Ultramobile PCs have often been criticized as falling into a gap between laptops and smartphones, but Samsung Electronics hopes to change that perception with a reduced price and upgraded performance for its Q1 Ultra.
Samsung first exhibited the Q1 Ultra in March at the Cebit trade show in Germany, but did not set a specific price or launch date until this week.
Now the company has officially announced it will sell four models of the Q1 Ultra ranging in price from $US799 to $US1499, significantly below the price range of $US1300-$US2000 for the original Q1 product. Samsung made the announcement at a press conference in New York and posted additional details online.
The lower price also helps Samsung to pitch its UMPC as a lightweight companion device to a user's desktop or notebook PC, as opposed to a standalone computer, and could help it win market share from competitors, Sony and OQO.
The Q1 Ultra has the same size 7-inch display as its predecessor, the Q1, but adds a new split QWERTY keypad for thumb-texting, offering similar operation to Research in Motion's BlackBerry or Palm's Treo smartphones. It also has 802.11 wireless networking and optional high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) cellular connectivity, but Samsung was careful to avoid comparing it to a smartphone.
"A smartphone will always be the ideal platform to be used as a phone. I would never suggest the UMPC as a phone replacement; it's just too big to fit in your pocket," senior Samsung product marketing manager for mobile computing, Bret Berg, said.
Instead, Samsung hopes to sell the 1.5-pound product to frequent business travelers and to users in vertical markets such as sales force automation, field surveys and education. The Q1 Ultra uses Microsofts Origami interface, offering a touch screen version of Windows XP or Vista that allows users to perform most PC functions, from editing Excel spreadsheets to writing Word documents or answering email, Berg said.
Samsung said its focus groups had complained they found it too difficult to do those tasks on competing devices like the Sony Vaio Micro PC UX, the OQO model 02 and products from FlipStart Labs, Motion Computing and Tablet Kiosk.
The Q1 Ultra uses Intel's new McCaslin A100 and A110 [ultramobile processors] instead of the power-hungry Celeron and Pentium chips used in the first-generation. Combined with an improved type of lithium ion battery, the design extended battery life from a minimum of 1.5 hours to at least 4.5 hours, Berg said.
Previous versions of UMPCs have earned criticism for their short battery life and large size, leaving them stranded between notebooks and smartphones. But the Q1 Ultra is drawing nearer to a winning design, one analyst said.
"The technology business is littered with the corpses of initially failed ideas that came back again to be huge successes. I think the UMPC or some morphing of that idea will be the same thing," vice-president for industry analysis at the NPD Group, Stephen Baker, said.
Just as the digital cameras in cell phones have not driven pure cameras out of the market, there may ultimately be room in the market for UMPCs as well as smartphones. "Convergence doesn't mean you have to fit every single function onto every single device," Baker said.
Samsung will sell an entry-level version of the Q1 Ultra called the Q1U-EL for $US799 including a 600Mhz Intel A100 processor, 40GB hard drive and Windows Vista Home Premium. The midrange Q1U-XP version will cost $US1149 with an 800MHz A110 chip, 60GB hard drive and Windows Vista Tablet Edition. The similar Q1U-V will cost $US1199 with Windows Vista Home Premium. And the Q1U-CMW will cost $US1499 with the A110 chip, 80GB hard drive, Windows Vista Home Premium and HSDPA connectivity. All four models will be available by August.