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Microsoft confirms new handheld device concept

Posted: 02 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Antone Gonsalves? Microsoft? Origami Project Web site?

Microsoft Corp. recently confirmed that it is working with manufacturers on the concept for a new personalized handheld device under the name Origami Project.

News of the device started circulating on the Web after Microsoft put up a cryptic website that hinted at the announcement, but gave no details. The site generated so much buzz among bloggers that a Microsoft technical evangelist tried to temper expectations that the company was ready to release a product.

Soon after discovery of the Origami Project website, a video apparently of the device started circulating the Internet. The video, which was found on the site of production firm Digital Kitchen, shows people using a handheld computer with a touch screen that's being used to watch video, access the Web, send pictures and instant messages and play videogames. The machine appears to have a wireless connection.

"While Origami is a concept we've been working on with partners, please know that the video seen on Digital Kitchen's web site is a year old and represents our initial exploration into this form factor, including possible uses and scenarios," Microsoft said in an emailed statement. "However, we are excited to share more details about the evolution of the Origami concept with you in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!"

Sam Bhavnani, analyst for Current Analysis, said it is unlikely Microsoft is working on a branded product. With the exception of the Xbox, keyboards and mice, the software maker manufactures very little hardware, so not to compete with partners that build computers and devices running its software.

The secretive Origami Project site, however, is unusual for Microsoft, which is apparently trying its hand at viral marketing, a tactic in which marketers use mystery or humor to generate a buzz on the Web. "Microsoft typically doesn't put up sites that don't tell you much, but pique your interest," Byhavnani said.

- Antone Gonsalves
TechWeb News

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