Saturday, March 11, 2006

Origami: O-blimey!

When I first heard all the hype and excitement around Microsoft's Origami project, I have to admit - I thought it would be a slightly innovative, sort of good looking, but only marginally useful device. I have to admit, I was wrong.

It turns out that it lacks any innovation, is ugly beyond belief, and completely useless. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, or UMPC. I have to wonder which department at Microsoft names these things. They've really got a whole lot of creativity in there. If only the iPod were called the Super Mobile Music Player, what a phenomenal success it would be today.

I thought that after the XBox 360, Microsoft finally had some good designers. As for this piece of... never mind. Lets just say I've seen Salora black and white TVs in India that look better. Lets try to stay positive, shall we, and examine what Microsoft (and associated partners, Samsung and Asus) have to say about it thats "good".

Ultra Mobile, goes where ever you go? Dear God, this thing is the size of half a sheet of copier paper and measures 15 cm x 20 cm. Contrast this against the Mac Mini, a desktop computer, which measures 16.5 cm x 16.5 cm (of course, the Mac Mini is thicker). The point is, this ain't going into any pocket of a piece of clothing that you own, unless you're Godzilla. Which means you get to carry it in its own case, and might as well get a nice 10-inch notebook like the VAIO TX series (which has a rocking 7+ hours of battery life as opposed to the UMPC's measly 3 hours), and you'd basically be as mobile.

Runs a "fully functional" Win XP Tablet PC edition, which means you can basically run any Windows program on it, as opposed to most PDAs (which UMPC intends to replace). What is anyone going to run on this thing, given that it has no keyboard? Microsoft has made the mistake (again) of releasing a new hardware platform without even thinking about what software people would need for it. You aren't going to type in your year end report using an onscreen keyboard or handwriting recognition. When the first Tablet PC XP edition was released with hardware, it did have at least some new features like the journal program and solid handwriting recognition. And yet Tablet PCs have failed to capture the market.

Apparently GPS software will be available for it, which of course is already available for most PDAs running Windows Mobile. And we read at MacWorld that PopCap Games will release Bejeweled 2 and Zuma for it. Exciting, no?

When PCWorld asked the lead executive behind the Origami Project why anyone would buy this device, here's what he said:
"...laptops are often too cumbersome for casual users to lug around, especially if they just want to access the Internet or download photos from a flash storage card while on vacation. On the other hand, a PDA is too small for a satisfying Internet-browsing experience."
Lets plan a vacation, dear. $500 for the airfare, $200 for the hotel, $300 for food and shopping, and oh, $800 for the UMPC without which our vacation will be such a failure.

Innovation? The UMPC runs a two-year old operating system on an Intel Celeron chip, with, as far as the eye can see, buttons and LEDs all around competing for the ugliest duckling award, which of course, is won hands down by the what looks to me like a speaker. This from three of the largest firms in the industry - Microsoft, Intel and Samsung. Anybody wonder why I'm an Apple fanboy?