The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Apple UMPC

by James R. Stoup Oct 01, 2007

I am beginning to think that the iPhone euphoria has finally gotten to some bloggers out there because I keep reading ridiculous stories about Apple and their fabled UMPC (that’s Ultra Mobile Personal Computer for those of you who are acronymly-challenged). Both CNet and AppleInsider are convinced that we are mere months away from seeing the first glimpse of this device. Why suddenly people think that a useless product with fundamental flaws and no real market can succeed if only Apple makes it is beyond me. Guess what? Apple won’t be making an “OS X Tablet” or a “New & Improved Newton” anytime soon, so stop battling the forces of reality and just accept that fact.

But wait James, you say. There are things you aren’t considering. It will all be different this time. This time it will work. (Just like socialism, it really does work, we just haven’t found the right group of people yet.)

Oh really? Enlighten me then.

It will have a touch display just like the iPhone.
Great! But what will I use it for?

It will be smaller than a laptop, but larger than an iPhone.
Great! But what will I use it for?

It won’t have the usefulness of a keyboard or the functionality of a phone.
Great! But what will I use it for?

It will be more expensive than a laptop, clunkier than a phone, and more useless than either.
I hate to sound like a broken record here…but WHAT WILL I USE IT FOR?

It will use nonexistent battery technology to stay on long enough to actually be useful.
Right, because the extension cord would be a real hassle otherwise.

Oh, and it will be used for all those new applications that don’t exist yet, but will be really cool when they do.
I see, we are attempting to make Star Trek a reality then?

I wrote an article last year about Microsoft’s Origami and why it would fail as a device. I could have replaced “Microsoft” with “Apple” and “Origami” with “OS X Tablet” and reposted the article and it would be just as accurate today as it was last year. Nothing has changed. This kind of device still faces many problems; however, the two most important ones can be summed up quite simply as:

Problem 1—There isn’t a large enough market for these types of devices
Tablets are great for cops, firefighters, nurses, and the UPS guy, but after that no one really wants one bad enough to pay what they cost. If you need to be productive you get a laptop, if you need a PDA you buy a phone, so what is the purpose of a device like this? It is a solution looking for a problem. I’ll believe Apple will make this product the moment someone shows me an important problem that this device solves.

Problem 2—It requires technology that doesn’t exist yet
If you think the battery life on the iPhone isn’t so great, wait till you see how long the “iTablet” lasts. Hum, lets see, it has a bigger screen, faster processor, and more storage and it is going to stay on longer, but people actually think the battery is going to last longer than the iPhone. I’m thinking no.

So, other than the fact that no one would want a device that can’t even be built, I think the iTablet has a strong chance of succeeding.

Now can we stop with the ridiculous stories, please?


  • James, I don’t doubt the arrivial of an iTablet as you can see in Friday’s post but it all depends on what Apple can do with it. Your reasons are totally valid, why compete with the laptop when a UMPC is clunkier and isn’t as portable?

    In my opinion, Apple would have to create I could toss in my pocket, the iPhone does this already, heck I’m typing this comment at school before school starts and I do most of my Blogging on it. But what about the iTouch? Nope, that’s an iPod and the iPhone is the all in one device.

    So where would this “iTablet” fit in? It’d probably be the iPhone minus all media and phone functions, Apple is good at creating a product line, differentiating it by minor things and make it a success.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Oct 01, 2007 Posts: 70
  • James, you are right in the sense that Apple won’t build a “UMPC” as you phrase it.

    However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the iPod Touch was revamped to include more Newton/PDA-like functions.

    One of the first things I noticed about the iPod Touch is that it lacked some very basic functionality that the iPhone has—email and calendaring.

    It has wifi, so why not email? And WTF is up with calendaring? Why can’t you add appointments?

    I agree with you, James. Apple is not going to release a UMPC in the way the internet describes.

    However, I think it is very likely there are prototypes floating around Apple that are basically an iPhone or iPod touch with various feature sets that aren’t currently on the market.

    I’m certain Apple is playing around with possible Newton-esque configurations to see if there is a “fit” in their product line for such a device, or to explore what features the current iPhone/iPod Touch models could have in the near future.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 01, 2007 Posts: 243
  • I suspect that we will see iApps in iTunes in the near future these apps will bridge the gap and fill the spaces in both iTouch and iPhone.

    yetsirah had this to say on Oct 01, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Please God.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 01, 2007 Posts: 927
  • You may actually be right, but there is a flaw to your logic (which is more obvious when reading the Origami article). It may be a fatal flaw.

    -PDA users won’t like an iTablet because it’s too big..
    -Laptop users will find it can’t do as much as a laptop…
    Yep. I agree so far. If Apple (or Microsoft) want people to buy a product that does less, or is too big, it’ll fail for sure (for the vast majority of people).

    ie: We don’t want an iTablet which is just a MacBook with the keyboard cut off… and we don’t want an iPhone which doesn’t fit in a pocket.

    People have great trouble imagining something totally new.. and then find it blaringly obvious once they see it (this includes people who live ‘outside the square’). Also it is FAR FAR easier to release a full blown OSX on a tablet (a laptop-sans-keyboard), than it is to invent a device which caters to people who don’t need a full blown laptop, yet find a PDA too small.

    Apple is probably the only computer company (at present) which could artificially force a new interface paradigm on people. To do that they would have to put up with a vocal group of protestors saying “why can’t I do X? it’d be so EASY to add!”. In this example, Apple’s end-game would be to make people think differently, and force developers to produce something under the new paradigm rather than cheaply convert the old.

    I’m intrigued by what Apple might create. And (as a MBP owner) I can’t think of a reason I’d want an iTablet… for ME. If I was still a desktop bound user… would an iPhone do everything I needed for portability? Not quite. I suspect that at the right price, I’d be interested in a bigger screen and a partial sync to my desktop data.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Oct 01, 2007 Posts: 228
  • All good comments. But what would keep Apple from redefining the UMPC to be a compact 11”-12” laptop, light and lean, with superb LED screen and keyboard - and an iTouch-type trackpad that can do so much more than traditional trackpads. Who needs a tablet (beyond the specialized fields others have already mentioned)? Pack it with iPhone connectivity (plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) and you’d have networking nirvana. Auto sync through your Airport Extreme in the office, Lenovo’s done a good job of packing a lot into its X61 (laptop, not tablet) - and Apple has the skill and proprietary technologies to take it to the next level.  Soon please.

    Buzzwriter had this to say on Oct 02, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I’d use an UMPC. I am a field engineer working in London. I spend my days travelling from office to office, fixing people’s FUBARs. Work currently provide me with a PDA running Windows Mobile 5, which really sucks.

    I need email, and get my assignments over the company intranet. I also need proper internet so I can look up part numbers, etc on manufacturer’s websites, which at the moment is a real pain.

    The ability to carry around files like drivers, updates and diagnostics would be a major bonus.

    A laptop doesn’t cut it, as I am also carrying an extensive toolkit that is heavy enough, thank you.

    Give me a UMPC with a 5”-7” screen and proper connectivity, and I’d be much happier.

    Dan Ebeck had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 23
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment