So, Do I Hate The Origami? Uh, No

    March 9, 2006

There’s a lot of talk today about the Origami being a let-down.

And, hype-wise, it certainly is. Microsoft admits the hype spiraled out of control, and kind of turned the announcement into a bit of a disaster, basically.

However, none of that really matters. All that counts in the real world is if the products are good. Are they?

Yes and no.

The fact is, you can’t buy these and just hand them to someone, not in the first generation. With two and a half hours of battery life, they’re unusable as portables. You can’t use them as an MP3 player or a movie player (and video will likely cut battery life in half). You can’t take them to school and type notes. You can’t use it at work.

The only way the initial devices are useful as portables is if you can keep charging them. That means, when you leave the house, you’d have to bring the power adapter with you, and at that point, you might as well be carrying a laptop around. Right now, you can use it sporadically, or around the house (as long as you don’t use it for too long).

None of the uses in the original video work without the battery life. I can’t take it with me while taking pictures, I can’t use it in an airport, I can’t listen to music while riding a scooter, because, unless I want to barely use it, the battery is going to die on me. The only use that works is keeping it docked next to a PC and grabbing it for when I want to work outside.

Still, the Origami seems like a great start. Minus the battery issue, its an excellent platform, and will work for everything promised, and more, once battery life tops 12 hours (and, bare minimum four hours of video). You’ve got a Windows Vista capable tablet PC, a small but usable form factor and programs that make Windows work on the small screen.

I like it. The product itself seems solid, and to have a great future (although a crippled present). I will probably buy one, although I’ll probably wait for version 2 and five hours of battery life. The price point is excellent. At $599, to get a slate tablet PC with 30 gigs of space is a good deal in my mind. Compare it to an iPod at half the price.

$599 UMPC – 30 gigs of space, runs Windows Vista, touch screen, video (formats: WMV, AVI, QT, MP4, Real, DivX, XviD), music (formats: MP3, WMA, AAC [including DRM iPod music], OGG), programs like Internet Explorer, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Bit Torrent, runs any game that only needs 900 MHz and DirectX 8, like Doom, Quake, The Sims, Half-Life, can plug in USB accessories like GPS receiver, Bluetooth keyboard, camera, external hard drive, universal memory reader, FM or TV tuners, has VGA output

$299 iPod – 30 gigs of space, runs proprietary menu system, click wheel, video (formats: QT, MP4), audio (formats: MP3, AAC [including DRM iPod music]), runs mini-apps like Wikipedia, run mini-games like solitaire, can plug in proprietary accessories like FM tuner, no VGA output

So, you pay the cost of two 30-gig iPods, and you get a larger, but not too large, full Windows PC, that can do everything the iPod can do (including the one thing non-iPod players can’t do: play protected AAC) and a hell of a lot more. I call that a good deal.

Of course, it isn’t a good deal so long as the iPod gets 14 hours of audio and two hours of video. When Origami devices can do that, they’re ready.

I might buy a UMPC immediately. I’ll check em out, see what they’re like, and see if they’re worth it as a supplemental system. More likely, I’ll buy one with double the battery and pre-loaded with Vista. But Microsoft has gotten a great start, and we need to give them the benefit of patience.

The PC wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the UMPC. Wait for it to get better, and Microsoft, you sure as hell better keep developing the Origami-variant OS. If a year from now, nothing has changed with the programs launcher, and I’m drawing comparisons to the 18-month old PMC OS that has become decrepit over time, then you will be failing us, and killing your product. Continued development and improvement is a requirement for this to succeed.

Add to | DiggThis | Yahoo! My Web


Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

Visit the InsideGoogle blog.