New OQO gives boost to UMPCs

New OQO gives boost to UMPCs

OQO has added HSDPA broadband to its mobile devices

OQO has released an updated version of its ultra-mobile PC, adding HSDPA mobile broadband capability to the device to enable users to be connected anywhere they go. The new model could mark the beginning of more widespread adoption of UMPCs in business as more capable systems come to market.

Available immediately, the new OQO is identical to the current Model e2 and keeps the same name, but supplements Wi-Fi with an internal HSDPA adapter for a high-speed data connection on the go.

OQO chief executive Dennis Moore said that UMPCs like the Model e2 are small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, which turns them into a device the user always has with them.

"When you have a device as small as this, people want internet connectivity on the go, and Wi-Fi just isn’t prevalent enough," he said. He distinguished UMPCs from smartphones because they run standard Windows applications, and can be used more easily for editing spreadsheets and other Office documents.

The addition of HSDPA adds about 18g to the weight of the Model e2 and ups the price to about £1,099. An extra antenna has also been added that can be extended out from the case if signal strength is low, OQO said. But while the Model e2 is designed to connect to a mobile network, it cannot make cellular calls. The firm said it sees the system as a data-oriented device, although Moore said he used his own unit to make Skype internet calls.

Richard Brown, vice president of marketing at VIA, said he expected UMPCs to enter the mainstream in 2008.

"Convergence between the PC and mobile worlds will happen on the x86 platform, and the battery life is now getting there," he said. As well as OQO, VIA's low-power C-7M chip is in several forthcoming UMPCs, including the Samsung Butterfly and Gigabyte M704, and the firm has just begun shipping its Mobile ITX mainboard, which shrinks a PC motherboard to about the size of a credit card.

IDC analyst Eszter Morvay said she sees interest growing in the UMPC space, but that the market is likely to evolve slowly.

"The UMPC is a bit obscure rather than a properly defined category. Usage scenarios are also a little unclear and a bit niche so far," she said. Battery life and price will remain barriers to large adoption, although the UMPC will “gain traction” in 2008, she added.

"The mainstream laptop market is so huge, I doubt UMPCs will grow to double digit share [of the mobile PC sector]," she said.