Recently I got a chance to have some hands-on time with an Intel UMPC concept machine. I don’t have any pictures, but you’ve probably seen it along with others before if you’ve followed the news from CES and similar industry events.
I was impressed. I wish they existed right now. I’d buy one.
Rather than go into specific details about how this particular UMPC was nice, let me talk about what I’d like to see in UMPCs in general:
* Smaller UMPCs would be nice. I’d probably have one small one and one larger one if I had a choice. I’d carry the smaller one more often with me though. However, the larger one would probably become my main travel “laptop” as long as it would be easy to synch files between machines.
* The small displays do get hard to read. Increasing Windows’ font size helps a little, but we really need the ability to scale applications and windows within the OS.
* With multiple devices wireless broadband is going to be a problem–at least if the current business models are used by the wireless carriers. I don’t want to pay full fare for multiple devices–most of the time which I only will use one at a time. This is not just a consumer issue. For all those companies that want to sell more devices or more OSes they have a stake in this too. I’d hate to see the carriers hold back the rest of the market. Bluetooth to a single cellphone may be the best way around all of this. It’s not my preferred approach. But if that’s the way the market goes, setting up the connetivity needs to be even easier.
* Windows XP does have an edge over Vista right now when it comes to battery life and in some boot/shutdown times, but it’s a shame. Vista is so much better in many other respects. The next version of Windows or possibly the services packs, need to focus on making Windows a first class mobile OS–even for small devices.
* Higher display resolutions are good in that most of Windows and mainstream applications will fit nicely within the display area, however, with the higher resolutions it becomes harder and harder to use your finger to target anything. This is too bad. There’s so much that can be done with touch.
* Built-in keyboards are great although make sure that the keyboard isn’t too tiring to use, because I will use it. Lots.
* I want to know more about other devices in my area. I want to be able to share what I’m doing with them.
* Built-in webcams are great. If multiple webcams become the standard, Intel and Microsoft need to work with developers to ensure that the cameras are easily selectable. Some software does it well. Some doesn’t. Also, if the cameras can be pointed in different directions, don’t forget about the mics. If they are fixed and pointing in the opposite direction, this isn’t going to lead to the best experience.
* Displays that work outdoors would be nice 🙂
* I realize that slower processors are nicer in terms of battery life–and they do seem to run most of my apps just fine–however, boot and shutdown times need to be addressed. I leave my cell phone on all the time. I trust it’s gong to go to sleep. Even if it doesn’t it’s not going to burn a hole in my pocket. This isn’t the situation with a full-blown computer. Using sleep to achieve fast “boot” times is OK, but that means sleep really, really has to work. No exceptions. Personally I’d prefer hibernate and faster wake up times.
* Pointer devices are extremely important. Whatever it is, it needs to work at least as well as a mouse. Anything less, and the device becomes frustrating to use. Too many apps assume that a mouse is being used.
* Battery life is extremely important. The smaller the device, the longer I expect it to last on a single charge. Four hours is minimally what I’d like to see. OK, I’lll live with three :-).
* Consider extended batteries as part of the main design. The devices should fit just as well in a carry bag with as without an extended battery.
* The smaller displays might as well have active digitizers. There’s not much I can touch with it using my finger anyway.
* More buttons can help my experience–particularly when the screen real-estate gets so critical.
* Lastly, I’ve been wondering: Are the smaller devices more consumer friendly? I’m still debating this. So far my thoughts are there is no difference. However, I can see more of my family and friends using the smaller UMPCs than the “larger” ones.