Is Microsoft’s Origami a breakthrough?

In Tech Consultingby Steve WilkinsonLeave a Comment

There seems to be a lot of media excitement over the new M$ Origami product, but after reading some of the articles, I began to wonder how big of a deal it really is. In a Wired article I read this morning Microsoft’s Itty-Bitty Computer, Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Platforms Division said, “”It really opens up new possibilities for PC use.”

Hmm… I started to think about this. I began to imagine having such a device, back to my Palm or even Apple Newton days. I thought about trying to use my PowerBook without a keyboard. About the only use I could think of for such a thing would be stuff like light web browsing, artistic sketch apps, and custom input applications designed for touch screen.

I guess there is some merit in the above. Palm OS focused on the vertical market of custom input type applications, and had some success in medical areas and such. But they did this many years ago, and the popularity hasn’t been picking up from what I can tell. Will a bigger screen really help? The down side, is that you can’t slide it in your pocket like you could a Palm V.

I kind of like my little Treo 650 phone we use at work, but I can slip it in a belt case, and it does all my mobile functions to some degree. I can, very slowly granted, take some notes on it. It is my cell phone. I can get e-mails and browse in a limited way. I can use custom apps. But to me, the key is that it is integrated into my phone which I have to carry anyway. If it were trying to replace my PowerBook, I’d dump it out of frustration in an instant.

As I do 3D, it does peak my curiosity about its possible use in the artistic field. I can’t sketch to save my life, but I know many designers who would love to have a digital sketch tablet. It might be a good device for such applications in this market.

But, for the average current computer user, I think they will more immediately be frustrated with it rather than find it ‘the next big thing.’ Again, imagine your average daily computer use with no keyboard. You can surf some sites to read the news or look up movie times, but you would have a hard time, say writing to your blog. How about responding to an e-mail, using IM, or responding to posts in a web forum?

If there is a market for such a device, I think it is with the more average person on the street, who is not really a computer user. They don’t really care for using Word and Excell. They don’t do a lot of input to the web or e-mail. They mainly want a ‘hip’ gadget to carry around and maybe pull up a map, check the weather, read some news, play a game while sitting on the bus, or surf the web before going to bed. For these things, it might be a kind of cool device, but it is hardly the first such device. It is kind of big, heavy, and clunky compared to its competition. Its main selling factor, which seems to be ‘runs M$ Windows’ is largely irrelevant for the purposes listed above.

So, I believe that it is a portion of the market for future computer use. M$ will no doubt talk naive users into believing having Windows is an important feature to have. But, I hardly see this as a breakthrough, or as Bill Mitchell says, ‘opening up new possibilities.’

What I do hope comes out of this, if anything, is to push an acceleration of free wireless everywhere. The key to having such devices is the idea that where ever their users take them, they will be able to pull them out, and be web connected. If it helps expand that, I’ll give it a big hurray, while I enjoy real computer use with my ever so slightly larger PowerBook or MacBook.