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Pricing doubts nip at Taiwan's interest in UMPCs

Posted: 12 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ultramobile PC? portable multimedia devices? UMPC?

Taiwan system makers are slowly going the ultramobile PC (UMPC) route, but whether the market will be cheap enough to spark a consumer buying frenzy remains uncertain.

"People are clearly showing that mobile computing has a great deal of value and usefulness," said Otto Berkes, an architect of the Ultra Mobile PC project at Microsoft Corp., said at this year's Computex, where UMPCs proved to be a big hit. "However, the cost needs to be more appropriate."

Most of the first-generation UMPCs are at least $800, with some fully featured models exceeding $2,000. Most consumers won't touch them until they are as ultracheap as they are ultraportable. Analysts believe prices need to fall into the range of $199-$299, without cutting corners on the connectivity, in order for consumers to warm up to them.

But there is little doubt that system designers are interested. In a jam-packed room at Computex, Intel Corp. Senior VP Anand Chandrasekher demoed several UMPC platforms based on Menlow, which consists of an ultralow power CPU codenamed Silverthorne, and a next-generation chipset codenamed Poulsbo. The platform, based on 45nm process technology, will be released to designers in H1 2008.

"Menlow is just the beginning," Chandrasekher said, comparing its importance to the launch of Centrino in 2003. "Every year we launched a new platform like clockwork. We are going to do the exact same thing here."

There's still plenty of skepticism about UMPCs, however, even if they do hit the right price points. Some of the first products coming out leave a lot of people scratching their head, wondering whether the device is a PC or a phone, Chandrasekher said. "Category creation is not easy," he acknowledged, then quickly added, "It is very doable."

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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