UMPC, take 2: Samsung touts first WiMax MID

Chicago (IL) – Samsung today announced the first commercially available mobile Internet device (MID) with WiMax connectivity in the U.S. Conceivably, this is much closer to the type of device we would have imagined Microsoft Origami concept and the UMPC to look like, even if it does not take much to predict that Samsung’s new MID is dead right out of the gate.

Ok, let’s not be so negative and look at the positive features first. The Mondi is much more compact than the initial UMPCs, which were launched in 2006, following Microsoft’s Origami hype, which promised a portable device you could bring anywhere and would stay connected to the Internet at any place on this planet.

Mondi, Samsung’s first WiMax MID (5 pictures)

The Mondi is based on a 4.3-inch screen design, integrates a slider keyboard and weighs at 5.39 ounces much less than the relatively bulky UMPCs, which have been pushed into a market niche where they seem to be replacing tablet PCs in vertical markets. Features of the MID include a 3 megapixel camera with video recording capability, a screen resolution of 800×480 pixels as well as a decent battery that promises 1000 hours of standby time for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi connectivity time is estimated at 5 hours and at 4 hours for WiMax, which immediately turns the device into something you would not want to rely on for an entire day. Samsung uses Windows Mobile as the operating system for the Mondi.

The downside, of course, that it is not really the universal communication device other devices, for example, the iPhone are today. Instead, the Mondi and possibly all other WiMax MIDs that will be released in the near future are Internet and messaging devices, at least whenever Wi-Fi and WiMax are available, and are likely to lack true voice capability.

According to Samsung, the device supports applications such as Fring, Gypsii, and Windows Live Messenger, there is no cellphone capability or direct way to sue the WiMax network for phone calls, which somewhat cripples the overall connectivity of the device, especially if we think about the limited availability of WiMax networks. In that sense, even Clearwire’s claim of offering much faster connection speeds (up to 2 Mbps for $50 per month) than 3G, the simple fact of a very spotty service coverage map will severely impact the overall appeal and sales volume of the device.

Samsung says that the Mondi’s compact design provides the user “with a more mobile form factor and ease-of-use than the typical laptop or netbook.” The company claims it is small enough to fit into the user’s hand or pocket. Possibly the most impressive feature is the high resolution on a small screen, which allows users to more comfortably browse the Internet than on an iPhone. The Mondi includes Opera’s 9.5 web browser.

Samsung said the Mondi will be available on August 1 through Clearwire retail outlets as well as Best Buy stores. Pricing has not been released, but we would expect the device to sell in the $500 neighborhood.