At the last Consumer Electronics Show, held this past January, e-book readers were the hot item. In six short weeks, the CES returns and I expect to see tablets take center stage: any hardware manufacturer that can make one, likely will show off a tablet. Of course there will also be rows and rows of televisions, digital audio players, netbooks and cameras. Inevitably, there will also be one particular class of product that doesn’t stand a chance of major success, but rears its ugly head at every CES: I’m talking about pocketable mobile devices running Microsoft Windows.
The OCS1 from OCOSMOS, a Korean device manufacturer, is one such device that likely to be vying for attention at CES 2011. According to the specifications found by UMPC Portal, the Windows 7 device sounds great on paper: a high resolution 5-inch capacitive touch display that slides up to reveal a keyboard, a new Intel Oaktrail processor, 5 megapixel camera, 32 GB flash drive, GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G support. One would expect this configuration to elicit a “nerd-gasm” of the highest degree, especially for a mobile device addict like myself, but it doesn’t.
There are two main challenges to a mobile device running an operating system intended for desktops. First, every version of Microsoft Windows to this day is designed to run with a mouse and keyboard: and by keyboard, I mean one you can fully touch-type with. Windows 7 does include touch controls and Microsoft has previously included digital pen support with its Tablet Edition of Windows. Software such as Microsoft’s Origami Experience was meant to bring touch to the tiny desktop, but that failed too. Why? These examples are all add-ons to Windows, not central to the interface design. By contrast, the Android and iOS mobile platforms are completely built around a touch-optimized experience.
The other issue is one of battery life because all things being equal, a “heavier” and more complex desktop operating system requires more power than a lighter, mobile platform. The OCS1, with its phone-sized battery, for example, is likely to require a recharge after just a few hours. But a similar mobile device with comparable specs running an operating system optimized for less-power hungry processors, such as those based on the ARM architecture, might last all day long.
Ironically, carrying a computer in our pockets actually is where we’re heading. However, the most successful examples are smartphones, smaller tablets and other web-connected devices that are optimized for mobile, not desktop, use. That’s why Microsoft is reinventing its mobile platform with Windows Phone 7 (related: our review of the HD7, a Windows Phone 7 handset), which it will reportedly back with more than $ 400 million in advertising.
As the dominant player in the desktop space, Microsoft can’t afford to miss out on the mobile revolution, nor can Intel, the largest maker of desktop computer chips in the world, which is sitting on the mobile sidelines. Unfortunately, devices like the OCS1 won’t help either one of them: there just isn’t enough room in our pockets for an ill-performing desktop computer.
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