What’s In A Name: UMPC, ULPC, and Other Meaningless Designations

Ben over at UMPC Portal noticed that the Wikipedia entry for UMPCs needs some serious work. So much so that at the top of the page you find the following (click to enlarge the image):

Ultra-Mobile PC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I’ve been bemused by the goings on about the designations for UMPCs and ULCPCs for quite awhile now. In fact, I’m on record as saying we’re soon going to say farewell to the UMPC. It all gets comical again with the recent news that Microsoft is trying to define a set of specifications for the ULCPC class that will not allow the inclusion of a touch screen. 

Ben is right. The graphic on the Wikipedia page does speak volumes and completely lays bare the entire marketing fiasco that this whole thing has become. The bottom line is this. Events, Intel, Apple, and Asus have outrun Microsoft when it comes to defining the ultra-portable market. Create as many acronyms and designations as you want, but no one cares. Microsoft was just too slow in capitalizing on the original UMPC vision and is now trying hard to play catch up with its ULCPC designation.

Microsoft’s latest efforts are coupled with the ongoing saga of determining how long XP will still be around. The fact that, at the moment, XP will be allowed on the ULCPC class longer than on other boxes is a loud, but telling move. Essentially, this means that Microsoft has given up on its vision of lots of ultra-portable devices running Vista. There’s no surprise there. Just confirmation of what most have known for awhile. What can possibly be surmised here though is that Microsoft is either ceding the ground to other players, or is content to wait a few years before attempting a come back in this market with any real effect. Maybe after they have some sort of OS that can work with these devices.

The reason all of this is meaningless is quite simple. Too many other players are too many steps beyond Microsoft when it comes to putting these devices in consumers hands. Consumers who are looking for an ultra-mobile solution aren’t going to waste their time wading through designations and specifications one way or the other. In fact, they won’t have to. OEM’s won’t give them the chance. OEMs, Intel, and VIA have already proven that they aren’t going to wait around and play Microsoft’s game unless they can sell more of their devices with XP on them. But then, if they are to believe Microsoft and its time frames, you’re looking at a limited sales window for these anyway. But in the grand scheme of things even that doesn’t matter because we are probably looking at devices with a price point that makes it easier for consumers to buy the new model every 12 to 18 months or so.

Like I’ve said before, the ultra-mobile vision is going to succeed. Microsoft just won’t be the major player in the game.

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