Taiwan’s government-funded UMPC designed for WiMAX

Government-funded research groups in Taiwan teamed up to develop a handheld computer with the power of a desktop, able to download rich content over WiMAX networks.

The aim of the device is to take advantage of all the Internet has to offer via a WiMax wireless broadband network currently in the works on the island and in several other countries around the world, including the U.S. and Canada.

The MTube, as the device is called, carries an x86-type 1GHz microprocessor from Via Technologies Inc. that can run software intended for PCs. But the MTube weighs only 150 grams and has a 2.8-inch screen, so it’s small enough to fit in a pocket. It can store 8G bytes of songs, photos and other data and runs a Linux OS.

MTube also works with Wi-Fi connections, but it does not work on 3G (third generation) mobile telecommunications networks, according to Shen Shu-heng, an official at Taiwan’s Institute for Information Industry (III), one of the groups responsible for the device.

Development of the MTube, which is made solely from parts manufactured in Taiwan, is aimed at promoting Taiwanese made goods, as well as developing more devices and applications for WiMax broadband services, Shen said.

Taiwan is positioning itself to be one of the fastest adopters of WiMax outside North America through its M Taiwan initiative. Officials see the technology as a good way to spread broadband Internet access throughout the nation, which includes remote mountain villages and sparsely populated outlying islands.

The Littlest Notebook

Read Dave Webb’s review of Fujitsu’s convertible slate UMPC here.

Last month, the Taiwan government added several multinationals to a growing list of WiMax wireless broadband technology partners, including Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks and Sprint Nextel. The partnerships are intended to encourage foreign companies to build WiMax research and development centers in Taiwan and look to Taiwanese companies for parts and contract manufacturing work.

Intel was an early champion of WiMax as a replacement for the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard, used for Internet access in coffee shops, airports and other places in much of the developed world. The chip giant has already signed a similar agreement with Taiwan and is working with Taiwanese computer parts makers to ready the technology for inclusion in laptop PCs next year.

Taiwan’s III worked with the Science and Technology Advisory Group, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and other government agencies to develop the MTube.

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