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UMPC: The other shoe drops

When Bill Gates introduced the ultramobile concept at WinHEC 2005, he described a device that would be a showcase platform for Windows Vista. In addition to the advantages that Vista offers for notebooks, such as better support for wireless WAN connections and improved tablet functionality, the stepped-up synchronization and screen-scaling capabilities would greatly aid the murky value proposition of the UMPC.

With today’s announcement that Vista won’t ship to consumers until 2007, it’s easier to understand why Microsoft launched UMPC before Vista. PC manufacturers would at least have a chance to generate some excitement for the holidays. This is not dissimilar to Apple’s original retail positioning of the iPod. Unfortunately for the likes of HP and Gateway, UMPC doesn’t yet have the right price-value balance for a secondary PC and — unfortunately for Microsoft — the big guys aren’t yet biting as a result.

At least Microsoft will be able to count on a larger next-generation game library than its competitors to lend some holiday cheer this year.