I had breakfast this morning with Bob Rosin, the new senior vice president of marketing at OQO, a San Francisco company that makes full-blown Windows PCs smaller than the bacon-guacamole omelets we had at the W.
Rosin was here to meet with Microsoft. He didn’t give me any dirt on Redmond, but he described how OQO has warmed up to the Ultra-Mobile PC concept that Microsoft and Intel have been pushing over the past year.
OQO pioneered the category when it started developing handheld PCs back in 2000. But it never had broad success with its exquisite, expensive little machines.
After Microsoft and Intel began pushing the new Ultra-Mobile PC category — which Microsoft code-named Origami — OQO debated whether the put itself in that camp.
One concern was that the UMPC category targets consumers, while OQO’s PCs are mostly used by professionals — traveling sales executives, railroad inspectors, financial types in Manhattan and Homeland Security officres doing who knows what.
But OQO finally decided to embrace the category, which Rosin described as any handheld PC with a 7-inch or smaller screen running a full operating system.
Rosin said the decision has paid off. He didn’t share sales figures, but said the units are starting to move in part because the UMPC effort has already stirried consumers’ interest in the potential of handheld PCs.
Retailers are also warming up to the category, adding Origami models like Samsung’s Q1. OQO has mostly sold through its Web site, and now it’s hoping to share space on retailers’ UMPC shelves, Rosin said.
But the biggest reason sales are picking up has to be price. OQO devices used to cost around $2,000 but now they’re down to $1,200 — striking distance of the $1,000 Q1.
Rosin wouldn’t say when OQO will introduce its next model, but I imagine they’ll have one that runs at least the basic version of Windows Vista.
What would be really interesting is if OQO uses its premium industrial design talent (co-founder Jory Bell helped design Apple’s Titanium Powerbook) and the upcoming UMPC chips that Intel is developing to produce an Origami device that people really want.