Still, A conference session on UMPCs today underscored two primary data points: Even just a year later, UMPCs don't look much like Microsoft thought they would, and Microsoft is still very actively trying to steer the development of the UMPC.
The UMPC hasn't taken the direction that Microsoft thought it would back in the Origami time frame. At CES, for example, I saw the Seamless Internet S-Xgen, with a 4-inch touchscreen, and an unfortunate rubber keyboard. Fujitsu and Intel showed off concepts.
Since then there's been even more activity, and there are several new devices on display here. You can see photos of several of them in the WinHEC Image Gallery. Samsung has updated its Q1 to the Q1 Ultra by adding a split thumb keyboard, among other things. HTC's Shift does more than the photo reveals -- you can lay the keyboard flat, flip up the screen and touchtype on it. Fujitsu has contributed a UMPC that looks like a tiny tablet PC.
The first Origami devices had 7-inch screens, for example -- something Microsoft thought made sense because it was large enough to serve as a touchscreen, and it was a size already being produced in volume for other uses like DVD players and auto navigation systems, which made it less expensive. But there are several interesting devices with 5-inch screens, and the Origami reference description has been extended to cover "screens 7 inches and smaller."
The big win for Microsoft, of course, would be to make Windows Vista the dominant operating system for UMPCs. It's not an unreasonable goal. Vista's premium editions -- Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate -- include support for touchscreens, ink (drawing on the screen), and handwriting recognition. All these are common features of UMPCs.
The hardware is simply adorable, and, as WinHEC has proved, Microsoft has continued to work on Origami. It wasn't Microsoft that got Origami wrong a year ago, it was us in the computer press. We thought Origami was a product. It wasn't. Origami was Microsoft's take on what devices smaller than notebook PCs and larger than cellphones might look like. It turns out they don't look much like Origami, but they do work well with Microsoft's OS. And that means this week was only the beginning. I'm going to be hearing a lot more about Origami after all.