Microsoft's Origami Project Unfolds

At the recent CeBIT electronics show in Hanover, Germany, Microsoft finally pulled back the curtain on the mysterious and long-anticipated Origami Project. The first product revealed, the Samsung Q1, is a completely new form factor—dubbed an ultra-mobile device—whose looks fall somewhere between a Tablet PC and a PDA. The Q1, which measures a mere 15 cm by 20 cm, boasts 802.11 a/g and Bluetooth radios, a host of multimedia capabilities and a tablet stylus and touchscreen controls for data entry. Although product development is not yet complete, the question on the minds of those of us who have followed the Origami Project since its inception is whether or not the new form factor will find a significant niche in the enterprise.

Craig Settles, president of, an Internet services company based in Oakland, Calif., describes the ultra-mobile device as “the Swiss-army knife of mobile devices.” Settles’ greatest concern is the Q1’s potential user base—or lack thereof. “At one level,” he says, “there is a need for a device with more screen capacity than smartphones, but a bit smaller and easier to use than a lot of tablets.” However, Settles foresees several major roadblocks awaiting the Q1, including battery life and the input device. “If the user is someone who’s going to be computing all day long,” Settles says, “the battery life will become a real problem. If the job is less computer-intensive, then why not just stick with a smartphone?”

The Q1 has an optional keyboard hookup, but relies on touchscreen controls, which Settles cites as the second snag for the ultra-mobile device. First, many users are much more accustomed to entering large amounts of text via a keyboard, not a screen, and adjusting to a touchscreen could slow down data entry. “With a text input—heavy job, a touchscreen just may not be convenient,” says Settles. On the other hand, attaching a keyboard may not be the most convenient option for mobile workers on the go.

Tim Scannell, founder and chief analyst of Shoreline Research, says that “until voice recognition completely takes over tactile typing,” the lack of a keyboard will prevent the Q1 from making a significant showing in the enterprise. Scannell expects the Q1 to succeed with some consumers, but not mobile workers. “Consumers will take their mobile media with them to watch “Desperate Housewives,” but I don’t think this device will have a large exposure in the enterprise, except in highly defined niches, such as with graphics specialists, or if it’s used as a presentation system,” says Scannell. “It will not replace the notebook computer or PDA.”

For more information on the Samsung Q1 or Microsoft’s Origami Project, visit


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