Saturday, May 06, 2006

If you picked up a baseball and a bat and swatted the ball a few times, you really couldn't form much of an opinion about the game. The recent reviews of the first UMPC have been like that, except they don't have a problem sharing their ill-informed opinions.

It's not their faults really. Microsoft deliberately refrained from giving us specific usage scenarios to prevent the Origami from being pigeonholed. This leaves the reviewers with a piece of hardware and no idea what it does, which results in absolutely worthless reviews. The only exception is Linda Epstein at TabletPC2 [and jkOntheRun, who both reviewed pre-production models] who actually tells us what it can do and shows us more than stock photos and specs.

Gary Krakow at MSNBC gives us some potential uses, which is good, but doesn't really tell us how he used it. Cisco Cheng at PC Magazine gets closer to the mark but doesn't quite escape the same trap all the other reviews fall into: explaining the specs. I understand most people don't know the specs and perhaps they need an explanation. But I could have written most of these reviews a month ago based on the specs. To be fair, I did spend two years writing descriptions for products that did not yet exist. But that doesn't change the fact that these so-called hands-on review read like reviews of the specs.

And what is the hang up on keyboards and optical drives? You show a photo with no keyboard. You mention there's no keyboard. Then you explain what you can't do because there's no keyboard. Mossberg, I'm talking specifically about you, but you have plenty of company. CIO Today stands outside this group because they do differentiate between a physical keyboard and the two integrated software 'boards. A gold star for them.

But getting back to my point, how the hell do you form an opinion on a mobile device by sitting in your office? Did any of these reviewers take more than two steps while reviewing the UMPC? You'd think a review of a mobile device might mention mobility. David Pogue at The New York Times gives hypotheticals in his five W's but he left out HOW he used it, along with everyone else. Overall score: [one star]

[The video review at jkOnTheRun is another outstanding exception I forgot to mention. Can't beat it for "show me" value.]

Predictable UMPC Reviews


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