Microsoft Thinks Small with UMPC
By Mark Smith
After months of operating under the exotic moniker Project Origami, Microsoft has unveiled the Ultra-Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC), which squeezes PC functionality into a compact device that's considerably smaller than a laptop.
Preloaded with Microsoft's Touch Pack for Windows XP, the Intel processor-driven UMPCs will be available during the second quarter from Samsung and Founder and should weigh less than two pounds. Other features will include 7-inch LCDs, 30-60 GB hard drives, and an average battery life of a little more than two hours per charge.
Ultra-Mobile PCs will be available to schools and consumers during the second quarter of 2006.
Prices for the UMPCs will range from $599 to $1,000 and could include GPS features, Webcams, digital TV tuners, and fingerprint readers. Users will be able to use the touch screen, a stylus, or a dedicated onscreen thumb keyboard to navigate the operating system; a traditional keyboard and mouse can be hooked up via USB or BlueTooth wireless technology. Initially the UMPCs will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005; later models will use Windows Vista.
"We've heard a lot of feedback with regard to cost," says Anthony Salcito, general manager of U.S. education for Microsoft. "We see this device as a step in the right direction [for the K-12 market]. We want a device that takes a student's needs and puts them in the forefront."
Ray Rose, educational consultant and former educator, says that for portable devices like the UMPC to really take off in the K-12 market, battery life will have to be at least double that, he says. He points to the tablet PC as an example.
"There's always going be some school districts that will make commitments to one-to-one computing," Rose says. "In those situations, the Origami platform is going to serve as a viable alternative. But will it make a significant change in tech purchases? I don't think so."
Salcito says Microsoft will be working with OEM manufacturers to increase battery life for UMPCs, which the software giant sees as flexible devices that can help schools meet one-to-one computing initiatives.
"Microsoft is working with schools to explore paradigms that will enable that success," Salcito says. "[The UMPC] can be a companion device or a full-fledged device for students. It certainly fits that niche."
Quotation of the Month
By Amy Poftak
"The fault is not in the people, it's in the system."
-C. Jackson Grayson, Jr., founder and chairman of the American Productivity & Quality Center, during the "Measuring the Value of Technology in Education" session at March's Consortium for School Networking conference. Grayson is working with school districts across the country on using process-based management techniques to improve performance. (Editor's Note: Look for an article on this subject by Dr. Grayson in Technology & Learning's June Leadership issue.)
50 X 15
By Susan McLester
At a recent San Francisco presentation called "Thin Computing for a Flat World," Wyse Technology president and CEO John Kish highlighted a statistic that serves to bring technology use into perspective for Westerners: Only 15 percent of the world has Internet access. Working under the assumption that "flattening" the playing field will benefit citizens globally, Wyse has partnered with consumer electronics giant AMD and numerous others in a mission to get 50 percent of the world's population connected by the year 2015 (www.wyse.com/FlatWorld).
High-Tech Summer Ahead
By Susie E. Meserve
Have you enrolled in computer camp yet? Better get cracking — they fill up fast. Lucky for students and teachers interested in producing extreme sport videos, programming, or rocking out with GarageBand this summer, technology programs have become almost as ubiquitous as tennis camp.
internalDrive's iD Tech Camps, for example, take place at universities across the country and focus on skills like digital video production and Web design. New this summer, iD will also hold two sessions of Gaming Academy at UC Berkeley. emagination Game Design has programs for gamers, too; students design their own video games, then present them to industry experts at the end of the session. A useful resource for making sense of different technology camps is Allen's Guide. Visit www.allensguide.com/Academic/Computer for more information. Or check out www.summercamps.com/cgi-bin/summercamps/search.cgi?Computers=Computers.
Never fear, summer camp is for educators, too. If the free offerings from the U.S. Department of Education aren't techy enough for you, Digital Media Academy has useful programs that can be taken for continuing education credit through Stanford University (DMA also has great summer camps for students). The TEC Summer Institute in Manchester, N.H., offers hands-on professional development for educators who use KeyCreator, SURFCAM, Chief Architect, and other similar programs in the classroom (graduate credit is available). The Summer Technology Seminar at the English Language Institute at Oregon State University is well worth a look, too.