OQO: Ahead of its time.

DRM is an awful thing. It prevents the movement of data between machines. I’ve heard many a podcaster lament that iTunes locks down your music to the iPod. You cannot play songs purchased in the iTunes Music Store (“iTMS”) on any music player other than the iPod. However, you can play the file on your laptop or tablet PC. While iTunes is the only program that can play iTMS music, it runs on both PCs and Macs. You can authorize several machines to play the same music files.

That’s where the OQO comes in. This device has not received many good reviews. The machine runs too hot and its battery life is not good enough. It’s a good start though. While DRM may be limiting as to what type of accessory you may buy, DRM does not seem to pose a problem to Windows or OS X based computers. So why not carry around a computer capable of handling a number of DRM schemes? You’re never truly locked down – if the system can run iTunes, you can play your music.

At this point, I’d like to state that I have never personally purchased a song or video from the iTMS as I find it too restrictive, of low quality and prefer to purchase CD’s that allow me to control the quality and provide a decent backup when necessary.

Microsoft went ahead with its UMPC line and it has confused many people. (By the way, I have this odd feeling that if Apple came out with the UMPC product, people would think it was the best thing since sliced bread. They’d call it the “iMac Mini” or something). It seems as though the prices of these pieces of hardware are making people balk at the idea of buying them. Then again, when I had heard there was a $400 mp3 player being introduced by Apple, I thought it was kind of crazy.

The price of the UMPCs may be causing a problem. If they could drop the price below that of a laptop – around $200-$600 – then the device would not be competing with laptops. It would be competing with the PSPs, the iPods and other portable devices. I still think $400 is a crazy price for a music player. Apple refused to budge and marketed the thing as “cool.”

There’s no way UMPCs can be marketed the same way. Their coolness will not justify their price. OQO had a great idea. Forget syncing your handheld with your computer – your handheld IS your computer. UMPCs are out and are struggling to get a foothold in the market.

If they can’t lower the price just yet, there should be a new marketing scheme: on the box and in promotions market the device as “iTunes Compatible.” Market the UMPC as a device that can play your music that you bought from Apple and the videos with Microsoft DRM. Throw your TiVo shows and your iTunes on your UMPC.

I’ve thought of yet another alternative pricing scheme – the UMPC could be sold at a loss like a video game system and make their money back with software and killer apps. Pack an optical drive in there and market the device as a portable XBOX 360 or PC Gaming Platform. Microsoft could convince video game makers (or themselves with their various studios) to create UMPC optimized video games. These games could be a bonus version bundled with the true version of the game.

If people are willing to sacrifice some quality – a smaller screen and diminished quality of graphics – to get their gaming fix, this method may work. Microsoft could even capitalize on an idea Sony had. Moving your video game progress forward on your portable device and then syncing it to your main machine.

UMPCs can be a success if the makers knew what the UMPC could be. It should not be marketed as “a small computer” – it needs to be marketed as a device that can play any DRM’ed media. It needs to be marketed as a device that does not care what format your media is in. WMA? WMV? MP3? MP4? MPEG? All of them play on an UMPC. Just get some drivers or VLC and you’re good to go. It can be a mobile video game device.

Just pack a better battery (or a sleep that saves your session) or additional battery and, if possible, an optical drive. The prices of these devices are bound to drop (if not because of success and improved manufacturing methods, then it will be cheap because it will be on clearance).

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6 thoughts on “OQO: Ahead of its time.

  1. Pingback: UMPC Buzz
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  3. I’d say your blog is ahead of it’s time. Not that many people didn’t have similar sentiments at the time, but if you had replaced “UMPC” with “cell phone”, you might have been able to claim copywright infringement. Just kidding of course, but funny the similarities 5 years later.

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