelds will be an interesting one that might reach across the Menlow platform. As Moblin for handhelds reaches launch, we will get a feel for it’s intended position in the market. We’re expecting a dynamic consumer focus rather than the productivity focus that UMPCs users want but this is a flexible OS and adding productivity components should be relatively easy, especially if the Intel application store takes off. A version of Moorestown that supports Windows will be announced in 2010 and it will allow UMPCs running desktop operating systems to shrink another 20% while gaining another 20% battery life but products using this may not appear in 2010. They could also be focused at the embedded market which puts a question-mark over price and small production runs for UMPCs.

Based on this awkward and risky matrix of old and new hardware and operating systems we expect the number of Windows-based UMPCs to drop and the advances in performance and battery life to be less dramatic compared to 2009. Expensive, highly targeted options will continue to appear (the newly announced Fujitsu UH900 is one example) and low-cost options will continue to find sales in Asia. We will see continued small-scale improvements with efficiency and better industrial design but we should not expect anything like the battery life advances we saw in 2009. Moblin-based UMPCs on the Menlow platform may appear which won’t offer any battery life savings but may allow manufacturers to offer low-end consumer-focused models in order to try and stimulate the market.

Screen technology (E.g. Pixel Qi) could make an impact and improve battery life (10-20% in normal use) but we only expect this to reach high-end UMPCs in 2010. We should also see the first capacitive touchscreens on Windows-based UMPCs in 2010. This will be driven by the multi-touch capabilities in Windows 7 and again, will only reach high-end UMPCs.

As Android stabilizes, matures, grows to support multiple screen sizes, starts to sell in significant numbers and attracts productivity-focused application developers, the operating system will become a valid productivity option. We see it scaling well to the 5-7″ screen and offering manufacturers a new choice for their productivity focused personal computers. The ‘power-gated’ platform (Intel terminology) that is already used by ARM-based platforms, is the only way forward for efficient, always-on’ handheld devices and until Moorestown is released, it gives the ARM-based designs a big advantage with battery life, active standby and weight. Maemo won’t be a serious contender in 2010 as it will focus on it’s development and transition towards Maemo 6. Look to 2011 for productivity-focused, large-format Maemo devices.

Unfortunately the platform that Maemo and Android runs on still needs to progress to the next generation before it can offer the processing power that can match X86-based UMPCs.  Multi-core Cortex-A9 based platforms are expected to reach production in 2010 but products won’t be in customers hands until 2011 meaning that in 2010, ARM-based devices will only be able to compete by offering longer battery life, lighter weight and active standby.

2010 will be the year that the Windows Desktop operating systems are shown to be limiting the progress of the UMPC. Sub-system power control is the only way forward if Intel want to compete with the ARM platforms and this is simply not compatible with Windows operating systems. The difference between battery life on Windows/Menlow and Moblin/Moorestown is going to be very significant and once OEMs see this, we’ll see a move away from Windows-based devices. At least for the pro-sumer ultra mobile PC market. Specialist business UMPCs running Windows 7 will remain.  2010 will be a year where a new generation of Linux-based ultra mobile PC products will be designed. Unfortunately, we may not see those until 2011.

2010 will see big turning points for hardware and software but most of these won’t reach consumers until 2011.

22 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    New article: Ultra-Mobile Computing Predictions for 2010. http://bit.ly/6XzcRa

  2. Mobile Ninja says:

    Ultra-Mobile Computing Predictions for 2010. http://bit.ly/7lrA62
    #mobile

  3. Mitchel Jhonson says:

    Ultra-Mobile Computing Predictions for 2010. | UMPCPortal – Ultra …: A version of Moorestown that supports Wi.. http://bit.ly/7Xi3Uv

  4. Peter Cowan says:

    Ultra-Mobile Computing Predictions for 2010. | UMPCPortal – Ultra … http://bit.ly/7Ha4cI

  5. Absolutely NoOne says:

    :(

  6. tal says:

    I am looking forward for a device which can do Skype (video), GPS and cellular calls enabled (not necessarily as main phone), with 10 hours of live battery.

  7. chippy says:

    10hrs of live ( i assume connected) is one of he big challenges that lies with software developers. We need applications that dont poll because it’s a killer.

  8. netbean says:

    i don’t need more powerful, just need smaller, lighter, and run windows xp

  9. chippy says:

    This is one of the scenarios that might not get much attention in 2010. I’m a fan too but the only hope I see for 2010 is low power screen technology. Don’t expect more than 20% improvement on battery life in this scenario.

  10. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    2010 predictions from @WarnerCrocker http://bit.ly/6DOfVs My geeky predictions here: http://bit.ly/6LZrU0

  11. Oliver Herbert says:

    2010 predictions from @WarnerCrocker http://bit.ly/6DOfVs My geeky predictions here: http://bit.ly/6LZrU0 (via @chippy)

  12. Smith says:

    RT @chippy: 2010 predictions from @WarnerCrocker http://bit.ly/6DOfVs My geeky predictions here: http://bit.ly/6LZrU0

  13. CharlesT says:

    Hmm, based on your analysis, which I consider quite credible, Apple should continue to increase its share of the high-end mobile space…

    In Canada, the iphone is rather pricey for the casual phone user. Where can one get a pda replacement with simple cell phone capability without committing upwards of $2000 to carriers?

  14. chippy says:

    Charles. Thanks for your feedback.
    There’s an opportunity for Apple here for sure.

    The UMPCs space is going to churn in 2010 and the door is wide open.

  15. squirrel says:

    Chippy, what about Dell Streak comparing to Archos 5 IMT?
    2010 year will be a year of significant progress in ARM MID devices, because we (at least!) will see all-in-one 5″ ARM Cortex devices – with 3G/wimax, cameras, normal USB hosts, capasitive multitouch screens, etc.

  16. xemone says:

    The year 2010 will be a year of polarization and growth for manufacturers. Besides finding the right OS and complimentary software for UMPCs & MIDs, the time-frame for widespread mobile broadband deployment (specifically LTE) also affects the growth of MIDs; at least here in the U.S. Another reason why 2010 will be a slow year for the consumer and a long decision making year for manufacturers.

    If Apple’s 4G iPhone is truly a new generation, then other companies will likely follow behind apple’s new innovations and designs in the classic fashion. Otherwise the iPhone’ll just keep going like the energizer bunny.

    Summary:
    2008 was the year everyone (semiconductor companies) realized the huge potential in mobile internet devices and that intel meant business with it’s Atom core.

    2009 was the year that the ARM architecture fired back with performance leaps and the addition of features for better competition with the Atom chip in mainstream mobile devices.

    2010 will be the year they decide what goes into what devices. We should see new standards and some consolidation of old standards and formats. Also HUGE growths in the software part. There are some rumors about Android+Chrome OS refined to fit snugly in the MID and Smartbook sector? Maybe. Samsung Bada and Intel Moblin should launch and expand. App stores should also see growth and refinement; Intel Atom Developer Program, Windows App Store, Android Market.

    Late 2010/early 2011 – Maturation of the new mobile device market, plus people like me get to see the final big picture.

  17. Realty says:

    Very interesting observtions Chippy. I think you may be correct about the hardware but wonder if you are underestimating Android in 2010. If Microsoft does not do something to head Google off, no I don’t think Windows Mobile 7 will do it, I think 2010 may be the year that Android became a mainstream and competitive productive operating system.

    I expect Google to continue upgrading their Smartphone software but wonder to what extent they are behind the Android software that is on your Archos 5 tablet? Is it Archos or Google driving those upgrades? If it is Google then we will find Android on 5″ tables, netbooks and notebooks. If that is the case, then at the end of 2010 we may declare that 2010 was the coming out of Android and the beggining of the end of the MS Windows dominance. No small event to take place in an otherwise slow year.

    I hope you will keep us informed on events in the Android world and I am not just talking about their smartphone software.

  18. zuber5 says:

    Chippy, you are being too simplistic. If anyone can predict what comes next they are delusional :)

  19. Ahmed Mukhtar says:

    I’ve been for a while on a quest to find the complete PC-Camera-GPS-Phone that fits in my pocket, but as recently I was forced to remote desktop in my current job, I actually think that having a phone that supports remote desktopping like Windows Mobile 6.5 maybe the answer. It just means that my computer at home is always running and is always connected to the net, which is not a big deal. There will still be issues regarding the duplicity of contacts on Outlook and constant synchronsing will be required, but for the rare occassion that I need desktop performance on the go, this would be the way to achieve it.
    I don’t know of if the Sony Xperia X2 whenever Vodafone releases it, will output to a monitor whilest remote desktopping via the 7.2Mbps 3G connection to my home computer to allow to run a demanding application like AutoCAD remotely?

    Any thoughts?

  20. squirrel says:

    Chippy, what do you think about such accessories in 2010?
    http://dvice.com/archives/2009/12/keystick-keyboa.php

  21. Unzar Jones says:

    If Viliv can make a version of the S5 that has a hardware keyboard, that’ll satisfy me for a couple of years. The S5 in standby is great for power usage AND it fits in my pocket.

  22. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    SSDs never really happened in 2010 did they. Looking at my predictions from one year ago: http://bit.ly/dQNSTv

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