RealTime IT News

Microsoft Origami Mystery Unfolds

Microsoft today announced the final piece in its "Origami" marketing puzzle.

After creating online buzz and curiosity, the software giant unveiled its Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC) platform as the first step in its goal of making Windows computers as ubiquitous as mobile phones.

Priced between $599 and $999 and weighing fewer than two pounds, the devices sport a seven-inch touch screen, two-and-a-half-hour battery life and 30GB or 60GB hard disks.

Developed by Microsoft and Intel, the devices are expected to reach store shelves by the second half of 2006, according to Microsoft. Samsung is expected to ship the first devices in April under the Q1 Ultra Mobile PC brand.

Samsung device
Samsung's offering.
Source: Microsoft

While initially UMPC devices will use Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, Microsoft said later computers will run Windows Vista, Redmond's new operating system. The devices will use Intel Celeron M, Pentium M or VIA processors.

Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows XP powers the touch-screen user interface. Applications are categorized and launched via large buttons and icons. A touch-screen Microsoft Soduku game is also included.

Features aside, analysts are paying more attention to the hype that Microsoft's marketing campaign has generated for gear that it hasn't always been lucky with.

"This road has got a lot of corpses on it," Leslie Fiering, a Gartner analyst, told internetnews.com. Microsoft doesn't have a good record with new mobile platforms, she added, noting Spot watches and tablet PCs.

Although the concept of carrying your pictures, music, data and applications in a small mobile package -– what Fiering calls "My Stuff Anywhere" -– is sound, there will be a backlash from consumers unless the hardware is more robust, the analyst believed.

While the concept is sound, the Gartner researcher believes success centers on balancing hype against expectations. Those expectations have been increased beyond what Microsoft intended, said Joe Wilcox, a JupiterResearch analyst. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.)

Wilcox said he sees a resurgence of Microsoft's product promotion techniques. While the software maker used Internet newsgroups to build expectations for Windows 95, today's audience is made of bloggers more familiar with online viral marketing.

Bloggers first discovered a Flash promo created by Digital Kitchen, then Microsoft unveiled its own Web site, teasing consumers with a lack of details. Bloggers quickly shared the discoveries and commented widely upon the possible implications.

"Microsoft orchestrated a leakage campaign that was quite extensive," Roger Kay, principal of research firm Endpoint Technologies, told internetnews.com. The software firm leaked bloggers some details, while holding back other information.

The publicity tactic stretched to limiting the number of equipment makers, said Kay, who were briefed about Origami under an NDA.

Microsoft's publicity surrounding Origami was much more Apple-like, according to the analyst.

Tech companies are turning to viral advertising and enlisting the help (sometimes unwittingly) of bloggers, according to Fiering. Companies are changing tactics to reach young people who aren't swayed by traditional advertising methods.

Will we see more Origami-like ad campaigns? Sure, said Wilcox.

"Hype is good. But if you hype, you have to deliver."