Korean manufacturer UMID’s latest touchscreen UMPC has all the gorgeous, unergonomic allure of the best pocket electronic dictionaries, but instead runs XP, VIsta or Linux on an Atom chipset instead, with 1GB of memory and up to 32GB of SSD Storage and a 1024 x 600 display. The specs are similarly nice: out-of-the-box, it can pipe in HSDPA, WiMAX, Wi-Fi or even digital television. No price or release date yet.
Smaller than a paperback notebook, UMID is christening it a “mini-netbook,” which is understandable: netbooks are certainly more of a gadget vogue brand right now than the mere UMPC or MID, which are clunky acronyms that have never found a market. Very deft.
Unfortunately, that prefaced “mini” destroys all the worth of the netbook concept: netbooks are supposed to be just small enough to be able to really do some writing on. Smaller sizes aren’t an asset: that’s why the most popular netbooks are all 10 inchers. And, of course, at half the physical size, expect a battery life far worse than any netbook currently on the market.
But the problem with UMPCs or MIDs was never in the name: it was in the device concept itself, which is basically a full-featured laptop that folds up into your pocket. That sounds great, but it’s conceptually the same thing as an HDTV you can carry around in your shoe: a rather neat but ultimately unusable proof technology hobbled by constraints and compromises.
So the question ends up being the incredulous same as the one I ask myself every time an attractive UMPC or MID comes about: okay, it’s a mini-netbook, but who is the product for? Who could stand to use it, or could bear to pay for it? As near as I can tell, mini-netbooks (or whatever you want to call them) are expensive and practically unusable products aimed at exactly one customer: Rob Beschizza, who swears he could blog indefinitely on one as long as they’d sort out the battery life.