I like so much the idea of a device along the lines of the Origami project that I went as far as checking the opportunity of reinvesting in Microsoft and Intel. According to Reuters, Origami is
a paperback-book sized portable computer, which is a hybrid between a laptop PC and a host of mobile devices that the world's biggest software maker hopes will create an entirely new market.

Its characteristics are:
  • Less than two pounds (0.972 kilograms);
  • Seven-inch (17.78-centimeter) touch-screen;
  • Powered by Intel processors;
  • Runs a modified version of Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC edition;
  • Will run on Windows Vista;
  • Sell price between $599 and $999.

Its target market is gadget fans lured by an array of features at the intersection of productivity and entertainment (e.g. communications, TV & radio, cameras, music players, etc.). A company official claims that:
We believe that (ultra-mobile PCs) will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as the mobile phone today.

Amidst all the predictions and hype, several questions about the scope and viability of the project, I am certain, will have an answer only as time goes by. Here are some of them, followed by my considerations:
  1. Have Microsoft and Intel learned anything from the success of iPod? iPod set out to solve one problem, of portable music devices, from the perspective of several constituencies. The end user wanted style and portability, the music industry wanted copyright protection, and Apple wanted to get back in the game. Apple did this, most probably, by starting with those needs in mind, and only years later generating variations on a successful theme (camera, phones, solid state memory, size, eco-system of complementary products, photos, TV, etc.).
  2. How much is Origami a bottom-up vs. top-down project? A bottom-up project would be one that starts with some unmet customer needs, selects or builds up the best technologies (operating system, applications, hardware), determines a price, and sells it to no end. A top-down project is one that, let us say, comes as top management's reaction to some competitor's market success. In answering this second question, let's ponder some facts: We are being told that Vista would be the next OS in the Origami project. Admitting the progress (applications performance and power consumption) of the Intel Core Duo processor, will it be diminished by supporting a heavier OS? How close is Intel from delivering a whole set of circuitry to support a mobile device the way Origami intends to unfold?
  3. What has the lack of success in the current Tablet PC line taught Microsoft? Judging by current specs, it is as if Tablet PC was overwhelmed by price and size alone. I don't know about the price, while the size was surely not the reason I did not buy a Tablet PC. My decision was the result of: unimpressive hand-writing driven maneuverability; the cost of a huge OS on the resources; and the sense of haphazard symbiosis between the software and most hardware implementations.

Besides Tablet PC, the next closest Microsoft project that Origami comes to is Media Center. Let's just say that's another story altogether. In any case, I hope Origami will be more than a glorified PDA/etch-a-sketch, and Microsoft/us will get there in less than three iterations.

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