The Mini-Computer Wars

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has high hopes for his new FlipStart. But with powerful cellphones on the way, is there a niche for a shrunken laptop?

The Flipstart minicomputer

While Apple's iPhone launch was absorbing all the available buzz this winter, two dueling teams of technologists were feverishly finalizing gadgets they hope will refocus the spotlight. The FlipStart, dreamed up and funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, launches in April. Its creators call it the first fully powered ultra-mini PC, or UMPC, that is satisfying to use. Meanwhile a team led by ex--Apple star Jory Bell has countered with the OQO2--a palm-size computer that stakes a similar claim with a slightly different approach. These aren't the only machines to claim UMPC status, but they're among the first to package a...

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