Microsoft plugs Tablet PC with free applications

To promote Tablet PCs, Microsoft will release on Monday a free Experience Pack of pen-enabled applications.

As part of its efforts to promote Tablet PCs, Microsoft on Monday released a free Experience Pack of pen-enabled applications for the mobile PCs.

Tablet PCs run Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, a premium version of the Windows XP operating system. The mobile computers come with a special pen that allows users to write on the screen and control their PC.

The Experience Pack software bundle includes Ink Desktop, which lets users take notes using the Tablet PC pen directly on their desktop, Microsoft said in a statement. Other applications are Snipping Tool version 2, which lets users select and capture part of their screen, and Ink Art, a drawing application.

The Experience Pack also offers some entertainment: Ink Crossword comes with 12 puzzles and a new one can be downloaded daily; the Media Transfer tool simplifies copying media files from a desktop to the Tablet PC; and a new Energy Blue theme pack offers a skin for Windows Media Player that makes it easy to control with a pen.

Current Tablet PC users will be able to download the Experience Pack from Microsoft's Web site later on Monday. Also, PC vendors can install the software pack on new Tablet PCs, according to Microsoft.

Since the introduction of Tablet PC in November 2002, Tablet PC sales have increased but are still only a blip compared with overall notebook sales. In 2004, about 48.9 million notebooks were shipped worldwide, according to preliminary IDC numbers. Only about 650,000, or 1.3 percent, of those were Tablet PCs, according to IDC.

Tablet PC sales have lagged because the devices are relatively expensive and because of a lack of applications, analysts have said. Microsoft is trying to resolve both issues. Earlier this year, the software marker announced plans to work with PC makers to help drive down the cost of Tablet PCs.

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Joris Evers

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