Technology

Promising Ultra-Mobile PCs


This group includes computers both powerful and portable. Here's a rundown of reviews for devices from OQO, Nokia, Sony, and others

Founded in 2000, San Francisco startup OQO was the first to load a full Microsoft (MSFT) Windows operating system onto a handheld device. OQO's first commercial version of the product won accolades at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2004, and a successor was cited by Guinness World Records as the smallest, fully loaded, personal computer.

And while it didn't catch on widely with users, OQO kept plugging away and recently released a second generation of the ultra-mobile PC. It's too early to quantify demand for this emerging family of computers, says NPD analyst Stephen Baker. But some of the biggest names in consumer electronics—including Sony (SNE), Samsung, and Asus—are following OQO's lead.

For a consumer, it's not hard to see the appeal. They're smaller than laptops and so-called tablet computers, but more powerful than pocket PCs and smartphones.

Portable PC Future

They also include a wide range of nifty features. The Asus R2H, for instance, features a 7-in. touch screen, fingerprint scanner, 1.3-megapixel camera, and embedded GPS, all on a machine that weighs just 1.8 lb. Samsung's NP-Q1 includes built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, and a flash-based memory drive. Sony and Samsung each outfitted their most recent ultra-mobile PCs with a flash-memory drive which lets programs boot and run faster, while conserving battery life.

Analysts say future versions of the ultra-mobile PC will be even more portable and boast longer battery life—potentially giving computers big and small alike a run for consumers' electronics dollar.

Click here for a rundown of BusinessWeek.com reviews of promising ultra-mobile PCs.

Sager writes about technology in New York.

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