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CeBIT 2006. Origami or should I say paper tiger from Microsoft?
Below you will read our conclusive material about CeBIT 2006. It is about ultra-mobile pc known as UMPC and Origami. After the hype went away it’s possible to take a clear look and analyze what the project is all about and was all the hype actually worth it?
On the whole the project has nothing revolutionary about itself, it’s not some sort of absolutely new product, platform or a concept. However company’s marketing efforts deserve separate analysis, and I might even consider that the result of such action will be a place in high-tech marketing student’s books. Let’s try to revise chronology of events:
Here is the culmination, who is the killer after all? What is Origami all about? The companies that were taking part in the project have different answer to one and the same question. A pretty unexpected turn in the storyline, isn’t it?
So what in reality Origami is all about? It will become more clear if we go back to history once again. The idea of placing fully-functional Windows OS into size of pocket PC has been living in minds of developers for quite a while. Let’s remember the announced but never to be released FlipStart Vulcan , released long time ago and available at retail sale models OQO and Sony U50/U70. Let’s highlight that ANY of these devices is smaller than all Origami devices. Later on (about a year ago) Intel had the idea of portable PC realized in Ultra Mobile PC project. From the moment first attempts to port Windows XP into small sized device it became clear that the interface needs improvement, since it was lacking the comfort of Windows Mobile, as much as it was overcoming this OS in functional terms. OQO was missing chance to affect Microsoft, and so was Sony. But everything changed when an influential player entered the game (Intel), they were able to explain to their long-time partner that simple version of Windows XP as well as Tablet PC edition have to be improved. This is where Touch Pack upgrade came from.
This upgrade includes the following components:
All mentioned above forms the Touch Pack as it is, formally this is all what Origami is all about. All except for DialKeys, can be easily added/developed by OQO and Sony or any other manufacturer (I doubt that Touch Improvements set has something truly revolutionary and unique, otherwise it would have been mentioned on every corner). As for keyboard, DialKeys, this is the only development that changes ergonomics of the device completely… Is not Microsoft’s idea, but the product of 3rd party company Fortune Fountain Ltd.
So the project of UMPC appeared more than one year ago. Microsoft had mediatory relation to it. It was up to Intel to finally force Microsoft to improve and adapt Windows XP to small screen, to opearation without keyboard or stylus, just with fingers. Microsoft liked the idea of doing practically nothing (DialKeys, Sudoku were bought, borrowed, the rest can be done by one programmer, or better to say designer in short term) and in the end getting a product that can be sold. It liked the idea so much, that a special project was dedicated for this purpose, a chance to test its own marketing initiatives (it can’t be any worse, can it?), taking part of that art from Apple. Recall what hype each announcement of new iPod causes?
Indirect rate of hype can be made by Google queries. The phrase “Microsoft Origami” turns out into a list of 5 millions 600 thousand links. Unfortunately, information-bomb from Microsoft covered truly interesting announcements made at CeBIT 2006 – 32gb SSD-drive from Samsung (flash memory was used instead of hard drive), a unique laptop for managers, Fujitsu Siemens Q2010, with built-in UMTS module. According to Google’s stats interest to these devices is approximately two times lower than Origami.
Basically “simple launcher and skin for Windows Media, oh and a game Sudoku” – that’s the reason of global madness (there is no better word to describe the events) within two weeks before CeBIT and few weeks after. Microsoft’s marketologists receive A+ and have the right to demand raise of their salaries, meanwhile the person who got the idea of www.origamiproject.com web-site can grant for promotion.
A meaning called “paper release” is often used in press, it’s when a product is announced at early stages of development, or the development process has not been even started yet. The company however is trying to solve its deep utilitarian problems – increase attractiveness of the project in the eyes of investors, decrease sales of competitors, who already has similar project. One journalist made a great name for Origami “Paper Tiger”, which truly describes what it’s all about. Origami is an ancient art of creating different figures out of paper, in fact it is possible to create a tiger (a few interesting sites related to Origami can be found on the internet). Perhaps it was tiger’s destiny to go into annals of history.
It’s not that bad after all
Let’s look on the other side of the model, it’s not pure marketing, it’s also a project in which Microsoft, Intel and other manufacturers are taking part. It just happened that within one project a company has tried to acquire all contribution that belong to other company. I think it’s clear what we’re trying to tell you about. The positive aspect – hype on the whole popularized UMPC concept. Earlier it was up to small companies, now when there is platform from Intel, interest of manufacturers, support of software additions (Touch Pack is just the first step, determination of intent), public’s interest (a lot of unofficial web-sites, plenty of publications – proofs).
Three Origami devise were announced at CeBIT: one by each – Asus, Samsung, Founder. Overall thing that these devise have in common - OS Windows XP Tablet PC edition with Touch Pack, 7” touch screen, resolution 800x480 pixels, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, weight around 800 grams. All models were more or less similar in specs, Asus R2’s highlight is built-in GPS receiver, and 1.3mpx camera. Q1 from Samsung has lots of accessories.
This is just the first generation of UMPC devices, Intel’s representatives promised that with the devices will shrink in size (at least to match the size of already existing models from OQO or Sony), meanwhile their functionality will grow. So far the devices are partly competing against the following types of products:
Once the product’s size will be decreased, as well as price and weight, the following competitors will appear:
Digital TV market is not yet formed, that’s why we shall not write about it yet. Basically, if you look at the first group, Table PCs are not selling well enough; Web-panels demonstrated their short life term, they have practically left the market, devices for e-books reading were never popular or mass product. The size of the device does not allow to call it “pocket” one; the weight limits usage outside buildings (office or at home) or in transport (train, car). I doubt that somebody will actually take 1kg heavy device out of his pocket on the go and perform some operations. Most likely there’s a desktop PC in office or at home, and Pocket PC will be enough for doing small actions. There is no mass market for this device in case it is used indoors, however there are die-hard followers (technology fans, web-panels had them too), there is narrow group of professionals who are in desperate need of Windows XP in motion, and Pocket PC is just not enough (for example, In medical facilities, when specific programs are missing versions for Pocket PC).
The potential of current (first) generation of UMPC devices is concentrated in automobile market segment. This is a fully-functional Windows XP inside your car, here the size and the weight no longer matter. The price of UMPC comparing to price of car is no longer a decisive point. The advantages are: navigation on big screen, video, music and digital TV (for example in Moscow DVB-T broadcasting exists for quite a while now), other goodies of fully-functional Windows XP OS. It depends on how the companies will make agreements with car manufacturers, will it be successful and quick? The fate of UMPC 1st gen success depends on that.
Now let’s imagine that UMPC will actually decrease in size, the weight will be reduced as well, and Microsoft will finally make full adaptation of Windows (it seems that this will occur in the Windows Vista era) to conditions of small touch-screen, meanwhile the price will drop to reasonable 600-700$ mark. Then we’ll see that UMPC will fully replace traditional Pocket PCs, the potential market will significantly broaden due to the fact that device will become truly mobile. UMPS will be sort of mobile system storage. It’s obvious that these devices will feature mobile network modules more often. Will these become communicators based on Windows Vista? Time will tell.
The idea of UMPC has been already approved by early followers (OQO 01, Sony U70), the Origami /UMPC project or Microsoft/Intel give the start of the attempt to acquire mass consumer. So far it’s not clear will this idea turn out successful or no. At the moment the only potential of this device is car market, other segments require functional changes before entering, and it is not known how much time that will take.
P.S. I highly advice you to get acquainted with OQO video clip. It’s hard to believe the fact that this video is more than two years old.
Published 06 April 2006
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