Yesterday we had a chance to get Otto Berkes on the line, the man behind Origami at Microsoft, as well as Dustin Hubbard, Group Manager for Microsoft's Mobile Hardware and Application Development team. We had a few things to ask about what the deal is with UMPCs and Origami, here's what we learned: Origami is a term originated from Berkes that doesn't necessarily refer to a device or specific hardware specification, per se, but to an ultramobile PC running Windows Tablet (or Vista, later) and enhanced Microsoft Touch Pack (a suite of apps and utilities meant to optimize using Windows by touch, and not necessarily only by stylus). Touch Pack consists of a launcher app that better groups and opens apps based on a touchscreen interface; DialKeys, a thumb-based text input system that uses those two onscreen touch inputs on either side; Touch Improvements, a suite of environment optimizations to make using Windows with your fingers a less painful experience; and some other stuff, like Sudoku and an Origami-optimized Windows Media skin to kind of round out the whole thing.

Otto made it pretty clear that Microsoft is aiming UMPCs based on Tablet with Touch Pack at the general consumer, and not necessarily as another device for the already gadget-laden mobile office -- we'll be seeing (and have already seen) initially launches by the likes of Samsung, Asus, and Founder, so keep an eye out for those today. We did ask about Alexandria, the other Microsoft buzz-video / project we saw the other day, and it sounded like a system MS was working to ease acquiring music and movies online -- is Alexandria a service that might be an iTunes-killer, perhaps? We don't know (we're working on finding out), but we do finally know what the hell Origami is, and now you do too.

Today in Engadget Mobile: March 8, 2006