After many years of gestation, the Microsoft-led Project Origami -- an effort to crossbreed an Ultra Mobile PC from a laptop, a PDA, and a portable media player -- had an offspring on May 1. That was the date Samsung introduced in the U.S. its Q1, the world's first Ultra Mobile PC by a major manufacturer.
So how is that little guy doing? Like most parents, Samsung says it is very proud of its kid, although it is not ready to release specifics on how well the Q1 has been received in the U.S.
"Since the U.S. launch of the Q1 on May 1, consumer response has been very strong and very positive," said David Nichols, director of product marketing for Samsung. "Samsung is delighted with the market acceptance of the concept of the Ultra Mobile PC category and the Q1 product itself."
The Q1, which runs the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, is currently available for sale in the U.S. only through BestBuy.com and CDW.com. A test offering through selected Best Buy brick-and-mortar stores is planned for sometime this summer.
In addition to making history by being the first Ultra Mobile PC, the Q1 is also making history in another arena. Last week, Samsung released two new models in the Q1 line. The original Q1's new siblings -- the Q1 SSD and the Q30 SSD -- are the first commercial PCs sporting NAND flash memory instead of hard drives.
Those keeping an eye on the first Q1 have mixed feelings. Some observers believe it is too small, or too big, or too weak in the battery, or, at $1,099, too pricey.
icole d'Onofrio, an industry analyst at Current Analysis, offered a similar take. "The high price point is going to marginalize this -- until we see it come down to $500," she said.
"We probably won't see this form factor gain widespread adoption until 2008," she said. "And the initial specs are a bit weak."
Reviewers seem to have been a little more positive than the analysts. "There literally is pretty much nothing like it! It's gorgeous, it's cool, and it functions well," gushed Lisa Gade, editor-in-chief of MobileTechReview.com.
"The hardware is of impeccable quality other than the integrated stand, and the machine is powerful enough to replace a basic notebook," she wrote. But Gade, like d'Onofrio, said that the high price of the Q1 might be an issue for some people.
Weighing only 1.7 pounds, the Q1 is operated by thumb-controlled buttons on either side of its 7-inch screen and by a stylus. It has no physical keyboard, relying instead on handwriting recognition via the stylus or a touch-sensitive virtual keyboard on the screen. Additionally, for those needing to do a lot of text input, standard keyboards can be attached to the Q1.
Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and an Ethernet port are included with the Q1. The recommended screen resolution is 800 x 480, although it is scaleable to 800 x 600 or 1,024 x 600. A 40-GB hard drive and 512-MB memory, upgradeable to 1 GB, are standard.
In addition to these traditional PC features, the Q1 offers some non-PC options. The Q1's Instant On AVS Multimedia feature, for example, allows users to view movies, photos, and music without starting up Windows. It is a portable music player as well, with enhanced SRS TruSurround sound and stereo speakers.
A twin-array microphone on the Q1 is designed to help make phone calls over the Internet. And, although there are a limited number of available games that will run at the Q1's default screen resolution, an eight-way stick with a three-button pad gives users the means.
The offered CPU is the Intel Celeron M ULV, running at 900 MHz. The standard battery's life is estimated by Samsung at three hours; an optional long-life battery is available.
Despite this seemingly impressive set of features packed in a small case, the jury, it seems, is still out on the Q1. Reviewers and analysts alike have expressed many opinions about the Q1 and about the Ultra Mobile PC format, but it is still too early to determine whether the Q1 will develop a following.
After all, the little guy is only about a month old.