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Tiny computers: who is best positioned to win the battle of the small?

Tiny computers: who is best positioned to win the battle of the small?

Have you ever heard of the OQO? I hadn't, until I read today's New York Times. Peter Wayner follows the quest for the perfect tiny computer in today's Technology section. The OQO-01, shown here, is the size of a palm. A banana. A stack of flashcards.

The OQO runs Windows XP, and you can connect to a removable and equally tiny keyboard using Bluetooth technology. It's competing with the Palm TX and other small computers from Hewlett-Packard and Dell and the thing that's interesting to me: if you want to connect your tiny mite to peripherals, you're using technology developed for cell phones.

In order to run the extremely lightweight personal network like that of Google manager Chris DiBona, you'd need technology from a hardware manufacturer, Microsoft, Bluetooth, Blackberry and Think Outside. It's certainly not an approach of the one-stop-shopper.

So as road warriors search for the ever-more-tiny personal productivity system -- yet, one that can run common software packages like Word and Excel in addition to playing movies and keeping the user connected -- which companies are best positioned to provide it all?

It has to be someone who's comfortable speaking in several technology languages and running everyone's technology. Who can do hardware and software. Who's already in the market in some capacity.

I'd expect Apple to be here already. It seems like it's right up Steve Jobs' alley, what with his ever-smaller iPod and the iBook, surely the first laptop to bring tiny to the masses. But Apple doesn't appear anywhere in the litany of companies delivering goods to the micro-obsessed.

Which company might win the battle of the small? Would you believe, Microsoft? I wouldn't have thought of Steve Ballmer as the king of the very, very little, but Microsoft's Ultra-Mobile PC standard seems to be, well, the standard, run by most of the smallest devices.

If small is where you see the future, well then: Microsoft's a good bet to be Thumbelina.

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