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Samsung Ships Second-Generation Ultramobile PC

Vendors have marketed the UMPC as a "lifestyle computer" that can store all of a person's digital content, such as photos, videos, and MP3 music files.
Samsung on Monday introduced the second generation of the ultramobile PC the company introduced a year ago with partners Microsoft and Intel.

The Q1 Ultra, unveiled at the Samsung Experience store in New York, offers longer battery life, a faster processor, and broader support for mobile technologies. Pricing starts at $799, and the device is also available through major consumer electronics retailers, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Amazon.com.

Vendors have marketed the UMPC as a "lifestyle computer" that can store all of a person's digital content, such as photos, videos, and MP3 music files, while also providing the interface for anytime access to e-mail. Analysts, however, have labeled the UMPC a "tweener" gadget that's too big to be a PDA and too small to be a useful notebook.

In order to attract mainstream consumers, the device would need at least eight hours of battery life, anytime high-speed wireless access, and a sub-$400 price tag, Gartner has said.

While the Q1 Ultra isn't there yet, it does draw a bit closer. The new gadget has a tad longer battery life at 4.5 hours of continuous runtime and is a little bit lighter than its predecessor at 1.5 pounds.

In addition, an optional cellular modem is available for the Q1 Ultra, giving it nearly anywhere access to e-mail, provided users are willing to pay the price for high-speed service from a wireless carrier. The gadget also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies.

Intel is building faster processors for UMPCs. The new device features Intel's Ultra Mobile Processor running at 600-MHz or 800-Mhz, and also comes with 1 Gbyte of system memory. In the first half of next year, Intel plans to ship a new UMPC processor code-named Silverthorne, which will be part of Menlo, Intel's new platform for mobile Internet devices. The new chipsets are likely to be a part of future generations of Samsung's UMPCs.

Q1 Ultra runs either Microsoft Vista Home Premium or Windows XP Tablet Edition operating systems. The device includes a Web camera for video calling and for taking still photos. The screen size is the same as the previous version -- 7 inches -- and includes a split QWERTY keypad to the left and right of the screen for thumb input.

Microsoft introduced a prototype of an Intel-powered UMPC running Windows in March 2006 at the CeBIT show in Germany. Besides Samsung, Asus and Founder also committed at the time to making UMPCs.

Nevertheless, analysts believe it will be a couple of years before the devices are cheap enough and provide enough differentiating features to make them attractive to mainstream consumers.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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