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UMPC next Linux hacker target?

Mar 9, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

After three weeks of leaked videos and breathless website stripteasing, Microsoft has revealed its “Ultra Mobile PC” (UMPC) project. In conjunction with an event at the massive CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, the software giant today unleashed corporate and community Websites devoted to the concept, formerly codenamed… “Origami.”

(Click for larger view)

Microsoft's UMPC concept involves smallish tablet PCs weighing about two pounds, with sufficient battery and computing resources to run a full-blown Windows XP Tablet Edition OS, modified slightly by a “Touch Pack” patch that enlarges window decorations for easier use with touchscreen displays.

Chipmakers Intel and Via have backed the concept — Intel through announcements at its Developer Forum this week in San Jose; Via through the announcement of a special two-chip UMPC chipset planned for later in the year.

Since UMPC devices are capable of running a more-or-less standard Windows XP OS, they will certainly also support Linux. The GNOME project, one of many Linux desktop environments, has even been doing work recently to improve touchscreen support.

However, Linux users familiar with pocketable, power-efficient, ARM-based portable media players and web tablets, such as Nokia's half-pound 770 (photo at right), may react in surprise or even amusement to Microsoft's positioning of a two-pound tablet (photo at left) as a “go-everywhere, do-everything” device — the Microsoft-sponsored Origami community site even suggests that alpine climbers add UMPCs to their climbing gear kits, for example.

Still, some early users have found the 770's 200MHz ARM processor and 64MB of RAM to be on the anemic side. After all, the 770 is a computer designed by a mobile phone vendor, with all the privileging of battery life concerns that that implies. The x86 architecture, despite high power demands, does offer advantages in applications requiring complex user interfaces.

A similar battle between Linux and Windows seems to be playing out in the mobile phone market, where Linux software stack vendors such as Trolltech and MontaVista position Linux as a lightweight OS capable of powering relatively inexpensive “feature phone” hardware. Microsoft, meanwhile, steadfastly positions its Windows Mobile OS as a heavier but more capable “smartphone” OS.

Additional UMPC details may be available at Microsoft's corporate UMPC website, or at its Origami Project community website. More UMPC analysis can also be found at

OK, hackers… start your engines!

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