Toshiba firms enterprise tablet commitment

New notebook, tablet PC convertible aimed at business market

Notebook giant Toshiba has launched onto the local market a new notebook to tablet PC convertible that it hopes will drive the business case for such devices in the enterprise.

The Portege R400 is a slim, 12-inch tablet PC that Toshiba claims is the first portable computer to feature an edge display whereby e-mail and calendar alerts can be read in real-time even with the lid closed or when it is in sleep mode.

In launching the product, Toshiba's information systems division general manager Mark Whittard expressed confidence that the market for tablet PCs will expand once customers become more aware of the productivity benefits.

Whittard said the education sector has been particularly receptive to tablets because they allow students to interact with computers in a more natural way, for example with handwriting, than the traditional notebook or desktop keyboard.

While details of large-scale enterprise tablet PC deals have been scarce since they burst onto the scene several years ago, Whittard named pharmaceutical company Pfizer as one tablet user and the wider health industry as another strong sector for the devices.

Whittard is also adamant enterprises are purchasing tablets in significant quantities for their properties as a tablet and not for a notebook that happens to convert into a tablet.

"We have corporates that have ordered 500 tablets," he said.

The Portege R400 does resemble a notebook, but the lid is easily swiveled and folded to turn it into Toshiba's fifth tablet PC on the market.

"It may seem like a simple concept to have display where you can view e-mails and calendar appointments without opening, but this represents a leap forward in productivity for the mobile user," Whittard said.

Jointly developed by Toshiba and Microsoft, the R400 comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista and sports an Intel Core Duo low-voltage processor, 2GB of memory, an 80GB disk, and a biometric fingerprint reader.

Emerging portable computing technologies appearing with the R400 include Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) wireless USB, which allows cordless docking, and integrated 3G connectivity for wireless broadband. The 3G version of the notebook won't be available until the second or third quarter and the wireless docking station is still awaiting approval for use locally by the federal government.

The Toshiba Portege R400 is available now for $3750.

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Rodney Gedda

Computerworld

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