Acer expects modest start to Tablet PC sales

At the Comdex exhibition in Las Vegas last November, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates made the prediction that Tablet PCs would become the most popular computing form factor within five years. While Gates' prediction may yet prove to be accurate, Acer Inc. expects to see modest sales when its first Tablet PC, the Acer TravelMate 100, hits the market in October.

"The initial volume for this year is going to be very small, maybe a few thousand or maybe 10,000 for this year," said Campbell Kan, chief officer for Acer's notebook products line, in an interview at the Computex Taipei 2002 exhibition here.

Part of the reason for the low volume that is expected to ship this year is time. The Acer TravelMate 100 will hit the market sometime in October, leaving just under three months before the end of the year.

The TravelMate 100 will be equipped with an 800MHz Ultra-Low Voltage Pentium III processor from Intel Corp., 256M bytes of RAM, integrated support for 802.11b wireless LAN capability, and a 10-inch TFT-LCD screen (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) that can swivel 180 degrees, converting the device from a notebook into a Tablet PC. It will be priced at US$1,999, Kan said.

Tablet PCs run Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

The TravelMate 100 gets about three and a half hours of battery life when used as a notebook but that drops to two and a half hours when used as a tablet, Kan said. The reason for the drop in battery life in tablet mode is primarily caused by an increase in video activity necessary for the pen-based input system, Kan said.

Acer will first ship the TravelMate 100 running the English version of Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, Kan said. A Chinese-language version of the operating system is expected to ship in November or December, Kan said.

The TravelMate 100 is aimed primarily at corporate users. To that end, Acer has been working closely with several large American corporations, such as Bank of America Corp. and 7-Eleven Inc., to test the device.

Computex runs through Friday, June 7.

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Sumner Lemon

PC World
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