'Ultra-personal computer' design team has Apple vets

A start-up company called OQO has announced the "world's first ultra-personal computer" at Microsoft's WINHec Conference. Part of the design team included folks who helped design the Titanium PowerBook G4.

The ultra-portable is a wireless device that measures 4.9 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches and weighing less than nine ounces; in other words, it's about the same size as a Palm handheld though slightly thicker. And it can "transform" into a notebook or desktop PC that runs Microsoft Windows XP.

The OQO pocket PC incorporates up to a 1GHz Crusoe TM5800 processor from Transmeta Corp.; a four-inch, super bright VGA color LCD; Synaptics touchscreen; 256MB of onboard RAM; 10GB hard drive; FireWire, USB, audio, OQO-link connectors; and 802.11b wireless networking and Bluetooth. The Crusoe processor inside the OQO runs at 800MHz and contains 512KB of cache. Despite this, the pocket PC's batteries supposedly last up to 9.5 hours.

As a standalone device, the ultra-personal computer slips into a shirt pocket. When inserted into an OQO-designed enclosure, it becomes a notebook PC. When placed in a cradle with a standard screen and keyboard, it becomes a desktop PC.

The OQO team has a background in designing Apple Computer Inc. and IBM laptops. Their ultra portable PCs are expected to be commercially available in the second half of the year. The price is expected to be around US$1,000.

The company also has executives, engineers and designers from such companies as Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oracle Corp. and Transmeta Corp.

The OQO uses the same tiny hard drive from Toshiba that Apple Computer incorporates into the latest iPod, Colin Hunter, executive vice president, told CNET. A lot of the design work at OQO, which was founded by engineers who worked on Apple's Titanium PowerBook went toward reducing the size of the power supply and the overall integration of the components, Hunter said.

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