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Liberate the HTC Shift - will sales rise?

When the HTC Shift was first announced there is no doubt that I wanted one; with a combined Vista and Windows Mobile setup in a nice UMPC package it looked like a dream machine. But as time went by and more information surfaced it became apparent that the Shift would be crippled in two main areas:

  • very poor battery life under Vista
  • a cut down version of Windows Mobile called SnapVue

SnapVue is essentially just a beefed up Today screen which let's you do very little except check the weather and keep up to date with emails via direct push so any real functionality requires you to switch to Vista to get things done - not for long though as you'll soon be out of juice.

I did wonder at the time whether it would be possible to install other applications under SnapVue but the absence of the normal Windows Mobile GUI made this look virtually impossible, that is until now!

Paul O'Brien over at the Windows Mobile resource site Modaco has posted a neat way of restoring full Windows Mobile functionality to the Shift by what he calls SHIFTpacks. You start by restoring the core Windows Mobile UI including the Start button and access to all the usual settings and then reintroduce stripped out applications such as Pocket IE, Remote Desktop and Windows Media Player.

As Paul says in his blogcast, the more functionality you can achieve within SnapVue the less you have to switch back to Vista and the longer your battery will last.


Many people, myself included, were all geared up to buy a Shift but the failings outlined above and the long delays in actually getting the device out of the door meant that many of those who initially fell for the concept had fallen out of love with the reality by the time we could actually get our hands on one; SHIFTpacks could change that. The ability to actually work within the Windows Mobile environment may cause those disaffected would be customers to take another look at the Shift and consider a purchase.

I still feel that the Shift is over priced (Expansys currently have it listed as £914 without a data contract) so needs to come down in price before sales will increase in any great numbers but the introduction of SHIFTpacks could tempt a few people that the cost is worth it.

If you already own a Shift or are considering getting one head on over to Modaco and get all the details on how to liberate your HTC Shift.

UPDATE: Warner Crocker over at GottaBeMobile has come up with an interesting point which they are making enquiries about: does the SHIFTpack violate any licensing agreements? Perhaps the Shift isn't licensed for having the full Windows Mobile 6 functionality - watch the above link for any developments.

Why you've got to feel sorry for Steve Jobs.
After a fantastic few of years Apple products are even more synonymous with quality and style: MacBook Pros, the iPod phenomenon and of course the iPhone. MacWorld and Steve Jobs keynote speech have also become two of the most important things in the computing/electronics calendar so the pressure is really on to keep coming up with the goods.
After the iPhone it was always going to be hard to come up with that killer device and, obviously, the MacBook Air was Apple's attempt this time around. You can't deny that the Air is sleek, stylish, sexy and very thin with decent specs right out of the box but, as I mentioned before, this has all come at a price.
A lot has been said about the Air being a let down and the power users etc. won't buy them; I agree about the power users but disagree about the let down. The real beauty of the MacBook Air is that it introduces another element of choice, not just for Mac users but Windows users as well. If you are doing your homework then you buy a device that fits your usage pattern rather than try to make your usage pattern fit a particular device and I believe that there are a lot of moderate users out there who will really be able to make good use of the MacBook Air.
As a Tablet user I am always espousing the flexibility and choice offered by the form factor but recognise they are not for everyone. I am also painfully aware that they took a while to become decently spec'd devices. The same with UMPCs. Both of these form factors were fabulous ideas that didn't fulfil their promise straight away.
I believe the same can be said of the MacBook Air. This is Apple's shot at establishing a new product with new goals but, while it is an attractive device, it is not perfect. The Air will develop with alter revisions and I feel we have to forgive it's shortcomings. It is just a shame that Apple's shortcomings are so public that they are akin to a national disaster
2007, the year in review: October - December.
Also see: January - March, April - June, July - September.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
As mentioned before, I had to remove beta 1 of Vista SP1 from my PC due to issues but we soon had the first build of Windows XP SP3 to keep us occupied.
Acer bought rival OEM Gateway in October and I immediately wondered what impact that would have on Gateway's line of Tablet PCs seeing as Acer had already axed their own previously. Luckily, things turned out okay with some Tablets being retained and others now being sold by MPCCorp.
The Queen described 1992 as an "annus horribilis" in her speech that year, well November was our bad month. Chloe developed Meningococcal Septicaemia and ended up in hospital on a course of intravenous antibiotics. Things were touch and go and if we had delayed any longer it could have gone in to full blown meningitis. We were all deemed at risk until a second round of blood tests came back negative. We were given the all clear but 10 days later we were involved in a car accident when a woman lost control the other way and hit us head on. Luckily no-one was injured too badly - bruising, whiplash and a good dose of shock all round. They say bad things happen in threes: our third thing was the main desktop PC dying and needing the motherboard, CPU, memory and graphics card replaced - wonderful!
As expected, the iPhone came to the UK on November 9th which prompted me to run a series of posts called "2G for a day" in which I turned off my high speed connection on the phone to see what difference only having GPRS would make - not as much as you would imagine.
On the beta front Vista SP1 hit a Release Candidate Preview build and Windows Messenger 9 was released to testers but then leaked within 48 hours.
One positive thing to come out of November was for me to reach my 4th anniversary blogging. The blog has been through a number of incarnations and most of the posts before June 2006 no longer exist on the web, although I have recreated the most common old items elsewhere on the site.
The PC failure meant I had to reactivate Vista and I then started experiencing a number of issues with Vista SP1 but I originally put these down to the hardware issues I had experienced.  It wasn't until a lot of other people starting reporting the same problems that I realised the issue was actually with the SP1 RC Preview build AND the actual RC build itself. Bugs were being closed on Connect as "won't fix" without any explanation so I posted about the issues and accused Microsoft of sweeping the problems under the carpet. It turns out that the RC builds were causing problems with activation so Vista was entering "Reduced Functionality Mode" despite Microsoft saying that this would be removed from SP1 - obviously not yet.
In December Dell finally entered the Tablet PC arena but were immediately slated for releasing a product which was far too expensive. They're response? We're dearer because we're better - hmmmmm.
HTC announced that the long suffering Shift would be delayed further with mixed reports as to why (software, hardware, battery life) causing people to cancel their pre-orders in the fear that the Shift may never see the light of day or, when it does, be obsolete. Let's see what UMPCs come out of CES 2008. Problems also confronted Windows Home Server with reports that certain types of files were corrupted when stored on a WHS machine - defeats the purpose when you have to take a separate backup as your backup solution doesn't work properly.
Aside from all of this December was unfortunately dominated by the tragic loss of Marc Orchant who died a week after suffering a massive heart attack and never regaining consciousness. Marc had a big impact on anyone who came in to contact with hmi and is a big loss to the tech community and the world at large. Rest in peace, Marc.
2007, the year in review: July - September.
Also see: January - March, April - June, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very Good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Looking back, July seems to have been a quiet month. There was our wedding anniversary, my birthday and the day that the Tour de France came to town. This was a great day when the community came together for a party - it's a shame that life Isn't like that more often.
July did see the start of the Windows Live OneCare v2 Beta which introduced some great new functionality (I'm still using this as my anti-virus/anti-spyware solution now).
The big tech news was that Windows Home Server RTM'ed - it was great fun testing it and it's a real shame there are now some concerns over it's reliability.
August gave us the Performance and Reliability patches for Windows Vista which gave us a number of improvements to Microsofts' much maligned flagship. These were very well Received and did actually make a difference to how Vista runs - can't be bad.
On a work note I left the site I had been working at for Nearly two and a half years as I felt it was time to move on and things had stagnated. That's the one good thing about working for an outsourcing company - you can move Between clients without having to get a new job.
Now that Windows Home Server had RTM we could all look forward to what offerings the OEMs would have to tempt us But some initial offerings failed to excite. I remarked that Some OEMs seemed to be forgetting what WHS was all about - reliable backup and storage. When you have multiple hard drives installed in WHS you can enable folder duplication Which mirrors your data accross these drives thus adding Redundancy. Some OEMs, however, were shipping units with only one drive - pointless if you ask me.
The end of August finally saw the announcement of the eagerly anticipated Windows Vista SP1 beta and my invite duly turned up. Microsoft changed the way they worked with Vista, putting out more updates via Windows Update rather than have customers waiting for the next Service Pack but businesses especially don't buy it and are still adopting the "don't touch it until SP1" stance.
A backlash against the HTC Shift started in September. What everyone initially thought of as the perfect UMPC started showing it's true colours causing a lot of potential buyers to rethink their position.
It was announced later in the month that the iPhone would be coming to the UK on November 9th with a nice hefty price tag and a minimum 18 month contract but still without 3G. It was bound to sell in reasonable numbers regardless but Apple's insistence on full control leaves a sour taste in the mouth in a country where we are used to a lot of freedom when it comes to our mobile phones.
Beta 1 of Vista SP1 finally hit in September but had to be removed very shortly afterwards due to a few show stopper bugs including not being able to connect my Windows Mobile device.
Fourth quarter to follow.
2007, the year in review: January - March.
Also see: April - June, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Let's get started with the first quarter:
January saw me open the year with my "open letter to Micrsoft" which was a plea for MS to lead the way in the UK and actually try to get technology to the masses. UK tech adoption always seems stunted - we don't have the major OEMs with a presence here, there are no opportunities to get hands on with new devices etc. - so I thought that MS would be in a perfect position to start partnering with OEMs or even retailers to get the technology out there by way of road shows, demos, decent retail opportunities etc. Some great products have come our way from the MS stable (Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and now Windows Home Server) but even the best products fall flat without the marketing to support them and this was sorely lacking, and still is.
January was also dominated by CES and MacWorld with two big announcements. Firstly, Windows Home Server was officially announced and got a lot of people (myself included) very excited about what was to come. Next, however, came the big one - the story that took over the web: Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone at MacWorld and I ran some initial thoughts about the device.
We also saw a report from Forrester Research giving details that companies were finding the move to Office 2007 harder than expected and having to invest in more training for the new "Fluid Ui" than first thought. Around the same time we caught a first glimpse of an add-in being developed internally at Microsoft called "Scout" which would help users migrate to the new UI but this failed to materialise. A big shame.
The start of the year witnessed an explosion in the Vista/Lexmark saga that began at the end of 2006. The issues that I, and many others, experienced with Lexmark printers drivers on Windows Vista were indicative of the problems faced by many when OEMs did not do a good enough - or quick enough - job of getting their drivers out of the door in time for Vista to go RTM. In my case there were repeated delays in releasing a driver for my printer and when they finally did materialise they wouldn't work. Not only that but an uninstall utility from lexmark trashed my system! Lexmark printer driver issues on Vista are probably the single biggest reason people find my blog in search engines.
January ended on a low note, on the 30th we were burgled and had our keys, wallet/purse stolen which meant we had to cancel cards etc. and get the locks changed on the car so that the thieves couldn't come back and steal it. This coincided with the RTM launch of Windows Vista which meant I obviously had far more important things on my mind than blogging about the launch of the new OS from Microsoft.
After the Vista launch the tech press was full of "should you, shouldn't you" articles which all seemed to be saying the same thing: that it just wasn't worth the upgrade yet. One particular magazine which caught my eye was Micro Mart here in the UK running the cover story "Is this 2007's most pointless upgrade?" I blogged a knee jerk reaction not having read the actual article (bad form I know) but felt incensed that customers would get a wrong impression. In response to my post I was contacted by the editor of Micro Mart about writing a piece for them so it all worked out okay in the end.
February included the beginning of the Windows Home Server beta program on Connect. I was lucky enough to have been contacted when it was invite only but the program was opened up and people registered in their thousands - 40,000 by the end of Feb to be exact, with 10,000 invites being sent.
I finished my article for Micro Mart and now just had to wait for it to be published but March was HTC Shift month. The news about HTC's UMPC offering was everywhere and, having both Vista and Windows Mobile 6 on board, really captured the imagination. The Windows Mobile 6 side of things turned out to be a cut down offering called SnapVUE and there are concerns over battery life - even now the device still hasn't made it to production.
Second quarter to follow.
Is the HTC Shift heading for Vapourware?
The Shift is rapidly going the way of so many gadgets that promise so much - they keep getting delayed further and further until they become obsolete - let's hope that this doesn't happen to the HTC Shift.
With conflicting stories coming out about the cause of the delays you can help but get worried for the Shift. Some report that the delays are caused by problems with the hardware and software integration, while others cite the poor battery life as a reason for the delay.
Whatever the cause, the Shift is going to be put back until after the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas where other HSDPA enabled UMPCs are due to come to the fore.
What is worrying is that no-one seems to be getting any decent communication from HTC with regards to the delays. Dates are rumoured then slip but there is no firm information coming out.
The Shift has disappointed already since it has emerged that it will not feature a full Windows Mobile install but will incorporate a cut down implementation called SnapVUE instead. Add to that the news that the battery would only last for 2 hours when running Vista and you've got a number of would be early adopters (myself included) changing their minds until convinced otherwise.
How long can this go on before the Shift is no longer relevant to the market?
How will HTC address the Shift battery issue?
According to Steve over at UMPC Portal HTC have taken on board the feedback that 2 hours battery life under Vista on the HTC Shift is just not good enough and are trying to do something about it.
The question remains: what can they do?
There is virtually nothing they can do with the hardware - various components have (apparently) already been selected to reduce power consumption and there's not much they can do to Vista to increase battery life except install the latest patches but how much difference do they actually make?
So, what's left? Well - the battery itself. Steve also says that the Shift uses the same battery as the Fujitsu U1010 which is generally listed with 3 hours battery life so what's gone wrong?
Does the Shift need a more dense battery? Or should we be looking at an extended battery by default?
Let's hope there is some more news before launch.
The nays have it.
The bad news just keeps on coming in respect of the HTC Shift.
We've had the announcements that the battery life is poor (despite HTC saying that their choices of components were to increase battery life) and that it only runs a WM6 like shell called SnapVUE and not the full WM6 itself. But now we see the impact that these announcements are having.
UMPCPortal ran a poll to determine the effect on customer intentions in light of the announcements. I've already mentioned that I'm thinking twice about the Shift but the results of the poll are quite damning:
Shift Poll
Only 4% of respondents will still buy a Shift as it currently stands. That's not good news for HTC.
A shift away from the Shift?
The HTC Shift seemed like the perfect UMPC - Vista AND Windows Mobile, keyboard, the nice sliding screen - but things aren't looking so rosy now.
Kaz911 has been posting the official specs and other good info about the HTC Shift which are really helping people (including myself) form a more accurate opinion on the Shift.
Firstly, we have the official specs - not just rumour but now from a scanned brochure straight from HTC. We knew that the Shift would include one of the new Intel Stealey processors running at 800MHz (but supposed to be snappier than the rating would indicate) and the reason for the processor choice was supposed to be to reduce power consumption and increase battery life.
How then can they reconcile this with the news that the device will only have a 2 hour operating time under Vista - with up to 8 hours in the Windows Mobile mode?
Oh, and it's not even full Windows Mobile on the device, more like a cut down version with just core functionality to act as a modem and provide push email support. It also seems to be acting like a SideShow style device in this mode with what HTC call "SnapVUE" which "provides instant access to critical information...even if the device is not switched on".
Warner is correct when he says that people are moving from "must have one" to "wait and see" - myself included. Rob is of the same opinion when he says "I don't think it will cut it".
Sal agreed to let me buy one of these on the proviso that the kids would get the Tablet to use as a laptop for school work in their room but now I'm not so sure.
I think we need to get the device in some more hands. Hugo Ortega did his video review but was left with a few questions - maybe it was too early as things still seem to be changing prior to launch.
We need some objective reviews which will give us a true indication of performance and battery life and the exact capabilities of the "Windows Mobile" mode. What originally looked like a dream device may not turn out to be the all things to all people unit we had hoped for and the UK price of £869 (I've seen that at a couple of sites) is a bit much to spend on a compromise even if HTC say it isn't.
I imagine that this is going to rumble on until launch and, if our worries are confirmed, HTC may be selling a few less units than they may have expected.
HTC Shift - the other side of the coin.
No sooner did Hugo post his video of the HTC Shift for us all to drool over than we started to hear the other side.
David Zakar says the form factor is just about right (with a few little niggles as far as he is concerned) but he is perhaps a bit over zealous in his criticisms (battery life, amount of RAM, interaction between Vista and WM6) but he has gone off half cocked I'm afraid.
David says that the Shift has no wireless so you have to rely on Bluetooth or HSDPA for your connectivity. Sorry David, but I think you need to check the official specs:
HTC Shift Specs
Now, that definitely says WiFi at the bottom doesn't it? If the device is not going to come with WiFi then a few customers are going to be considering suing for the product not being as described.
Talking of suing, I was only talking about the similarity in concept between the Shift and the DualCor cPC a few days ago but it now looks like DualCor may be trying to cash in on HTC's success where they couldn't cut the mustard. reported a day after Hugo's video, that DualCor hold a patent for
"A novel personal electronic device includes a processor having first (embedded) and second (non-embedded) processors including associated operating systems and functions"
Now, the patent says that the second processor is "selectively operated" by the first processor as it may need more power so, effectively, work is shared between them.
From my understanding, the two processors in the Shift are entirely separate and WM6 and Vista operate in isolation. Is that going to be enough to show that HTC have not breached the patent? Let's hope so.
DualCor had a great idea with the cPC way in advance of the Shift but they couldn't deliver (the latest press release on their site is from May 24th LAST YEAR). It would be a travesty if they were to make a killing out of HTC from this.
Hugo does the Shift.
  Hmmmmmm, HTC Shift. Aaaauuuugggggghhhhhh!
OK, that's the obligatory drool over with.
Hugo Ortega, one of the luckiest blokes in the Tablet PC/UMPC space, had his hands on the forthcoming HTC Shift UMPC for somewhere around 60 hours and has filmed a great 33 minute show-and-tell video for all of use less unfortunate mere mortals to ogle.
I have been excited by this device ever since it was first announced and this video and Hugo's comments only go to reinforce my original thoughts.
Remember the non-event that was the DualCor cPC? Well, the Shift brings back memories with it's dual Vista/Pocket PC set up.
You simply MUST check out the video here: The HTC Shift.
The current state of UMPCs.

After the recent official announcement of the Samsung Q1 Ultra UMPC (see the full specs list over at GottaBeMobile) I started thinking about how the UMPC market was shaping up now that we are hitting true second generation units. Without a doubt, two of the UMPCs generating the most interest at present are the Q1 Ultra and the imminent HTC Shift.

What's interesting is that both of these devices are made by OEMs who are more normally known for producing mobile phones (including Windows Mobile units) rather than PCs. Both have a reputation for producing high quality devices and are "upsizing" to the UMPC form factor rather than perhaps trying to shrink a laptop down to size. Due to the experience in the mobile arena it may be that such manufacturers the advantage as they are used to cramming lots in to such small packages but suddenly have the extra size to play with. Do OEMs who are used to making laptops find it difficult to downsize?

Both the Q1 Ultra and the Shift are going to be using the new Intel mobile processor solutions which aim to reduce power consumption. If the figures quoted with the Q1 Ultra are accurate (quoting over 4.5 hours of battery life) then we could be looking at possibly doubling the time between charges.

Samsung have an advantage over HTC in that they have a wealth of data to work with from their first generation devices – the different variants of the Q1 that have been released so far. It will, therefore, be very interesting to see if the Shift performs as you would expect a second generation device to perform (I'm calling them true second gen devices as there has been a significant change in the hardware, i.e. the processor architecture).

The coming months will be key in shaping the way ahead for UMPCs but, as with Tablets, the form factor is being let down by the marketing – or lack of it. There seems a reluctance to go after the consumer market with mobile devices be they Tablets, UMPCs or even Windows Mobile phones. They are seen as productivity tools more aligned with business use but can offer so much for the mobile consumer especially with Vista and Windows Mobile 6. Unfortunately, however, I can't see there being a shift without a major change in ethos from the top down.

Gadget lust - HTC Shift.
I woke up this morning to a Bloglines list full of the HTC Shift and, man that looks good!
HTC are best known for making Windows Mobile devices such as the TyTn/Hermes aka my Vario II but we have recently seen a shift (pun intended) towards a larger form factor with the 5" screen Advantage as it's now called - a super-sized Windows Mobile device.
Well, HTC are now going one stage further with a proper UMPC that runs Windows Vista with Aero and everything. The HTC Shift will have a 7" touch screen which flips up, a slide out keyboard, 1GB of RAM, 30GB hard drive and a rumoured 1.2GHz Via processor.
HTC Shift
The screen slide-and-tilt mechanism is very reminiscent of HTC's upcoming TyTn/Hermes replacement - the HTC Kaiser - so this seems to be flavour of the month.
HTC Kaiser
I'm a fan of the UMPC form factor but, although I love using the stylus, I'm a sucker for a keyboard. Consequently, a number of the current UMPC offerings wouldn't really suit me. The HTC Shift, however, looks right on the money and, with HTC's consistently high styling, looks the absolute business.
This needs to come in at a realistic price point, and I need to win the lottery ;)
See more news about it here:
UPDATE: Dave Zatz has supplied jkOnTheRun with some close-ups so check 'em out here: HTC Shift UMPC photo tour.
The new face of Origami.
You may have seen screenshots of the new "Origami Experience" - the new launcher app for Vista that replaces/updates the UMPC Touch Pack - as they filtered out of CES but now Both GottaBeMobile and jkOnTheRun have video demos of this new bit of software aimed at making the user experience much nicer on a UMPC with Vista installed.
 Origami Experience
You can check out the Video from here: Origami Experience InkShow on an Asus R2H Ultra Mobile PC.
And the one from jkOnTheRun here: jkOTR Mobile Media Edition 30: The Origami Experience.
You can also see some good info and screenshots over at the Origami Project Blog here and here, as well as a video and interview at
UMPCs and Vista - a follow-up.
Steve from CarryPad has left a comment to my previous post about UMPCs not being able to run certain apps included in Vista saying that I (and others) have missed the point.
I agree with him to an extent but can see why MS have chosen the route they have. I have replied with my own comment but thought that the issues this raises deserve their own post.
The hardware requirements to run Aero have been thrown about so much that this other matter seems to have been overlooked. Even in the hardware requirements section of the Vista page it talks about Aero but there is no mention of anything else.
Yes, UMPCs should technically be able to do everything (they can run Movie Maker in XP, for example) Microsoft have taken the decision to boost the functionality in the included apps which has resulted in the increase in hardware required and they are presumably happy with this decision as UMPCs have been marketed primarily as a companion device rather than a primary computer.
The real issue with this, however, is the lack of information available about this. You need to know what you can and can't do prior to purchase so that you can make a more informed choice.
Even the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor makes no reference to Movie Maker or Windows DVD Maker (I ran it on a work PC which I knew was not Premium Ready).
 Upgrade Advisor
So, come on Microsoft, provide full information so that consumers can make a full and informed choice when considering an upgrade.
UMPCs won't run all Vista apps - big news?
James Kendrick has linked to items on CarryPad and jkkmobile which point out that a lot of UMPCs currently on the market won't run all of the apps included in Windows Vista - the two in question are Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. Both require version 2.0 (or later) vertex shaders and version 2.0 pixel shaders which (along with DX9 support) are the requirements for Glass.
This is something I have mentioned repeatedly in connection with Tablet PCs but, to be honest, I don't see why there is suddenly such a fuss over it in relation to UMPCs.
Warner Crocker over at GottaBeMobile has a healthy attitude over this and says that "tradeoffs are many in the mobile scene and will continue to be so".
While it would be nice to do some video editing on the road with a UMPC you really can't expect current units to give you the power you need in such a small package. My concern over this issue was for those using their Tablet PCs as their primary - and sometimes only - computer and this is not a position UMPC users are generally going to find themselves in whereas a number of Tablet owners do not own another PC. UMPCs are, after all, intended to be companion devices
Most Tablet PCs are not Vista Premium Ready so will have these problems and there is not much you can do about it other than buy a new unit. If you have bought a UMPC with your eyes wide open, fully aware of the specs then I don't think you can really be in a position to complain.
Check out Tablet PC Counter.
By now, we are pretty much all familiar with sites like Techmeme and Digg which - in one way or another - present us with filtered snapshots of the current news so that we don't have to browse round hundreds of websites.
Now, Layne Heiny has posted over at What Is New about a new project that has recently taken a step forward: Tablet PC Counter.
Tablet PC Counter 
(click for full size image)
This website aims to be a community led resource for the very same community. You sign up and can submit stories as well as vote on the ones that are already there.
As Layne says:
"Sites devoted to the UMPC or Tablet PC can help promote the project by submitting their own stories" and "Bloggers may submit their own posts and hopefully drive traffic and discussions".
He hopes that it will get "discussions going on everyone's blogs, sites, and forums" and is a real way of enabling the Tablet PC and UMPC communities to share information but it will only succeed if we keep submitting the news stories and voting often. I intend to submit a couple of my recent posts.
So, head on over to Tablet PC Counter and submit any Tablet PC and UMPC stories that interest you so that the site and community can continue to grow. 
Windows Mobile UMPCs?
So, a couple of larger form factor Windows Mobile devices have surfaced recently which really make you wonder exactly what they offer over other devices. They are getting quite UMPC like in appearance but do we really want them?
The two we have so far are the HTC Athena (see Engadget for more details) and an offering from Tatung which looks like it is trying to be a Samsung Q1.
 HTC Athena thumb   Tatung WM UMPC
Yes it's nice to have a larger device as you get that extra screen real estate but is anyone seriously going to use one of these as a phone?
The main reason for getting a bigger, UMPC like device is so that you can do more. Irrespective of screen size there is only so much you can do on a Windows Mobile device. Don't get me wrong, I love my Vario II but if I was going to get a UMPC type device I would want it to actually BE a UMPC according to the original specifications laid down. It would therefore have to be running XP Tablet edition or Vista.
As James Kendrick says, these devices are reminiscent of the original Handheld PCs and they are likely to be far too expensive to be realistic options so, will they find a place in the market? I think not.
What does 2007 hold for Tablet PCs?
Now that Vista has shipped to OEMs and is due to be available to consumers in just over a month (30th Jan) I find myself wondering how this will affect Tablet PCs.
Now, we already know that the UMPC will really be the flavour of the month at CES with a number of manufacturers (supposedly) lined up to give us new offerings but things seem to have gone a bit quiet on the Tablet front. We have recently had the Lenovo X60 which proves to be Premium Ready based on Dennis Rice's tests but very little else.
Are Tablet OEMs waiting until after Vista is available before putting together new units? If so, why? We know what hardware is required to run it well. Manufacturers of other form factors are releasing machines with free upgrades to Vista (or only a small charge in some cases) so why aren't Tablet OEMs following the same route?
Marketing has always been a big issue for Tablets and I think this needs to change drastically in 2007 with the arrival of Vista. It prompts the question "which SKU will OEMs use?"
Tablet functionality will be available in the following SKUs:
 - Home Premium
 - Business
 - Enterprise, and
 - Ultimate
I can imagine that the Business Edition of Vista will come pre-installed on most Tablet PCs as OEMs seem intent on targeting corporate users and not taking advantage of the large consumer market out there.
When you consider that the Home Premium Edition of Vista will also include the new version of Media Center (which I personally think is great and often use it instead of WMP11) this seems an ideal time to try to capture the imagination of home users otherwise, why include the Tablet functionality in a Home SKU?
OK, some owners may opt for this version when upgrading the OS on their existing Tablets but this may be limited as their is no guarantee that OEMs are going to make drivers available for "legacy systems" (just look at Toshiba and the M200).
Vista seems to be geared towards widescreen monitors - the sidebar feels cluttered when enabled on a standard 4:3 screen - and hardware seems to be following suit. So why not continue down this route with Tablets (I know that some convertibles are already widescreen). Personally, I would love a medium sized, widescreen convertible with Vista and Media Center - I think this would offer me the best mix of productivity and entertainment all in one package. Yes, a UMPC might be more flexible in some circumstances due to it's size, a full Tablet would suit me better.
I know I have blogged about this before (and it still bugs me) but, until recently, the only Tablet PC available to buy retail in the UK was the Toshiba R10. This was available via PC World but has now finally been dropped from the website after being "end of line" for months (although I did see one in a store not too long ago). The only problem was that it was being sold as just another laptop - the only mention of "Tablet" was where it said Windows XP Tablet Edition with no explanation of what that was exactly.
Why the continuing reluctance to broaden the target audience?
Great stock is made in the US of the value of Tablet PCs in education and I agree that families can make great use of Tablets. I know that whenever I let either of my kids near my old Acer they loved interacting with it using the stylus - I think it tied in with their desire to learn how to write and draw. If this is instinctive in kids more should be made of it! Who knows, the grown-ups could get something out of it as well.
UMPCs are also falling foul of a similar failure. The original Origami viral campaign really got the imagination running wild but come launch nothing was done to follow up on this and keep the consumers interested. Consequently, it is mainly tech enthusiasts who know they exist, let alone buy one.
It can't be assumed that things will take care of themselves. The maxim "If you build it, they will come" just doesn't hold true in today's consumer driven society. When we are constantly bombarded with information by those wanting to part us with our hard earned cash a failure to marketing both properly and consistently will result in products falling by the wayside. Our attention span is short and we need constant reminders.
HTC to start making UMPCs?
Picked this up from Windows Mobile 24/7 by way of Pocket PC Thoughts.
Peter Chou (HTC's president) has been talking about the way forward for the company in light of ever increasing competition. In an interview with the Seattle Times he has remarked that "HTC has its sights set on the next big thing — filling in the market between phones and laptops". That's UMPCs to you and me.
With their experience of small form-factor devices we could be in for a treat provided that they don't go the DualCor route!
Still here...
Wow, has it really been three weeks! It's just so easy to get out of the blogging groove and at such an exciting time.
So, what's been happening? The list goes on:
  • Office 2007 RTM
  • Windows Vista RTM
  • loads of gear to drool over and not afford
  • looking for a new job
The past couple of weeks have seen a few of my bugs lined up for consideration for a servoce pack etc. so they were obviously not deemed worthy of being blockers - more annoyances ;)
I hope to get the chance to play with the final builds of both Office and Vista through work sooner rather than later but I don't know if it will actually happen - I'll ask a few questions.
Gear to drool over? I was specifically thinking about the Asus R1F Tablet and their UMPC (see Hugo's blog). That tablet looks nice, and with a Core 2 Duo inside will be awesome. Hey, Santa - I've been good. Honest! And the Zune looks pretty interesting.
I've also been vaguely thinking about how much it will cost to build a Core 2 Duo desktop for Vista and it's not at all bad - I could probably do it for between £400 - £500 (with a lower end processor nicely overclocked).
I'm still in love with my Vario II Pocket PC and am constantly tweaking it and installing/uninstalling software. OK, perhaps a bit too much as I've had to do a couple of hard resets to tidy things up ;)
Yes, the CV has been updated and I am looking around to see what other jobs are out there. I'm not entirely sure what I'm after at present but one thing I DO know is that I'm going to maintain a work/life balance. Yes we all want a big fat pay rise but it's not going to come at the expense of time with my family.
Right, that's a little catch up for now. I hope to keep things moving along a bit better.
Ultranauts gets a new lick of paint. - your number 1 source for UMPC news and analysis with attitude - is undergoing a huge make-over in a continued effort to bring you all the best UMPC news with the best possible presentation.
John has continued to bring us original and thought provoking information since the Ultranauts site stated and I'm sure that Ultranauts 2.0 will keep the tradition going.
So, if you like your devices small head on over and help him make the new site the best it can be:
Vista still not catering for small screens.
Back in July I submitted a but that the Windows Easy Transfer Wizard would not run in Portrait mode on my old Acer Tablet.
The Acer had a 10inch screen which, in Portrait, had a resolution of 768x1024. The wizard failed with the error "Windows Easy Transfer requires a screen resolution of 800x600 or higher". Obviously, the wizard would run in Landscape mode but why should you been forced to change orientation just to use a simple wizard?
Now, Craig Pringle, has hit a similar barrier trying to use the Speech Recognition tutorial on his LS800. This time the system wants a resolution of at least 1024x768!
 Speech Recognition error
This strikes me as a ridiculous situation.
Check out Craig's full post here: Checking out Vista speech and... What the?
UMPC round up.
It's enough to make you go green and rip off your shirt!
James Kendrick (jkOnTheRun) has been loaned a Samsung Q1 SSD UMPC: SSD = Solid State Disk. Instead of a hard drive this Q1 variant employs a 32GB Solid State drive which is silent as there are no moving parts. You can read his initial thoughts here: Samsung Q1 SSD is in da house!
As if that wasn't enough, Dennis Rice over at GottaBeMobile has taken delivery of his new TabletKiost eo i7210. He already has the first in what is promised to be a series of InkShows available for watching so check it out here: TabletKiosk eo i7210 UltraMobile PC InkShow.
Lucky devils!
UPDATE: you can now check out jk's initial impressions of the Q1 SSD here - Quick impressions of the Samsung Q1 SSD.
Tablet/UMPC marketing interview.
Anyone who has read the previous incarnation of this blog for a while will know that one of my main gripes with Tablet PCs has been the lack of a cohesive marketing strategy. Now, Rob over at has conducted an interview with Mika Krammer, the Director of Windows Client Mobility at Microsoft, and the interview focuses on how MS will look at the marketing of Tablets and UMPCs in the run up to Vista and beyond.
The things I take from the interview are that it is a long term investment to plan marketing so things may not change very quickly but the news that a number of well known OEMs will be entering the Tablet space with "reasonably priced" devices in the Vista time frame is great news.
Check out the full interview/Audio Inkshow here: Mika Krammer Podcast InkShow
New eo's available in the UK.
Via jkOnTheRun.
PocketPC Solutions now have the new TabletKiost eo models available for pre-order (for a September delivery). Currently there is a £50 discount and, believe me, there needs to be!
The prices for the new devices are as follows:
  i7209 = £749.99 + delivery (normal price £799.99)
  i7210 = £949.99 + delivery (normal price £999.99)
The US price for the i7210 is $1399. At current exchange rates, £999 is about $1865!
Rip off Britain strikes again.
Glyn Evans from PocketPC Solutions has replied to my comment over at jkOnTheRun with a very good point:
"if you add shipping and convert the US price to UK price and then add the 17.5% import VAT to this price you will see this prices is about right".
Sorry, forgot about that, but it's still around £100/$200 more expensive in the UK.
In any event, UMPCs are still way too expensive!
Tablet Kiosk announce new UMPCs.
Dennis over at GottaBeMobile and John at Ultranauts have both posted about the new UMPC models coming from TabletKiosk.
There are two new devices called the eo i7209 and eo i7210 depending on the processor option you choose:

Model Processor RAM Hard Drive
i7209 Celeron M 900MHz 512MB 30GB
i7210 Pentium M 1GHz 1GB 60GB
The new UMPCs also has an Intel 915 DX9 graphics chipset, 4-in-1 card reader and 1.3 megapixel camera. The new chipset means that these devices now support screen rotation.
TabletKiosk are to be congratulated for moving on but, while the feature set looks impressive at first glance, I have a few concerns.
The first eo had it's problems which even led to a product recall. Technology hasn't progressed in the couple of months since the eo first started reaching customers. So, are TabletKiosk just packing more in to the same space and could this lead to more problems?
It is agreed that battery life out of the box is woefully inadequate in a device of this type and now the extra features will only add an extra drain.
We knew that first generation UMPCs would be surpassed but, to me, this smacks of "here's the UMPC we would and should have released if only we'd waited".
The price point seems way too high with the Pentium version weighing in at $1399 (I hate to think how this will translate to UK prices) and the Intel 915 chipset is still not ready for Vista (you need at least the 945 chipset for that).
In my view, as the period between initial eo launch and these devices is so short, these are still first gen devices and the usual caveats will apply. On the face of it there is no real advancement other than TabletKiosk learning by their own experiences but I hope to be proved wrong.