Tue, Nov 07, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Laptop makers look to tap into potential of UMPC market

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Local laptop computer makers are gearing up to tap into business opportunities provided by ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) next year, with projects already underway.

UMPC refers to super-portable, fully featured computers similar to notebooks -- but much smaller with a 7-inch touch screen -- roughly the size of a paperback and weighing less than 1kg.

Quanta Computer Inc (廣達電腦) is working on a model scheduled to hit the market in the first half of next year, according to a Chinese-language report yesterday.

The prototype was unveiled at the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei last month.

The new machine will run on Yahoo's Go, a joint software effort with Intel designed to deliver digital entertainment on devices that use Intel Viiv technology, such as Go TV, and Yahoo photos, music and other content.

The model swivels and slides open to reveal a QWERTY keyboard and includes a rotating camera for snapshots and Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless Web surfing.

The UMPC project was unveiled in March by Microsoft Corp and hardware partners Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co and China's Founder Group (方正集團) at Germany's technology trade fair CeBIT.

Asustek officially unveiled its first UMPC, the R2H, in mid-September, hoping that the new PC breed will soon become users' second laptop.

It expects to sell as many as 2,000 units of the R2H every month in Taiwan.

Thomas Li (李志超), a director of Microsoft Taiwan Corp, said at the R2H launch that talks are underway to encourage more computer vendors to join the UMPC push, without revealing names.

Compal Electronics Inc (仁寶電腦), Quanta's smaller rival, has also opted to cash in on the rise of UMPCs, instead of the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) project.

The OLPC refers to a project to produce budget laptops for children in developing countries, in which Quanta is the sole manufacturer and will start mass production next year.

"We have started development on UMPCs," Ray Chen (陳瑞聰), Compal's president and chief executive officer, told investors on Oct. 23.

He said the company does not plan to invest in OLPC, but will instead explore UMPC's business potential.

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