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How Microsoft Botched Marketing The Ultra-Mobile PC -- And Why You Might Want To Buy One Anyway

Microsoft's mobile product code-named Origami generated a lot of buzz when it was just a rumor, but consumers lost interest when it hit the streets as an Ultra-Mobile PC. Here's why a UMPC in your holiday stocking is better than a lump of coal.

Early this year, Microsoft and Intel conducted a viral marketing campaign promoting an entirely new class of mobile computer. A Web site mysteriously called the Origami Project leaked video teasers over a few weeks that demonstrated a device that would meet everyone's lifestyle needs. The code name, Origami, caught the attention and imagination of a global market.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has since failed to capitalize on the earlier campaign.

The Origami was described as kind of like a Tablet PC, but much smaller. It had all the advantages of its larger cousins, but with a smaller size and price tag, to appeal to a more mainstream market. Microsoft and Intel attempted to convince the public that these small Origami devices were lifestyle computers that could be taken virtually everywhere and able to do anything that could be done on any mobile computer.

Interest in Origami fizzled when the product actually came out and was renamed the Ultra-Mobile PC, or UMPC. It seemed that Microsoft and Intel's marketing failed to explain what these devices are intended to do and who might benefit from them.

But there's lots of good reasons why you might want to buy a UMPC -- even though the device's manufacturers are doing a lousy job explaining what those reasons are.

Who Should Buy A UMPC?

UMPCs are versatile little computers. I should know, I've been using ultra-portable computers for several years. I could see early on that the benefits of having a full computer small enough to take everywhere would revolutionize my ability to capture productive time that is normally lost. What makes UMPCs so appealing is the ability to use a full Windows XP-based computer virtually anywhere I go.

As a consultant, I spend most of my workdays going from one client office to another. Having a handheld computer means I can access, manipulate, and, most importantly, share my information no matter where I am. This is not as easily done with a laptop computer as with the UMPC, because of the size of the laptop. I would not be able to pull out a laptop in many of the places I find myself, because it would be too distracting. Using a laptop in meetings is considered inappropriate behavior at most companies I deal with, but I can use an ultra-portable with no problem.

On more than a few occasions, I have received a pertinent piece of information on the handheld via e-mail that affects a project being discussed at the meeting I'm attending. I wouldn't have gotten the e-mail in time if I were using a paper and pen to take notes, like everyone else.

UMPCs provide utility in places where other computers cannot be used.

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