NEWS - Friday, March 3, 2006

Report: Origami "not a portable Xbox"

Earlier this week, the game industry was rocked by word of the so-called Origami Project, a secret Microsoft device that appears to be a portable PC with gaming functionality. The rampant speculation was kick-started by a leaked video showing what looked like a minitablet PC running Halo. Microsoft confirmed the Origami Project video’s authenticity to GameSpot, but said it was a year-old "concept video," and hinted the Halo footage was for demonstration purposes only. Then, after promising revelations today on the teaser site, Microsoft merely posted a new flash movie...which makes promises of more information to come. After asking, "Wondering where to find me?" the movie shows a montage of locations: a city skyline, tropical island, a snow-capped mountain, a subway system, the interior of a car, and a long shot of Rio de Janeiro. "I am everywhere you are...but never in the way" the site tells visitors via text, apparently promising a new level of portability in the device. Then comes the tease. After posing the rhetorical question, "Who am I?," the site says, "find out...3.9.06..." Now it seems the public will have to wait another week for the official Origami unveiling, which appears to be coordinated with the CeBit PC trade expo, held from March 9 to 15 in Germany. However, unofficial reports have already broken about what the Origami can and cannot do. This morning, the Associated Press ran an article citing a source inside Microsoft that confirms suspicions that the Origami is merely a new line of "ultra-mobile PCs" the size of a paperback book. It says that the line of devices is aimed at "tech-savvy consumers who want a smaller computer that is easy to take on vacation, in the subway or anywhere else where a full-sized PC would seem too bulky." As shown in the leaked video, Origami machines will feature a touch-sensitive screen a la Microsoft’s tablet PC line, will run Windows XP, and will be priced lower than most full-size laptops, running from around $500 to $1,000. If that price tag seems too low for a mobile PC with a high-end graphics chip--which would be necessary to run the Halo footage shown in the leaked concept video--that’s because it is. The AP article says flat-out that the Origami is "not a portable version of Microsoft’s Xbox videogame console," nor is it "a music player designed to take on Apple Computer Inc.’s mega-popular iPod." According to the source, the Origami will be "less powerful than full-fledged PCs," and won’t have "advanced entertainment capabilities." However, the AP article contradicts itself somewhat, quoting its source as saying that Microsoft expects consumers to use the Origami for "watching movies," presumably on DVD. That means that the device could have enough processing and graphics power to play older PC games that don’t require a high-end GPU--think Civilization III on the go. It also raises the possibility that Microsoft is optimizing less demanding versions of semirecent PC games specifically for the platform, as is now rumored. However, Microsoft reps had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.


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