Paul Allen is back in the entrepreneurial spirit. Allen's Vulcan Inc. is demonstrating its new FlipStart "MiniPC" at DEMO 2004 in Seattle, claiming the portable is the world's smallest form factor Windows XP PC. FlipStart runs full versions of XP Home or Professional, but is engineered to exploit the nascent benefits that the size and flexibility of PDAs have presented to the mobile market.

Since FlipStart is a true PC and runs regular Windows applications, special mobile viewing applications are not required. This frees users from one drawback traditionally associated with handheld devices, however the Windows XP user interface was not designed with such small devices in mind. Due to this fact, FlipStart comes preloaded with MiddleMan software that uses context-specific commands and supports thumb wheel navigation.

Battery life is addressed by Vulcan's Low-Power Interactive Display (LID) module. A small LCD screen located on the outside of the case provides "at a glance" information from variety of applications without having to open FlipStart. The LID module can be set up to display Outlook e-mail, contact and appointment information; browse and play MP3 music; and make phone calls with the optional phone module. To accommodate the latest cellular craze, a 1.3 megapixel camera is built in. The internal display is a 5.6 inch HDTV-quality panel with 3D graphics and 8 MB of video RAM.

Although Microsoft Outlook is fully capable of normal operation on FlipStart machines, the client is modified through a specialized plug-in called MobileMail that makes Outlook less demanding on battery life, while optimizing the client for low bandwidth connections.Vulcan claims a full-day use battery life.

View: Full specs

Screenshot: FlipStart