The ultra mobile PC we first covered in 2006 has come a long way. Those early Windows-based products, however, have given way to a range of incredibly flexible, powerful and productive 6-inch smartphones. Yes, there are a few specialised Windows products still being produced, hope for a new range of ARM-powered devices and inductrial options but for the consumer and productive adventurer, the development ecosystem just never made it to maturity.
It’s now time to look first at the software ecosystems and then at the hardware available. The latter could reach its spotlight moment very soon.
The topic has been covered many times but it looks like this could be the year of the flexible screen. Prices will extremely be high but productivity could take a big leap forward. We were paying between $1000 and $2000 in 2007-2010 for good UMPC. The same price today is actually more accessible.
The folding phone from Samsung looks like it will become reality soon and they’re not the first. Royole’s FlexPai is also a real product. Huawei and Motorola are also rumored to have products that could be launched in 2019.
What is a UMPC?
An Ultra Mobile PC was, in 2006, a Windows-powered, mobile computer with built in touchscreen. Windows wasn’t a good operating system and despite Microsoft trying with Windows 8 tablets, Continuum and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) they failed.
Today a UMPC is something more than Windows can provide. It’s a product that offers ground-breaking apps and sensor capability. It is the pinnacle of electronic engineering and likely to be on an ARM-based platform rather than an Intel one. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be Windows.
Windows on ARM is real and products are already in the market. The Lenovo IdeaPad Mix 630 is real and on the shelves. The Asus NovaGo too but there’s nothing really happening in the sub 10-inch space right now. The Surface Go is one choice but it might pay to wait.
There are a few 9.7 inch devices worth looking into. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10 is one to consider if simplicity and security are your aims but that goes against the grain of the highly flexible UMPC.
The Apple iPad is another option. The software and application ecosystem leads the market and there are a huge range of 3rd party accessories.
When you look at the 6 – 8 inch products space, however, there’s little to be seen. What we want to see is a folding 7 – 9 inch screen and keyboard accessory. It might run Windows 10 and it could finally be that Surface mini that we always hoped would come but it’s more likely to be an Android device for 2019. And even then, there are going to be problems that will need ironing out. The cost…we’ll have to wait and see.