CES: Ultramobiles getting closer to pay dirt

By Patrick Marshall

Vendors have been struggling for years with the tradeoffs involved in trying to deliver desktop power in smaller and smaller units. Two companies leading the struggle unveiled new Ultra Mobile Portable Computers (UMPC) at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Seamless WiFi Inc. debuted its S-XGen, a device that's a bit bigger than a PDA but decidedly smaller than a laptop. Specifically, the unit measure 6.5' long by 3.8' wide and weighs in at just under a pound. The S-XGen features a fold-out keyboard and a 4-inch 470x280 LCD touchscreen display. They keyboard isn't quite full size, but it's definitely easier to work with than the thumb-oriented keyboards on PDAs.

And the device's eight hour battery life means you should be able to get a full day's work done without recharging.

The unit, which comes loaded with Windows CE and Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, runs on an Intel PXA 270 Xscale 520 MHz processor. The base unit carries 256MB of system memory and a 20G hard drive. An Ethernet port and Bluetooth support are provided and the unit also has a built-in Web video cam.

Suggested retail price of the S-XGen, with Microsoft Office included, is $1,400.

If you need an UMPC that can take a bit more knocking about, check out the SwitchBack PC from Black Diamond Advanced Technology. This ruggedized unit, which is designed to exceed military standards, measures 7.5' by 5.5' by 2' and sports a 5.6 inch touchscreen display. The SwitchBack PC is built around an Intel 1GHz Celeron M processor and comes with 1G of system memory and a 60G hard drive. You have your pick of operating system from Windows XP, Windows Mobile and Linux.

What makes the SwitchBack unique, apart from its ruggedness, is its modular nature. Users will be able to selectively add processors, hard drives, extra batteries, a GPS receiver, and other extras.

Pricing for the Switchback PC has not yet been set. It is expected to ship in the first quarter of the year.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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