The Arima UMPC, also known as the Medion RIM 1000 UMPC or the Gigabyte U60, was on display at a Microsoft booth on CeBIT. The device sports a slide-out keyboard. I was a bit disappointed, as the keyboard was uncomfortable and the device feels like it was made from cheap material. The Medion UMPC appeared to be a great device when it was announced, seing the actual product was unimpressing.

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They made the mistake of showing the Medion right next to a Sony UX, which is smaller, is built with higher quality materials and comes with a better keyboard. Oh, and it’s more than twice the price of the Arima, of course. But in direct comparison, it was far more impressive and it became obvious why it is worth its price compared to the Arima.

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The Arima seems to be having issues with Windows Vista. Within minutes of using some standard applications, it crashed. According to UMPCPortal, these problems appear to be the reason why the launch of the device has been postponed several times by now.

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“I saw the N800 and fell in love.. but then i saw the Sony UMPC… and wanted marriage… but saw the price tag and decided I was too young for marriage…” (from IRC)

The Origami project began with a lot of hype and the promise of a windows-XP-based mini computer for less than 500$ that will run for a full day on one battery. This hasn’t happened: Now in 2007, we have a number of bulky and heavy tablets with 7-inch-screens, usually priced around 1000 Euro.

Some smaller devices such as the Oqo or the Sony UX are closer to the originally promised device dimensions, but come at a price tag way beyond that.

So nothing revolutionary yet: Less-than-1kg Subnotebooks such as the Toshiba Libretto or the JVC XP were sold years before the Origami announcement.

The Nokia 770 and N800 came much closer: Just a bit more than 200 gramms, a full day or two on one battery for average mobile use. Thanks to the ARM-based chipset made for low-power systems and a Linux system that has been taught to conserve energy whenever it can.

But there are some interesting advances in x86-based UMPCs these days. Intel decided to make low power consumption a priority and wants to come up with a special UMPC CPU and chipset:

[..] Intel announced that they will make a dedicated CPU / Chipset platform for the UMPC that [..] will get the average power of a UMPC down to SUB 4-Watt. [..] The low-power screen component looks like it will come from Samsung who have developed, specifically for UMPCs, a 7″ screen that drains just 0.6Watt. That’s about 30% of what today’s screens typically take. [..] 4W average drain is amazing. It means that a 2006 UMPC that ran for 3 hours could potentially run for 9 hours. It also enables smaller devices to be built. It means that x86 architecture is becoming so efficient that RISC/ARM based tech loses a lot of its advantage.

The cynical result of these improvements might be smaller devices with smaller batteries that still last the magical 3 hours, only, but here’s hoping.

Intel is competing with AMD. Their Geode chipset is already used in PDA-sized windows XP computers such as the Raon Digital Vega or the upcoming Digital Cube G43 UMPC. A working prototype (it was functional and ran XP, but the case design will change) was on display at CeBIT: Twice the weight and a bit bigger than the N800, but still fascinating:

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Of course, ARM CPUs will also continue to be improved. 2007 and 2008 will be interesting years for mobile computing, as ARM-based PDAs continue to become more like mobile PCs while x86-based PCs turn into PDAs.

In the meantime, Intel wants to push new UMPCs on the market. Here is an image and a video of a prototype of one of these upcoming devices, announced for this year.

According to Harald Welte, Intel has a company policy of releasing Linux drivers for all its chipsets. x86-based Linux will be an actual, well-supported alternative operating system.

A full Gnome desktop with Firefox on this? If it’s significantly less than a 1000$, count me in!

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(Image via pocketables.net)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMsM8ku9CZ0]

(Youtube video from UMPCPortal)

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Mal sehen.

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Ein CeBIT-Besucher, vertieft ins Fachgespräch mit dem Standpersonal.

Kinder. Überall Kinder und Teenager. Wollte die CeBIT nicht hin zur Fachmesse und weg vom Freizeit-Computerfreak? Eigentlich darf ich mich nicht beschweren, denn ich habe einst ebenso als Schüler angefangen, auf der CeBIT herumzulungern. Ergebnis: Heute habe bin ich Gründer einer IT-Firma. Also danke an das geduldige Standpersonal, das damals diesen Computerfreak hier ernstnahm, als er noch klein war. Aber als Käufer einer regulären Karte ärgert man sich dann doch irgendwie über Meldungen wie diese. Man hätte wohl doch die Lieferanten anschnorren sollen.

Globalisierungskritik: Ein koreanischer Produktmanager zeigt seinen MP3- & Videoplayer. “Aber wir werden ihn wohl vom Markt nehmen. Mit den Chinesen können wir beim Preis nicht mithalten. Wir machen jetzt deshalb Premium-Produkte.”

Eat your own dog food: Eine indische Politikerdelegation zu Gast. Sie wollen für ihren Standort und Kooperationen mit ihren Universitäten werben. “Mein Sohn studiert auch Informatik,” sagt später einer der Inder in kleiner Runde stolz, “in Stanford.”

“Haben Sie Produkt x?” “Nein, nicht dass ich wüsste.” “Aber ich habe es auf Ihrer Website gesehen.” “Dann hole ich Ihnen mal jemanden von unserer Sales-Abteilung. Der kann Ihnen vorgaukeln, dass wir Produkt x haben.”

Der arme Microsoft-Mitarbeiter, der einem aufgebrachten Messebesucher partout nicht erklären konnte, warum Windows XP eine Neuregistrierung verlangt, wenn sich Teile der Hardware ändern: “Nein, da kann man leider nichts machen.” Er hätte doch nur “Sie sind nicht unser Kunde, Sie sind unser Gegner. Dell ist unser Kunde.” sagen müssen.

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Toll. Und was ist das?

360°. Alles ist irgendwie 360°. Scheint das neue Buzzword zu sein, auf das sich die Marketingabteilungen der Branche geeinigt haben.

Visiting CeBIT, I had the chance to meet Steven from UMPCPortal. He owns an N800, too, and we were both intrigued by Beijing Peace East Technology Development Co. Ltd‘s claim of an UMPC based on Linux, so we arranged to visit their both together.

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The device is indeed running Linux: After crashing the device by trying the GPS app, the bootup sequence showed the familiar penguin boot logo.

The H9 is much bigger than expected. See it next to the N800 in the photo above. On that photo, you also see their CE product below the glass display table.

The user interface is not Maemo, but it is obviously heavily inspired by it. The user interface doesn’t look very polished yet and the hardware as shown on CeBIT felt very much like a prototype. Note the WLAN card in the PCMCIA slot – but this might change for the finished product.

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Next to the Maemo GUI being copied, Microsoft will also not be happy: Note the MSIE icon on the button and the Windows icons. The whole user interface is a mish-mash of existing ideas and artwork. Well, in China nobody cares, I guess.

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The applications’ artwork is very Asian. The representative couldn’t answer many questions about the operating system and the development of the apps, he also couldn’t tell us which browser the device uses.

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The software is written in China by Insistech, a company I never heard about. Despite the rough edges and the feeling of using incomplete beta versions, the software appears to be functional and useful. Surprisingly, the video player seems to be much better than on the N800, apparently playing full-screen DivX at high resolutions. (I couldn’t test this with own files and didn’t see the specs of the test videos, so this wasn’t an actual test.)

Is it a competitor to Maemo? No idea. Probably not, since the whole system felt a bit crude and incomplete. It would be interesting to see the actual programming interfaces. It’s doubtful that third-party development is possible or desired by Insistech and that they even know about the GPL’s requirements.

Googling about Insistech, there is little to be found about them. No idea what the company does, no idea who their developers are, no idea if their system is used on more devices than the H9. Their developers have discussed about Konq/e and the Helix Media Player, so one can assume that these are used in the H9.

This brings me to the bigger picture of Linux outside the “Western” world. I know there are a lot Linux developers in Europe and the Americas, but have you heard of major Linux applications coming out of India and Asia? Now here is a mystery company building a complete set of applications and a GUI and the result is not too shabby, either. Surprising. What other Linux developments are going on out there that the English-speaking world never hears about?

Update: There is a video and some pricing info at pocketables. Steve posted his impressions at UMPCPortal plus a gallery and video.

Visiting CeBIT this Saturday, I’m sure not to miss the booth of Beijing Peace East Technology Development Co. Ltd. Chippy from UMPC Portal was there, already, but didn’t gather much new information.

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The ARM-based device comes with any feature you could wish for, including a harddisk, GPS receiver, WLAN, Bluetooth, USB, PCMCIA, SD and a kitchensink. Looking at the device’s screenshots, it appears to be running Maemo, yet the company or its Chinese developers haven’t appeared publicly on the Maemo mailing lists. The software package announced for it is also unheard of on maemo.org.

Quite a mystery device. Do you know more? Do you have suggestions what I should ask them at CeBIT? Do you have information about it? Let me know!

Update: I’ve seen the device at CeBIT. It’s running Linux, it’s not Maemo but obviously inspired by it, it’s a lot bigger than I expected, it’s quite fascinating, it’s not a real competitor to the Nokia devices. The full report with pictures will follow tomorrow.

Nach Jahren ohne CeBIT-Besuch gibt es mit UMPCs und anderen Gadgets wieder ausreichend Gründe für einen Besuch in Hannover!

Der Ausstellerplan ist gezückt, die Kamera aufgeladen. Freitagabend geht’s zum UMPC Meetup im Alexander, Samstag auf die Messe. Am Samstag um 15:30 bin ich Gast beim Stand von HITeC (Halle 11, D06), wo eine Podiumsdiskussion geplant ist.

Ärgerlich nur, dass ich so blöd war, eine Karte zu kaufen.

Will there be Maemo-related exhibits at the CeBIT this year?
I asked the same question on the maemo.org mailing lists, alas, no response. The CeBIT appears to be losing importance…