People keep asking me my opinion about the upcoming Ultra-Low Cost PC (ULCPC) initiative by Microsoft and and how I think they will affect our sales of our eo line of Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPC).
As a mobile vendor that originally embraced Microsoft’s efforts to market the UMPC, I find it disappointing that Microsoft is embracing these new devices by extending the life of XP without considering some of the obstacles that the original UMPC manufacturers have faced all along.
- A high cost operating system
- Limited power to run the full Vista experience
Since TabletKiosk introduced the eo line of UMPCs in 2006, our goal was to offer a lightweight, low cost mobile touch screen device, at a fair price point, that enabled us to meet our margins. The materials required to build a full featured UMPC are not cheap and adding a premium OS like Vista further added to the cost. As much as we wanted to, there is simply no way that we could dramatically lower the cost of our UMPCs when were paying a premium price for the OS. (roughly 1/4 of the of the cost of the unit).
From a power standpoint, some of our UMPCs have less than 1 GB of RAM and Vista just does not run well at this spec. Remember that we market our tablets for specific business applications in the enterprise market. Our customers want the simplest OS possible from XP Pro or XP Tablet and do not want or need all of the bells and whistles of Vista (aero glass etc.) Many of our UMPCs have small hard drives (sub 80 GB) and just cannot sustain a positive computing experience running Vista.
Our goal is to continue to grow the eo line of UMPCs. Our customer base is expanding for those that require a mobile computer with a 7” screen and touch screen input. It is disappointing that Microsoft recognized that Vista is too feature packed for the ULCPC and by excluding the premium Vista OS, manufacturer partners can keep their costs in-line with a low priced unit.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all about new low cost computing initiatives that are beginning to proliferate. I just wish that the distinctions between devices were more clearly defined in respect to the manufacturing partners.
So what are our options...
1) We can continue to sell our UMPCs with Vista, knowing that the computing experience is less than ideal. these customers will still have the option to downgrade to XP on their own.
2) For the next six months, we can continue to offer XP by purchasing licenses from the distribution channel instead of through the Microsoft authorized reseller program,
3) We can steer our customers to XP Embedded
4) We can hope that Microsoft will recognize the merits of the original UMPC platform and will include the original UMPC specs, with touch capabilities, as part of the XP extension for mobile devices.
I look forward to hearing feedback about this...