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3/9/2006
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Microsoft Unveils 'Origami' Tablet PC

At CeBit on Thursday, Microsoft unveiled plans for a lightweight, ultra-mobile PC form factor developed as part of a project code-named Origami.

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled plans for a lightweight, ultra-mobile PC form factor developed as part of a project code-named Origami.

The ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), which made its debut at CeBit 2006 in Hanover, Germany, is expected to be priced from $599 to $999. It runs Windows XP Tablet PC 2005 Edition with a new, preinstalled Microsoft Touch Pack and Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista. The Touch Pack features an enhanced touch-screen user interface for on-the-go computing, Microsoft said.

Several OEMs are expected to release the first batch of Intel-based Origami devices in mid-2006. For example, Founder Electronics and Samsung plan to ship Intel-based UMPCs in the second quarter, and Asus is slated to ship another UMPC shortly thereafter.

At CeBit, Microsoft demonstrated Touch Pack for Windows XP on Samsung's Q1 Ultra-Mobile PC to show the ease of navigation for mobile computing.

TabletKiosk and PaceBlade Japan are expected to roll out UMPCs based on Via Technologies' processor next quarter, according to Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash., software giant said the devices will support work and home entertainment capabilities.

Windows-based UMPCs weigh less than 2 pounds and feature a 7-inch screen that gives users a choice of text input methods, including touch, stylus, QWERTY keyboards or a traditional keyboard, Microsoft said. The devices are expected to have a battery life of two and a half hours or more; offer 30 Gbytes to 60 Gbytes of storage; and run on Intel Celeron M, Intel Pentium M or Via C7-M processors.

Microsoft also developed special software for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 and several editions of Vista that incorporate the Tablet PC Windows software.

The Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows XP's customizable Program Launcher lets users organize programs into categories, and it provides larger buttons and icons to make it easier to find applications. It also includes a thumb-based, on-screen keyboard that’s enhanced for touch-text input, a "Brilliant Black for Windows Media Player skin" and a new touch- and ink-enabled game dubbed Microsoft Sudoku, according to the developer.

Microsoft said the UMPC is one of several new types of devices being developed for Windows following a call to arms to PC makers and system builders last year to offer more innovative, custom form factors.

Microsoft said the UMPC is one of several new device types being developed for Windows following a call to arms to PC makers and systems builders last year to offer more innovative and custom form factors.

One Microsoft partner said the UMPCs look better than the first batch of Tablet PCs that Microsoft started pushing several years ago.

"It looks like a great product, especially at the price point of $500," said Alex Zaltsman, managing director at Exigent, Morristown, N.J. "I can see our medical practice clients embracing it as long as the device's performance is comparable to existing [Intel] Pentium 4 or Centrino systems. The first Tablet PCs were very slow and buggy, so I hope they worked the bugs out in this product."

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