End Of Our Line?

Posted on 16 August 2010, Last updated on 18 August 2010 by

Toshiba Libretto W100

Are we reaching the end of the line for productive handheld PC’s?

What OS will fill the gap and provide the applications and full internet experience?

Have we exhausted all design possibilities?

As I watch the Wow-Pow videos of the ‘special edition’ Toshiba Libretto W100 [All information now in the product database.] I wonder if I’m looking at the end of the handheld PC line. It’s not that the W100 isn’t any good it’s just that for the first time ever, my watch-list is empty. The Sony Vaio P, Fujistu UH900, Viliv N5 have launched and the W100/W105 was the last device I would consider to be in the ultra mobile PC category. There’s nothing else apart from 10 inch tablet variants built on netbook platforms that I’d rather not guess the battery life of. Beyond that its a world of minimalist operating systems, immature applications and a relatively slow and incomplete web experience that you’re not going to be happy with if you depend on the web browser for your business processes.

Over the last year I’ve been saying to myself ‘end of 2010.’ That was the time period I set in my mind as the point at which it wouldn’t make business sense to produce an ultra mobile PC and it looks like I could be right. Viliv, a company that produced fantastic mobile computing products over the last 3 years, is working on an Android tablet and that’s the way everyone else seems to be going too. To be honest, there are very few options out there for designers right now. For anyone thinking about building a mobile computer the products required won’t be ready until 2011. Moorestown, Oaktrail, Cortex A9, Android 3.0, MeeGo and WebOS will be the keywords on every OED’s whiteboard and none of these products are going to be mature enough for a 2010 success.

Mobile Mix-Up

I can see it in our stats too. The number of articles on UMPCPortal has dropped. The traffic has dropped too. On Carrypad, it’s another story. We could write 5 articles a day there if we were to pick up on all the rumors. Traffic is going up. In the product database we’re adding netbooks and Android devices all over the place but very few 5-9 inch Windows-based devices.

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72 Comments For This Post

  1. Gretchen Glasscock says:

    End Of Our Line?:

    Are we reaching the Read more …

    Related posts:Nvidia on Smartbook Operating Systems: WinCE… http://bit.ly/dyPZtF

  2. emden says:

    End Of Our Line? | UMPCPortal – Ultra Mobile Personal Computing http://bit.ly/9LwKTq

  3. Realty says:

    In Ballmers recent chat with the analyst, he seem to say he wants Windows 7 on talblets and slates. Im not sure he has a clue how to do it but with 41 billion dollars backing him, he can go for whatever he wants. You may yet see Windows on small devices in 2011. Ballmer could end up being our best friend.

  4. aftermath says:

    There’s a strong whiff of Chicken Little in this post. If you’re wrong, then can I just declare it, or do I have to substantiate myself?

    You seem to imply that the supply of solutions is running dry, but you don’t seem to concede that the problem has gone away. I think the desire for a productive, mobile device is a condition that still affects many of us, and whenever there are unsatisfied people there’s a market for generating revenue (although that’s not the same as profit). Anyhow, I believe that this form factor will be around for a while. It’s been asserting itself for a very long time, and I think many of us are still waiting for the modern Psion 5mx (if the Sharp ISO1 wasn’t running garbage Android, I’d be all over that).

    However, if you’re really serious about your view, then it leaves me wondering “what are YOU going to do about it?” At one end of the spectrum, you can just stop caring, in which case I guess this site evaporates. At the other end of the spectrum, you could get involved on the other side. Participate with groups like Qi Hardware. Use your considerable knowledge, experiences, and opinions to direct the conceptually development of a device like the Ya Nanonote. Too often, people live their life like they MUST order off of somebody else’s menu and forget that they CAN make any food that they want themselves. Of course, there’s a whole, passive spectrum of possibilities in between. I guess what I’m saying is that a more compelling and relevant question than “End of our line?” to me is “What IS next for us”.

  5. chippy says:

    I’ve been analysing the potential market for UMPCs for a long time and I need to be honest with myself and my readers.

    I’m sensing that you didnt read page 2 though…

    “if we define PC as any device that provides the user with the applications and connectivity they require then no. The functionality will still be there but will be performed on different operating systems with different applications and different styles of process.”

    What i’m saying is that we will be able to continue using products that give what we want today (FIE, connectivity, productivity) but in a different form. In terms of ‘me’ I see devices appearing here that spill evolve from the sort of devices we tackle over at Carrypad.


  6. aftermath says:

    Chippy, despite what it must have seemed, I read the whole article twice before posting a comment. I’m naturally very dumb, and I’ve been that way my whole life despite constant efforts to improve myself. Sometimes I just give off the wrong impression, and for that I apologize.

    It’s UMPCs we’re talking about, right? I think that your “if we define a PC…” exercise hs self-deceiving. A PC is a Personal Computer. PERSONAL. I believe the definition goes: “general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user with no intervening computer operator”. NO INTERVENING COMPUTER OPERATOR. Any computing which reflects a considerable dependence on web services, “the cloud”, or connected “apps”, which are all just more recent examples of the client-server computing paradigm, is NOT personal computing. Any device which is profiled for this type of client-serve computing IS NOT a PC. The personal doesn’t mean you get to customize it. It means you have TOTAL control. You have TOTAL control over your data. You have TOTAL control over your services. You have TOTAL control over your access. You decide when something changes or is upgraded. You install the software. You upgrade the hardware.

    A pocket device which is basically the modern equivalent of a dumb terminal with virtual network computing functionally offers little more than a web-ified dumb terminal and NOT a PC with Internet access. I won’t go so far as to call all people dumb who entrust their data’s storage, access, creation, and usefulness as well as the bulk of their workflow and “socialization” to services over which they have NO CONTROL, NO OWNERSHIP, NO BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP, and constantly shifting (i.e. non-existant) rights. However, if I did any of those things myself then I’d feel like a complete moron. Any horrible thing that happened to me as a result would be my fault, and any room to complain that I’d have would be room to complain about myself. In the same spirit, I won’t speak for anybody else, but what I expect an Ultra Mobile Personal Computer to be is first and foremost a Personal Computer. I want my data stored on the device. I want my programs stored on the device. Although I expect compromises, it needs to be capable enough that I find myself using it and wanting to use it (so many device through the years have made a home in a desk drawer or closet). I want to be able to choose which operating system it runs or at least which version of the operating system it runs. I don’t want a vendor telling me that their latest OS will not be supported on my device. It’s not their computer. It’s my computer, and they can’t decide that for me (this is one of many reasons that I and many others fled Apple so long ago). It only needs to have connectivity to the extent that it’s a computer. It should be no less or more connected than a laptop can be, and it needs to offer a the same, complete Internet experience (I get that sense that for you an FIE is sufficient, but for me it’s only necessary). Of course, it also has to be ultra mobile. This means very easily transportable. It doesn’t have to be super tiny or super thin. Like a lot of you, 5-7 inches seems about right for a screen size to me, but it’s about more than that: weight, thickness, durability, form factor (slate versus clamshell), etc. It’s complicated, and I don’t fantasize about “my perfect device”. I just want a useful one, and I know what is or isn’t when I see them.

    My sense from your article hasn’t changed. I still get a “sky is falling” vibe from you even after re-reading your article (which is a fantastically piece, thoughtful insightful, well-written, catalyzed discussion, etc.) and skimming through all of these comments. While everything that you’re saying is true, I think that you should do a similar job of analyzing yourself as a UMPC consumer. My best guess is that you’ve outgrown UMPCs, and that’s OK. I know that the way you use devices like the umid BZ and Viliz N5 is kind of half PC and half web terminal at this point. As I stated previously, there seem to be fewer and fewer solutions to the UMPC problem, but the UMPC problem hasn’t gone away for many of us. I suspect that it has for you. You seem to have moved on from PCs in terms of how you actually use devices to the point that you’re attempting to resolve the dissonance by changing the very definition of what a PC is. But that doesn’t change my response: “What are you going to do about it?” Pretending for a moment that simply changing the meaning of words isn’t the best solution, do you give up on UMPCs altogether, or do something else? Have you yet come to terms with the fact that you you’re looking for a UM-something-else and not a UMPC, or am I completely wrong? Honestly, putting up with something that’s not a PC doesn’t seem like a solution, it just seems like a new problem.

  7. yves says:

    I fully agree with aftermath.
    I discovered the name UMPC and this site only 3 years ago – as a consumer rather than a specialist, I wasn’t aware of the availability of such small but full PCs before the emergence of the netbook market. After having used a Samsung Q1, an Aigo MID (this one was a mistake), and since one year a UMID M1, I still hope (and try) to be able to use my UMPC as my only personal computer, with all my critical data and my apps on its HD or SSD.

    But despite the emergence of good, pocketable devices for half of the price of the former UMPCs, this seems to stay a niche market. I don’t know if it’s only a marketing issue (a lot of people, like me 3 years ago, don’t know that it’s possible to buy a pocketable but full PC for less than 500$), or if such devices don’t make sense for more than 0.1% of the consumers.

    I also don’t know where Intel really wants to go with Moorestown + Meego: only provide a platform for smartphones/MIDs or also for a new generation of UMPCs. Or if MS will be able to provide (and interested in) a fully mobile version of Win 7, with a UI really adapted for small touchscreens.

    But I’m ready to wait one year more with my “old” M1 under XP.
    The UMID M1 and BZ or the Viliv N5 have proven that the hardware is here, cheaper, smaller and lighter than the “old”, non-pocketable UMPC, and with an acceptable battery life. OK, a lot of improvements can be made, but the main issue is the OS – and, unfortunately, XP (or 7 if you’ve enough RAM) is still the most efficient solution if you want to be able to use your usual apps on your UMPC.

  8. Marcin says:

    This not the end, just a beginning. I agree that we are in a dead zone (dead time) right now. Full blown x86 processors are too heavy, Intel needs time to shrink them down. And there are no devices with full Linux and ARM processor, at least not done properly and small enough.

    But imagine, take Dell Streak, add keyboard, put Debian Linux on it, finish with witch some touch-friendly skin or side-by-side Android, and boom. UMPC back on track. Just be patient and give producers one or two more years. They will figure it out eventually.

  9. timon says:

    We need to wait for end of this year and 2011 coming, with our a little endurance.

    Android is mainly for cellphone and not UMPC. I am waiting Intel and MS to bring better, not only an OS.

    Also, Toshiba is a famed manufacturer in Japan’s notebook industry, however Libretto W100 is bewildering, although many of the technical means obtain applied. What is a marketable target as the Libretto W100?

    What is this Libretto W100?

    no, it is too small, I would rather select a 12-inch or 15-inch notebook.

    no, it is too spending in my money.

    no, it is a poor batteries life and a postiche thing for a secondly screen.

    My God, it is a highest pricing’s e-book and a worse batteries life, would you want it?

  10. Dave P says:

    I hope you’re wrong. But the pessimist in me worries.

    UMPCs, to my mind, have never been marketed to the right audience. To be successful they need to follow RIM, not Apple. Ads should show an executive pulling a UMPC out of his suit pocket, not a teenager pulling it out of her pants pocket.

    I had an OQO 02 (now dead) which I loved. Its primary advantage over the smartphones of today was that it allowed me to run corporate applications – Lotus Notes, MS Office, and Acrobat Pro. The facts that it could also accept ink with its active digitizer and output HDMI to a projector were icing on the cake.

    Even now, Motion Computing seems to be cranking out updated models on a regular basis with their focus on vertical business markets. Unfortunately, they are all full sized slates. Their iPad sized LS800 never got traction in the business community.

    I would argue that this is because 7 to 9 inches is precisely the wrong size for UMPCs. Once they won’t fit in a suit pocket, there’s no particular reason not to carry a lightweight laptop.

    As Marcin says, the Dell Streak form factor is ideal once you add a keyboard. The OQO was about that height and width but would need to go on a diet to reduce its depth and weight. You could add a keyboard to the Streak by increasing the Streak’s depth from 0.39 to 0.56 (the difference between the Samsung Vibrant and the Samsung Epic). Now all we need is Cedar Trail to cut the power consumption.

    Dell, are you listening?

  11. chippy says:

    I’m with you. I’ve always been a fan of 5-7″ devices (My ‘Carrypad’ was defined exactly as you describe.) UMPCs as we know them are coming to an end and it’s the non-windows devices that are the future….unless, as Realty says, Balmer turns things round!


  12. Dave P says:

    You’re probably right. But besides Balmer, what could turn it around is demand from large corporations. Many of these are locked into local Windows software and Android is no more appealing to them than Mac OS. Even their web enabled applications tend to require browsers much more capable than any mobile OS offers.

    RIM broke into the corporate market because corporate staff with personal cell phones clamored for a corporate email mobile solution. RIM, saw the need and answered it. You are right that what is needed is a “skillful, daring and financially solid company” to respond to what is now a nascent clamor from corporate staff with personal smartphones and tablets for a smartphone or tablet that can run corporate applications. I’m hoping Dell sees the need.

  13. Mark says:

    I think all the parts are there for a good UMPC, but nobody is putting those parts together. My UMID MBook BZ is so close, but someone needs to integrate it with an HP200LX style keyboard. The choices of key placement on it and the Viliv N5 make it pretty well unusable for thumb typing. I’m always juggling the thing.

    The Viliv gets the placement of the mouse controls right. So an N5 with a good keyboard and there’s the UMPC the market really needs. I feel I’m getting enough power from the present hardware inside.

    What I’ve got a problem with is the human interface they give me.

    As to smart phones, I have three and they’re OK for occasional browsing on some sites (but far from all), most PIM stuff works pretty well there, too, on the better phones. None of them replaces a UMPC for me.

    I’ve also got 3 Eee PCs, and they don’t fill the bill of UMPC, either. They’re great for their size–but they’re still too big for what I need a UMPC for. They have displaced my other laptops, and one desktop, though.

    Personally I think most current UMPC designs are compromised by trying to make them appeal to too wide an audience. They’re a niche item for, mostly, power users. They should be designed to fit that audience. Good keyboards, displays, battery life, and full version general purpose OS support all in a pocket-size system (again, the 200LX should be the standard measured against) are the key features.

    If you’d told me 15 years ago that I wouldn’t be able to get a small system today as nice to use as the 200LX was then, I’d never have believed it. But here we are.

  14. scoobie says:

    I too am continually surprised at the frustratingly slow pace of development – compared to when the Psions were out running on two AA batteries , I thought we’d be much further on by now.
    Developments in OSs, battery life, screen displays and chipsets seem to take an age when it comes to lightweight, minimum power usage scenarios.
    Desktops I think have come a long way by comparison (iMacs, Windows 7, Intel icore 3,5,7 chipsets)

  15. stosh says:

    There is a big gap here, and something is going to fill it. I have a smart phone (more than one, like most of us), and an iPad. Also a fairly small but powerful laptop (HP 2530P). I want to ditch the laptop, maybe even the smart phone.
    I think the barrier here might be Win7. It just doesn’t fit in with what we are looking for in a mobile device. IOS and Android are filling a lot of the gap from the bottom, but have limits. The netbooks looked promising, but issues with slow performance (Atom) and slow integrated graphics have put the hold on this platform.
    Give me a small laptop (11″ or less), good keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, dual-core CPU, 4GB (or more) memory capacity, dedicated graphics (at least enough to solid 720 video when working with multiple apps), and minimum 5 hour battery life. Wifi and 3G/4G connectivity. Oh, and no more than $500 USD (ok, I’d go $599 with broadband).

    If such a device can be produced they won’t be able to make them fast enough. Ubuntu would be fine, as would OSX or Win7, as long as they could perform and provide good battery life.

    There is a demand for this device and nothing out there. Someone is working on it. Whoever gets there first will redefine this category.

  16. jnjroach says:

    stosh – it sounds like you would like the Acer Timline Series


  17. stosh says:

    Yes, I’ve looked into this line and it looks interesting, but is at the high end of price line. Also no broadband or bluetooth. I think the past model might have offered some of these, but haven’t seen many reviews.

  18. chippy says:

    Thanks for all the comments folks!

    I see a future with productivity, FIE, flexibility but I don’t see it in the form that we’ve been tracking here at UMPCPortal for the last 4+ years. We have to be realistic and understand that 4 years ago, there was no option but windows and X86. Now, we’re in a timeframe where a big change is happening at the hardware and software level.

    Expect to see non-windows, non X86 products appearing here soon. The focus remains the same though!

  19. ssagg says:

    That has been happenning for a while now
    A lot of non X86 non Windows devices are filling the news in the last times

  20. ssagg says:

    A UMPC is a full blown PC in a portable or a pocketable form factor and we are a little arrogant if we assume that we can define what a PC is from our particular point of view.
    There’s another HUGE market (the “regular” PC’s one) that will decide if Windows is going to keep being tha main OS independently of what we may want or need. We are just keep going to be a small group of people asking someone to give us the option of having that (not a similar one, exact THAT) OS in a pocketable form factor. That is what a UMPC is and will be in the future. No other OS will fill it’s place unless it possitioned as the regular PC OS choice.

  21. chippy says:

    You have a point. Is a UMPC simply a shrunken desktop that allows users to continue using their desktop processes? If it is though then UMPCs are always going to be one step behind and not quite good enough as desktop OS requirements increase.

  22. ssagg says:

    The same seemed to happen with laptops and notebooks not so many years ago

  23. Minions says:

    The real killer here is most other OS’s (non windows) do not properly work and display things. This is such a pain in the butt and really defeats the purpose of having a device that can get work done.

    This can be seen in many cases if you try to use a mobile phone browser to purchase something from a website. In many cases you may have to try multiple browsers…. I know in at least one case I ended up direct connecting to my PC at home from my phone, in order to use that web browser to purchase my item.

  24. Charles in Canada says:

    There are signs that things are moving in the right direction: Processors and GPUs continue to be more energy smart, and there are now at least 2 very-low power screen technologies (pixel Qi and Mirasol).

    Yet I believe that the biggest gap remains in the way the mobile worker interacts with the computing platform. It is not enough to make the OS more usable for the user while standing up or walking, applications must also be “mobile friendly”. And that may require innovations in the way users can control their computer and indut data. Google just announced voice command (a technology that could already exists in PC’s). But it is not always possible to talk to your PC or smartphone as social etiquette has not yet accepted people talking to themselves… Microsoft is working on a keyborad that is at the back of a tablet…

    I dont think this is the end of the line for UMPC’s, but maybe just a pause the industry figures out how new ways of interacting with computers and applications.

  25. chippy says:

    Will apps written for the desktop ever be mobile friendly? Another reason to look for your app solutiobs in a mobile OS IMO.

  26. scoobie says:

    Windows phone 7 is having a decent attempt at getting Office – in particular Onenote which I use a lot, onto a mobile devices.

  27. Charles in Canada says:

    I’m with you on this one Chippy, simply because many destop apps have evolved in sophistication as desktop PCs gained in speed of execution, RAM & HD space. For these applications, is there a big enough mobile market to entice developpers to produce (smaller?) versions of their software for mobile devices? Is this a chicken and egg situation?

    Does the OS on which these apps run need to be Windows? NO. Does Windows 7 meet the needs of UMPC’s? Win 7 has made great strides to address the needs of the tablet & stylus user (i.e. better support for handwritting as input method) – but that’s not how UMPC’s are used. Could Microsoft produce a mobile version of Windows (that could run Windows apps)? I dont see how that could render these apps more usable on a pocketable device.

    One thing is sure: the mobile market is growing extremely fast these days, this can only be good for mobile workers in the long run. However, the current focus is on consumer products – smartphones and 7-10″ tablets; that’s why I think the UMPC market is taking a pause – but I dont think that means it’s the end of the road, quite the contrary.

  28. timon says:

    Up to now, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, all their software were only supporting with Windows and Mac, even like Ubuntu was also without to get supporting from these major manufacturers.

    ExifPro is a excellent image viewer and supporting the RAW image in all cameras, but it is just running on Windows. I want to find a same excellent image viewer can be running on Ubuntu, but it was without.

    Well, a non X86 system walked into the matured market might be not soon. In future few years, we still need Windows. And, Intel MeeGo is worth waiting, it is able to run the dual OS on the X86 chip, for Windows and MeeGo.

  29. amukhtar says:

    I think the future lies in having PCs running non-stop at home, like a VAIO Z-Series and having a Sony Ericson Xperia Windows Phone 7 device that does basic MS-Office, Websurfing, Multi-Media & low gaming as well as, communication, but when extra omph is required, for say, AutoCAD 3D or 3D Max, a remote desktop connection is made to the Windows 7 at home. The display would be on the Vuzix Wrap 920, or the Wrap 920 AR. The phone might also have a pico projector. This way you can have a powerful pc in your pocket, and tap into it when required. It would be nice if you can also fire up and standby the laptop remotely. As for the interface, a 3D HUD keyboard might work with special sensors (rings worn near the finger indices?) and calibrated so that you don’t wave your hands like an idiot whilst reclining on deck chair in the middle of Kensington Gardens.

  30. Christoph Derndorfer says:

    Excellent article by @chippy about the status of "classic UMPCs" – RT @umpcportal: New article: End Of Our Line? http://bit.ly/dAxpAZ

  31. mikeu says:

    I would have tried the new Libretto but no video out. Are you kidding me? I have hdmi out on my droid x smart phone, and Toshiba launches a Win7 product without any way to hook it up to a projector.

    That is the problem with UMPC devices, all the current ones are a compromise for business use and that is the market they could succeed in. If I want a play toy I’ll buy an IPad or Android tablet. But I need to run some win 7 specific programs when I am on the road and I need to display presentations and programs on a projector.

    My new laptop of choice is the 10″ Thinkpad X100e with 4GB’s of RAM and dual core processor, and I love it. I also have it hooked up to a Targus laptop dock in my office and that becomes my desktop computer. Plenty of video power for me to view Hulu, etc. And all this for under $600.00.

    Beats the heck out of staring into a Fujitsu s820.

  32. BassoPT says:

    Steve, to me things are quite simple.

    The future of umpc rely on operating systems and its apps. If think the two big mainstream desktop os’s, Windows and Mac OS, of course they evolved along side with hardware, but they also keep giving better and more productive apps, and that is what holds costumers.

    Main problem of current x86 umpcs is that 1st they never left the very little niche of the connoisseurs market, and second the fact that they runned an os that was never thought to run on such small devices, didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, many companies tried really hard to make the most out of it, and intel atom is just and exemple, also form factors evolved so much in the last two years, but I have to agree we reached a dead end here, there’s not much more space to evolve.

    I agree with you Android is probably the future not only in terms of Smartphones but also with umpcs. Main and simple thing is apps. How far and how fast can software people deploy productive software for exemple, like office or a full internet browsing for a mobile platform.

    Some time ago you asked me if I would use a 10″ android device?! I know I’m getting a bit far off topic but, remember what I answered you? Sure it would be great but where are the apps. You know what I do for a living and my demands are somehow not the standard for most people, but still I doubt if you put a device like a n5 out at this point of in a near future with mobile apps as they are or close, no one will buy it. People still rely, and got to much used to Desktop OS. That in my opinion is the main problem even if android 3.0 or meego are turn points it will be hard for people to let go.

    Thank you for being honest and direct to your reader and followers and not giving into false publicity and weird and dishonest marketing strategies.

    All the best, and keep up the good work.


  33. Tony says:

    i think one of the big problems has always been that everyone that wants something in this space wants something a bit different. Personally I was hooked with the nokia N810 and really wanted to move to whatever OQO had in it’s pipeline. I want something i can put in my pocket and carry instead of a phone, but i want it to be fully compatible with just about everything i would be doing on my desktop.

    As for next steps, the trend seems to be moving in the direction of smartphone for the masses, where i see myself leaning towards right now is the idea of a wearable computer. http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/07/a-wearable-computer/

    Sure the guy looks like a total dork, but that’s really where I want to see this tech pushing us. we want a device that is always on and we can use seamlessly with our daily lives to communicate with the world and be productive in places that dragging a laptop around doesn’t quite suit us. As I see it, with the current available hardware we have between ARM/Atom we have the power needed to perform just about all the computing tasks we want. Really the things that are currently holding back I think are how we interact with our computers.

  34. chippy says:

    The really personal computer was a core element of UMPCs and fortunately that is continuing in the mobile ‘smart’ market. The Epic 4g for example is looking like an amazing MID. I hope we start to see Android 3 and Meego stimulating even more design variants.

  35. chippy says:

    What do you ‘pair’ with your x100 as a smartphone?

  36. morganmobile says:

    Interesting article and discussion about the future of UMPC's going on at UMPCPortal http://bit.ly/csdVlR good job @Chippy

  37. peejay says:


    Thought provoking. Not sure I agree, but maybe because I don’t want to!

    I’ve always taken UMPC to mean a desktop operating system (Windows or possibly Mac) on something that goes in your pocket. The advantage is that you can do anything on it that you can do on a desktop. I don’t see any full featured word processors available for Android, and I’m doubtful we’ll see them soon. And word processing is a fairly basic thing, never mind the more esoteric requirements that other desktop PC users may have.

    The problem is that as the capabilities of smartphones/iPads etc increases, then the potential market for full UMPCs decreases. And this reduces the chance of people developing them. I don’t think it’s a technology thing – the current crop of UMPCs are pretty decent. (Major caveat: they all have deal breakers for me. No video out, Viliv?! But those deal breakers ought to be designable out.) Atom+Win 7 seems like a good platform to me. Next year’s hardware can only improve matters.

    So it’s not the technology, it’s the potential size of the market. And it’s small, but there are manufacturers still there. Viliv, UMID, xpPHONE, Sony (do they still make that really expensive, terrible battery life thing?)…

    I’m still using my Everun.

  38. morganj says:

    I think the biggest question to ask when pondering this is, are we refering to UMPC’s as defined by the original (MS) term, or has the term now evolved to mean any small mobile computing device?

    If we stick strictly to the original definition then I personaly believe that we are nearing the end. It is an unfortunate truth that as new hardware gets developed to make things smaller and lighter, the main players in the OS market decide in their so called wisdom to make use of the newly available power, which my fellow UMPC lovers is bad news for us.

    What is the point of taking well designed hardware and loading it up with a standard desktop os which uses most of the available processor cycles just to show the GUI? Well, the point is, that currently we have no choice, mobile OS’s dont provide the applications we need, and desktop OS’s dont provide the “experience” we want.

    If we were to broaden the definition of UMPC to mean small comptuting devices in a more loose sense, then I actualy think that we are at the very begining of some major development.

    Do I want to move to a mobile OS on smaller more power eficient hardware? I’m not sure that I do, I like being in charge of what I want my device to do, and if that means I have to sacrifice the “experience” then so be it. I use my UMPC’s as productive work devices, I use other hardware for consumption of media.

    One thing that seems to have happened as the whole world has woken up to the idea if having some kind of computer in their pockets, MID’s, Android, iPhone etc, and also netbooks in their bags, is that end users now expect power and small size along with low cost. As far as I am concerned UMPC’s (original term) were never meant to be low cost, they were created to get a job done.

    If that job can be done on lower cost hardware running a mobile OS I will be happy to switch, but until that time please somebody continue to develop real UMPC’s


  39. chippy says:

    I echo that plea but you’ve hit the nail on the head – the market, the reason, the potential profit is decreasing to the point where it’s not worth developing Windows UMPCs any more. Some hope lies in the tablet market but I personally think it will be short-lied (for WIndows) and won’t hit the mark for many. I think Viliv ‘turning the corner’ with the X10 should be a big signal to us.

  40. Marcin says:

    Actually, I think N900 and it successors will lead the way. In my case (linux python developer), all I need is Firefox, Emacs, Python, and big screen. I plan to give it a try as my primary machine, as soon as non rezistive-screen version comes out.

    Windows users and people dependent on heavy desktop apps will probably have to wait longer, but in the long term I think this new kind of UMPC will become more and more popular.

  41. chippy says:

    Agree. MeeGo-based devices are probably the #1 focus for people looking for productivity and FIE in a handheld device. Android too although I hope the Oracle lawsuit doesn’t stop them.

  42. scoobie says:

    I agree the trend towards other operating systems (Android , iOS in particular) will increase, … also that the trend towards mobile handsets and ipad style devices to do PC like tasks will increase.

    However, I still think PC manufacturers will continue to turn out PC based UMPCs, in particular when Intel finally delivers some improvements to the Atom chipset that are in the current generation projects. I expect Sony and Toshiba to continue to deliver into the UMPC space. Hopefully Viliv too. I think sales of these devices will be small compared to tablets and mobile phone, but nevertheless I think there is a small niche there for portable PCs, in particular with keyboards.

    What I think will be eliminated are small Windows tablet devices like the Viliv S5. The mobile chipsets and mobile OS’s are better suited to delivering a better customer experience for these.

    Chippy – I don’t read too much into the fact that there aren’t many devices on your radar list at present. We are just coming out of a global recession so R&D budgets have been slashed , there has been a real focus on budget devices recently (which will always exclude UMPCs) and we are at the end of the current atom lifecycle so I expect manufacturers are developing devices based on Intels new chipsets for 2011 launches.

    I hope and expect to see some interesting and new UMPCs are CES 2011!

  43. chippy says:

    Good point about the recession.
    Agree about the small UMPCs too but I still think it’s too hard for any OED to justify more Windows-based UMPCs (up to 7″)

  44. fred says:

    One would think that windows claws its way back in the limelight and really surprises everybody with win mobile 7 stretching it beyond Android into productivity. Plus improving Win 7 into a better touch experience. It is an uphill battle but its time they get their act together if they want to avoid a shareholder revolt.
    With new chipsets in the pipeline, it does seem that second half 2011 couldn’t come fast enough.

  45. Charles in Canada says:

    IMHO, at first glance, Windows Phone 7 is geared for the mobile phone market with a task-orriented approach to doing things (as opposed to an apps-oriented one). It is more focused on the worker, with security features being an integral part of the OS.

    Yet, as i’ve indicated before, I dont see how making the OS capable of running windows apps can make these apps more usable on a pocket sized device.

  46. Charles in Canada says:

    WOW Chippy, your post sure was thought provoking! It’s interesting to see the various points of view. I sense one theme coming out of all these comments: there is still a rather diversified need for more “serious” computing in an Ultra Mobile form factor. We can only hope hardware and software developpers see it too.

    So is this the end of the road for the traditional UMPC (i.e. windows apps running on a pocketable PC)?
    I for one am betting this enormous growth in the mobile market will force the desktop world to pay attention and evolve towards a more blended environment where information can be accessed and processed using various devices.

    Ooops, the alarm just went off, time for me to wake-up and stop dreaming…

  47. fab says:

    ..are you saying i have to remove umpcportal from my daily bookmark readings and insert carrypad instead? then yes…i’m on.

    i’m on android, a great smartphone, with a bluetooth keyboard… so yes, the end for netbooks or other small laptops, clamshells etc is already here – for me!

  48. chippy says:

    Keep both in your bookmarks! As Charles in Canada said, the requirement is still there, it will just be served by a new OS.

  49. umpcaddict says:

    until hologram technology improves and becomes a reality, umpc’s will always be around, they’ll just get faster, thinner, and lighter. i’m sure many of us wouldn’t mind some of our umpcs being thinner and lighter. and battery technology is improving so give us a device that we never have to turn off! 3g data+voice. speed it up, put it on a lean-diet, and give us more ram!

    my dream machine would be a 7-9″ netvertible, with a pico projector (high-res) built in. it should also have a miniature mouse/handheld touchpad/presentation or media mouse that stores away into the machine, similar to the hp dv6000 media remote. it should also be able to stay on for at least 12 hours. 3g data+voice. it should be ultra-thin and ultra-light. and as voice technology improves, i should be able to tell it anything i want. true conversations about the weather, politics, and sports. and it should be funny about it with a comedic personality. it should have vocal emotion recognition so if it crashes and i lose some part of a document that hadn’t been saved, it will know that i’m mad when i turn it back on so it kicks up the processing speed to work harder. i should be able to scold it when it starts acting up and it should only respond when i call it by his name: “my b*tch” so it doesn’t get any funny ideas about revolting and wiping my files clean (terminator salvation is one crazy movie). it should converse with me on how i can improve its battery life and even ask me to shut him down if he’s too hot to work. it should be able to call customer service for me and resolve problems or schedule appointments! a true, digital, personal assistant..then machine’s will really be replacing humans. it’s too expensive to hire a personal assistant and give her a computer.

    there is no end to the umpc! long live the machines!

  50. fab says:

    welcome to the real world! nice to have dreams, but reality looks rather different

  51. umpcaddict says:

    you wait!

  52. tsog says:

    After having a P1620 for a year now, I cringe at the thought of moving back larger laptops. Looks like I might have to now since Fujitsu discontinued P1630 and no one else but flybook offers similar performance in a similar package.

  53. netbean says:

    Libretto W100,half of the size is better to hold it outside.

  54. zeo says:

    I don’t believe this is the end of the line for traditional UMPC’s but rather a hiatus as both the OS and hardware has to finally adapt to the needs of mobile users.

    Up till now there has been very little effort to make the changes needed to allow a full OS to be as usable in a mobile device as it is on a desktop. So how Toshiba has managed to make the W100 as usable as they have is actually a good sign and hopefully MS can make such modifications the norm, if not improve upon them.

    But the focus now is on cheap media consumption devices that can deliver HD. Eventually the technology will make this common place and no longer the exclusive focus and then UMPC’s will get more attention as content makers will still find UMPC’s more useful than the alternatives.

    Since even remote accessing a full computer is still limited by factors like bandwidth and latency. While neither Android, iOS, or even WM7 are intended to replace full operating systems.

    So aside from Linux, there really isn’t much to threaten traditional UMPC’s aside from people simply not needing a full OS to do what they want. But as long as there are still people who need or want access to what only a UMPC can provide then there will still be a market for them.

  55. chippy says:

    If OEDs/OEMs want to serve this productivity market (which i DO believe exists) the only thing that can happen is that prices go up and numbers of devices go down. We could be heading to the $1000+ bracket again.

  56. turn_self_off says:

    very likely, and thats basically what they want to see. There was a whole lot of hand wringing from the big boys when the netbook first hit. This because a whole lot of people got a glimpse of what a networked device actually can do these days using citrix or google services. End result was that netbooks and such was selling to marketers and exec to run presentations off where before they carried a ultra-portable in the $1000+ range. If they needed to give a cost quote from some spreadsheet they fired up the citrix client, logged onto their office desktop via HSPA and read the result straight off the screen.

    the netbook basically showed that the tech have come full circle. The PC distributed the cpu power to the individual desk (and later lap) because the connections to the mainframes where to limited in both speed and flexibility. But now the net have made it possible to access multiple mainframes at the same time, and at speeds that makes real time video possible.

  57. chippy says:

    So you are saying that the netbook+3G now serves the mobile productivity market?

  58. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Who said blogs were dead? An amazing amount of quality input in my article about productive mobile PCs here: http://bit.ly/dAxpAZ

  59. BassoPThttp://www.umpcportal.com/2010/08/end-of-our-line/#comments says:

    One have to admit that is really strange that. in one year only two more or less traditional umpcs or netbooks caught my attention in 1 year. the S5 but at this point in time I don’t see the point of getting in terms of usage compared to what an android and or iphone can do for me. And the Asus 1015n and still with this one I’m still having my doubts because they insist on keep the crappy 1024×600 which is not enough for most website these days and nightmare running anything else other than office and browser on it. Ever any of you every tried to run Dreamweaver for example or a music score editor on a netbook?! nightmare if you ask me, and I’m not talking about speed.

    As someone said before I’m ALSO considering leaving the umpc/netbook market and go for a larger a much more powerful laptop, (thing the difference of performance a 11″ ULV notebook can give you these days and the battery life in it….) which would easy justify the price range (actually netbooks are not getting that cheap! ) and stay with a smartphone like android for a more casual mobile computing, and always on-line features.

    I want to keep this umpc passion alive, but I have to admit, it’s hard these days.

    All the best to you all.


  60. chippy says:

    I still think the 3-device strategy is optimal for productivity types but it’s shifting don’t you think? CULV rather than netbook, superphone (as a MID) and a more social, style, snacking mobile device in between (as long as it’s small and light.)

    If superphones keep growing in size, we could even be looking at a two smartphone scenario + CULV 1.5KG laptop.

  61. UMPCPortal says:

    New article: End Of Our Line? http://bit.ly/dAxpAZ

  62. chippy says:

    Thanks again to everyone that commented here. Such thought and detail is rare on blogs these days. This is a valuable thread that i’ll refer back to in the future.
    Keep the comments coming!


  63. Krish Patel says:

    RT @chippy: Who said blogs were dead? An amazing amount of quality input in my article about productive mobile PCs here: http://bit.ly/dAxpAZ

  64. Alejandro Huaman says:

    RT @chippy: The End of the Line (are UMPCS Dead?): http://bit.ly/dAxpAZ // Hell No!!!!!!

  65. umpcaddict says:

    long live umpcportal!

  66. Geo says:

    I still think the Everun Note is the best UMPC. I bought the s16s after Chippy found the Sempron model to be faster than the Athlon. It runs XP and MS Office and is a real computer. I use a mechanical pencil on the touch screen and it works great. I put a 16gb sd chip in the slot to swap data with my home computer and found an extended battery and charger on ebay. It’s a great travel computer.

  67. Lucien says:

    Chippy: Microsoft did announce Windows 7 embedded which would fill that niche that you mentioned. But I see bigger market with new more powerful mobile processors that run just fine with Windows 7.

    Well pocket pc got killed by smartphone. Then came UMPC and I think again it will be killed by smartphone (or even Slate?). People either choose ‘smartphone’ or a 10″ device it seems. I still love the Viliv S5 and will continue to use it especially since windows give me great compatibility but not too many people are interesting in smaller devices unless it’s a phone…

  68. minuz says:

    dear chippy,
    what do you think of this umpc? is the new eking M5
    i hope for a good price and a good hardware (almost a good atom processor or a tegra2)
    otherwise another UMPC that could but ….

  69. AM Electronics says:

    Well at the end of the day, the market is consumer driven. The truth is that most people make pictures, videos, email, and talk on facebook. If it happens that people prefer tablet PCs/smart phones over netbooks to accomplish these tasks then yes, it is highly probable that the netbook market could face strong declines. One of the main benefits of a PC vs a smart phone/tablet PC is that a PC has more power/capabilities. The benefits of the stronger computing power of a PC are not as strongly manifest in netbooks, and smart phones/table PCs better serve the average communicating consumer. IMO the netbook market really could decline due to the fact that its main market [ the average communicating indivudal], has greener grass else where.

  70. sophocha says:

    My transition to the N900 made me think that the UMPC era is over.The first thing I did was to sell my Wibrain.I had no use for it!I could watch all the flash 9.4 (and now Flash 10.1 with a hack) content on my 900mhz overclocked superphone (tvcatchup, justintv and so on), browse the web at superfast speeds, even play PS1, MAME, whatever you name, emulator games on it….hell, even do some DSLR photography with FCAM!

    So for now, I always carry my trusty N900 with me and if I want a Windows application I carry my small Asus EEE 901 with a 30gb hard disk and touchscreen (hack).

    …..but, the new Eking looks mighty good!….my ideal phone/productivity device would be a windows hybrid phone/tablet with voice capabilities in a small package.If something like that happens then I would be glad to jump to the UMPC scene again.

  71. animatio says:

    well, well, well – correct me if i am wrong, but as far as i see it a umpc still is a device that gives it’s owner full operability to run the same professional applications he is used to run on it’s e.g. desktop equipment. such providing him mobility, independent of place and time but with the same (more or less) working power.
    contrary to this the whole industry at the time is chasing behind consumers and devices to satisfy their needs – consummation of content like web, video, streaming music and gaming – NOT WORKING and PRODUCING (do not try to tell me writing short messages or shuffling around pics is productive work).
    it might be sad but it is true the big money lies not in productivity these days but in consummation as we see.

  72. Another guy says:

    A UMPC is a mobile productivity device, like a new generation of the power PDAs we saw at the beginning of the decade. It’s a productivity device, not an entertaining device such as the iphone or ipad, therefore it has to be windows-based to run corporate applications.

    It has to fit in a jacket pocket, it needs 5+ hours of battery life under real world usage, and it needs integrated 3G for true mobility.

    The UMID BZ had it almost right with Windows XP, its 4.8″ 1024×600 screen, its matte screen, the shell form and the thumb typing format. Those were steps in the right direction. It lacks a bit of beef specs wise and it’s rough, like an unpolished product. A brushed up versions of the UMID BZ would be the ultimate UMPC.

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