When most mobile users hear the term handheld computer they immediately think Palm or Windows mobile device. And given the more powerful features in smartphones, they, too, are often referred to in the same vein. But Intel CEO Paul Otellini has appropriated that term to now mean a mobile computing device that could also run Windows XP and Windows apps right out of the box. At the most recent Intel developer’s conference, Otellini showed off at least two handheld PCs that Intel plans to support.
Of course, Windows XP running on a handheld is not new. OQO has been delivering a handheld Windows XP device for over a year. And you could even include the recent Motion LS800 8-inch tablet in this same handheld PC discussion.
What’s different now is that the big guys finally believe a handheld computer running Windows XP has a viable market. Intel’s recent decision to push handheld PCs gives this platform new impetus. And, a new product from DualCor (www.dualcor.com) could actually blast handheld PCs into the mainstream consciousness of the mobile worker crowd, due to its unique dual-OS approach to handheld computing.
Launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the DualCor cPC is a handheld computing device running two operating systems, Windows XP Tablet PC and Windows Mobile 5.0. This is a very interesting development and one that could have greater meaning for the PC industry over time. One of the major complaints about Windows is its considerable boot-up time. But in the case of the DualCor cPC, when it is turned on from a cold start, it boots instantly, providing access to e-mail, the Internet, contacts, calendar, etc. Meanwhile, Windows XP Tablet PC can be booting up in the background, and once fully uploaded, it can run any Windows application. The DualCor cPC has a 5-inch 800- by 480-pixel touchscreen display, so it is also capable of running the Windows Tablet operating system. It comes with a 40GB hard drive, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, three USB ports and integrated dual processors, one of which is an Intel PXA running at 400 MHz to handle the Windows Mobile 5.0-embedded OS, and the other of which is the VIA Technologies C7-M processor running at 1.5 GHz, which handles the XP OS. You can get up to five hours of battery life, and it will sell for $1,500, initially through systems integrators such as IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, BearingPoint and Capgemini.
While the DualCor cPC will significantly advance the demand and respectability of this new handheld computing platform, I fully expect that its target audience will still be those vertical markets where handheld computers with this type of capability are needed, especially in areas such as healthcare, transportation and public safety, to name a few. I am not sure that a handheld Windows product makes sense for the mainstream business market, and it clearly would not have an appeal in the consumer space.
Although using two operating systems and two separate chips increases the cost of the device, the ability of one OS to provide instant access to information and another OS to handle the heavy lifting of more powerful applications, not only makes sense but should be incorporated into any portable computer in the future. Unless Microsoft has something up its sleeve to make Vista instant-on, this dual-processor and dual-OS approach to portable computing is a marriage of technology that is long overdue.