Taiwan promotes powerful UMPC for WiMax

Taiwan has developed a powerful ultramobile PC that can fit in your hand and carries a speedy 1GHz microprocessor on board.

Taiwan has developed a powerful ultramobile PC that can fit in your hand, complete with a speedy 1GHz microprocessor on board.

The aim of the device is to take advantage of all the Internet has to offer via a WiMax wireless broadband network currently in the works on the island and in several other countries around the world, including the U.S.

That's why a few government-funded research groups in Taiwan teamed up to develop a small handheld device with the power of a laptop PC able to handle Internet video, networking and downloading available on WiMax networks.

The MTube, as the device is called, carries a 1GHz microprocessor made by Via Technologies Inc., an x86-based processor able to use software meant for PCs. But the MTube weighs only 150 grams and has a 2.8-inch screen, so it's small enough to fit in person's pocket. It can store 8G bytes of songs, photos and other data and runs on a Linux OS.

MTube also works with Wi-Fi connections, but does not work on 3G (third generation) mobile telecommunications networks, according to Shen Shu-heng, an official at Taiwan's Institute for Information Industry (III), one of the groups responsible for the device.

Development of the MTube, which is made solely from parts manufactured in Taiwan, is aimed at promoting Taiwanese made goods, as well as developing more devices and applications for WiMax wireless Internet broadband services, Shen said.

Taiwan is positioning itself to be one of the fastest adopters of WiMax connectivity outside of North America through its M Taiwan initiative. Officials see the technology as a good way to spread broadband Internet access throughout the island, which includes remote mountain villages and sparsely populated outlying islands.

Last month, the Taiwan government added several multinationals to a growing list of WiMax wireless broadband technology partners, including Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks and Sprint Nextel. The partnerships are intended to encourage foreign companies to build WiMax research and development centers in Taiwan and look to Taiwanese companies for parts and contract manufacturing work.

Intel was an early champion of WiMax as a replacement for the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard, used for Internet access in coffee shops, airports and other places in much of the developed world. The chip giant has already signed a similar agreement with Taiwan and is working with Taiwanese computer parts makers to ready the technology for inclusion in laptop PCs next year.

Taiwan's III worked with the Science and Technology Advisory Group, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and other government agencies to develop the MTube.

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Dan Nystedt

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