Sample 1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
15.965 Technology Strategy
Paper #1
Technology and Domain: UMPC technology is both important and interesting because these
electronic systems address the future of the personal computing and, to some extent, smart phone
domains. Also, the growing popularity around UMPC requirements grows will serve as a
catalyst for innovative technologies within both domains. Some new technologies will be used
with the UMPC system and others will be used by competitive systems to improve performance.
For example, the UMPC “…will drive a new generation of low-power x86 processors, while
inviting competition from other processor architectures.”1 The extensive consumer use of
laptops and handheld devices, such as PDAs and smart phones, has continued to rise over time
reaching phenomenal levels. However, as more people become users of these products, the
needs for overcoming the computing limitations of handheld devices and the mobility constraints
of personal computers (PCs) will continue to grow greater. Imagine that you could easily carry
your PC anywhere you go. It would be the size of a paperback book, weigh less than two pounds
and fit in your purse or carry-on luggage with ease. You could take your music, photographs,
videos, games and home and/or work files everywhere you go. You could keep “in touch”
anywhere you can get INTERNET access via WIFI and/or 3G WAN based wireless networks.
E-mail, web searches, instant messaging, FACEBOOK updates, Skype use…all can be
accomplished while travelling on the city bus. UMPC systems are important and interesting
because they provide “…PC versatility in an ultra mobile package that, given [their] wireless
capabilities, can deliver information anytime and anywhere without the compromises that one
must deal with in other hand held mobile devices such as cell phones and smart phones.”2
Parameters, Trade-offs, Performance Envelope: As mentioned above, the UMPC is essentially
a PC that fits in the palms of your hands. It possesses all of the functionality of a typical PC and
more (i.e. tablet / touch-screen). UMPC key parameters are similar to those of a typical PC,
ranging from cost to display size. Since the UMPC is aimed at filling the need between the
minimal functionality of a PDA and portability of a laptop, Figure 1 provides a comparison
among these three technological systems using the key parameters associated with the UMPC.
1; April 26, 2006.
2; March 7, 2006.
The color red signifies that the parameter needs substantial improvement to be competitive with
the other systems. Green signifies that the parameter is competitive and, in the eyes of
consumers, “good enough.”
Figure 1
From Figure 1, two significant generalizations can be made. First, the UMPC does provide more
functionality than a PDA. Second, with its paperback book dimensions and less than two pound
weight, the UMPC fills the portability need over a laptop PC.
Figure 1 also shows that the UMPC is not a “one size fits all” solution; trade-offs inherently
exist. For example, there is a clear trade-off between the UMPC’s cost and keyboard size versus
a laptop’s portability. Some believe that this trade-off of cost versus portability is (and will be)
limiting UMPC market share. “The cost of these devices [UMPCs], which hover between $1500
and $2000, clearly meant that they would continue to be high end business tools and had a
minimal chance, if any, to gain a broader following in areas like education, mainstream business
and even upper end consumer markets.”3 The size of the QWERTY keyboard, approximately 6
inches in length by 3 inches wide, makes two-hand typing difficult and “thumb-typing” awkward
due to increased separation. In addition, not many people will attempt to write a full document
using such a small keyboard. The parameters of memory, storage and display size also reflect
inherent trade-offs where the UMPC technology is better than that of a PDA, but not a laptop.
The UMPC RAM hovers around 2 gigabytes versus laptops with 3 gigabytes. Although it is
larger than a PDA, the UMPC display is typically 7 inches and cannot compare to a laptop.
Hard-disk capacity for the UMPC can be as high as 60 gigabytes; much less than the storage
capability of a laptop. However, if portability is the driving parameter, trade-offs such as
memory, storage, and keyboard and display size may be mitigated by use of external devices
when at home (i.e. an external hard-disk or monitor).
These key parameters and trade-offs associated with them define the UMPC technology
performance envelope. With the exception of cost, the UMPC has increased functionality and
performance over a PDA. When compared to the laptop, the UMPC’s performance envelope is
constrained by memory, storage, and keyboard and display size. In practical terms, the
performance envelope for the UMPC falls short on ability to conduct computer work that would
take a long time (i.e. typing a lengthy paper) and play high-end video games. “Volume data
input could be a problem…[an UMPC] probably isn’t the best place to thumb-type a novel or
build a spreadsheet.”4
Parameter Evolution and Innovation Trajectory: The concept of the UMPC is not new. In fact,
the company OQO launched the first commercial UMPC in 2003. Since then, many of the
UMPC’s key parameters have evolved; however, the most critical changes that may impact
UMPC future success deal with the parameters of Processor (tied closely to Battery Life),
Connectivity, Operating System and Display. OQO’s UMPC ran Windows XP using the
original Transmeta Crusoe low voltage chipset that minimally reduced the amount of battery
drain. In addition, the display was typical of small handheld devices at the time and could not
take full advantage of the operating system’s powerful features. From 2003 to 2006, technology
3; March 7, 2006.
Entrepreneur; “Stuck in the Middle;” M. Hogan, June 2006.
in mobile computing changed significantly. Specifically, advances to these key parameters made
significant improvements to overall performance of the UMPC. First, wireless technology
improvements, such as reliable WIFI and 3G WAN based wireless networks, made it easier for
people to get access to information anytime / anywhere. These technologies improved
connectivity for all types of devices, but illustrate the utility of having a powerful tool, like the
UMPC, on the go with you. Second, Intel’s new low voltage processors improved battery life
consumption while supporting a robust OS like Windows XP or Vista. These chips, if produced
in large quantities, could reduce the cost of UMPCs. Third, the displays improved, making
Windows XP and other operating systems more readable and useful. They have hit commodity
price points so that the overall cost of the UMPC can potentially be reduced.
Given that the UMPC is basically a handheld PC and the number of companies interested in
this technology and market, including giants such as Microsoft, Intel, Sony and Samsung, one
can learn a great deal from the historic PC innovation trajectory provided in Figure 2.
Figure 25
It is readily apparent that PC system performance improved significantly over a short period of
time. Similarly, many UMPC key parameters significantly changed in just three years as
discussed earlier. It is possible that the historic PC trajectory of Figure 2 will also apply to the
UMPC. A Business Week article discussed the UMPC as, "The second-generation ones are
Harvard Business Review; “The Half-Truth of First-Mover Advantage;”F. Suarez and G. Lanzolla, April 2005, pg:
much better than the first generation, and the third generation will be much better than the
second."6 Another way to look at the UMPC innovation trajectory is comparing it to the growing
customer and application base for this technology. “…computing is already being wagged faster
every day by a generation of teens born with a cell phone in one hand and a PSP in the other.
Like they won’t swarm all over communication-and-recreation-oriented tweeners [UMPCs]
sooner or later.”7 Forward Concepts estimates the market for these “tweener” devices to be
almost 40 million units in 2012.8 Using the data from Figure 2 and the information concerning
increasing customers / applications, another view of the innovation trajectory is shown in Figure
3 - a notional representation.
Figure 3
System Performance
Customers / Applications
Eventually, a technological
limit will be approached.
Competitive Technologies: The UMPC has several competitors, all attempting to fill the gap
between PDAs and laptops. Obviously, the UMPC competes against the technological
improvements made to PDAs, smart phones and laptops. However, these systems define the gap
to be filled. Other technologies that address the gap and directly compete with the UMPC
include netbooks and mobile internet devices (MID). Netbooks are mini-laptops with reduced
performance and a display that measures between seven and ten inches. They are typically
powered by the Intel Atom processor. The netbook has a laptop-like form factor. Its display
Business Week; “Is It a Smartphone Or a Laptop?;” J. Hamm, 2007; Issue 4038 pg:56 -57.
Entrepreneur; “Stuck in the Middle;” M. Hogan, June 2006.
Analyze This; “Mobile Internet Devices on the Horizon;” W. Strauss, September 2008.
flips up to reveal a standard QWERTY keyboard, which some people consider to be an
advantage because it is more familiar. This form factor usually means that the netbook is larger
than the MID and UMPC, impacting the key parameter, Portability.
The MID can be considered to be an enhanced smart phone. MID technology is not
concerned with hard disk capacity and other features of the UMPC, since they are focused on
being relatively inexpensive pocket, communications-centric devices. Therefore, they have long
battery life and excellent connectivity. Figure 4 provides a comparison between MIDs and
Figure 49
Target Market Consumer-class always on mobile lifestyle device.
SoC-based low power processor core,
such as ARM Cortex A8.
Windows Mobile or Linux.
Optimized for 3G wireless
communications, multimedia and web
surfing with proprietary applications.
Instantaneous (2-4 seconds)
4 to 6 inch display with touch screen
1-8 GB Flash
Soft or hard keyboard
Business-class mobile PC: typically shut
down after each use.
X86 PC architecture, like Intel Atom or
Via Nano.
Full PC OS, typically Windows XP or
Optimized for enterprise-grade,
standard applications like Outlook,
Word, Excel with focus on security. 3G
is an option.
PC-style extended boot cycle.
5 to 10 inch dispay with touch screen
4 to 8 GB flash (low-end), 20+ GB HDD,
32-64 GB SSD (high-end)
Predominantly built-in hard keyboard.
Battery Life
24+ hours under normal use
$300-$500 (low-end), $750+ (high-end)
6-8 hours under normal use.
$500-$600 (low-end), $2000+ (high-end)
Figure 4 validates the advantage the UMPC has over the MID for consumers looking for full PC
functionality in the palms of their hands. The opposite is also true. If the consumer is not
looking for full PC functionality, the MID has many advantages over the UMPC (i.e. Price,
Battery Life, Boot-Up, etc…).
Natural or Physical Technological Limits: Despite the fact that competition among numerous
companies attempting to fill the gap between PDAs and laptops will drive technological
Analyze This; “Mobile Internet Devices on the Horizon;” W. Strauss, September 2008.
advances to newer heights, eventually technological limits will be reached. Recall that UMPC
technology, which resides in the PC domain, is aimed at filling the gap between this domain and
the PDA domain. A PC that fits in the palms of your hands is a crucial factor to consider when
introducing technological advances. The key parameter, Portability, has dimensions of size and
weight. For the UMPC to be successful, it must be light weight and easily stored in a pocket or
other small carrying device. With this in mind, parameters such as Display, Keyboard, Storage,
Processor and Operating System will eventually be constrained by size and weight limitations.
Without the assistance of projection or external devices, the UMPC display and keyboard will be
limited by the dimension of size. Higher level operating systems and processors to run those
systems will be limited by cooling properties. Fans may not be able to fit in the dimension
constraints of a UMPC. Hard-disk capacity is also a function of size and weight. At some point,
storage capacity must be optimized with the constraints of these dimensions.
Conclusion: As each generation becomes more handheld-device savvy, the demand for a
solution to fill the gap formed between PDAs and laptops grows greater. UMPC technology is
just one of the solutions aimed at filling this gap. Its technology comes with advantages and
disadvantages. The consumer will have the final say as to whether the UMPC is a success or not.
“There's no mystery about what's driving the 'tweener’ phenomenon. The computer industry is
looking for new things to sell as the traditional PC market matures, revenue growth slows, and
profit margins become even thinner. At the same time, mobile-phone makers want to develop
products that fetch higher margins than commodity phones. So they all need new gadgets to get
customers excited enough to open up their wallets.”10
Business Week; “Is It a Smartphone Or a Laptop?;” J. Hamm, 2007; Issue 4038 pg:56 -57.