Vendors ready for Tablet OS

Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS isn't slated to launch until Nov. 7, but companies such as Motion Computing Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Toshiba Corp., and Fujitsu Ltd. already have revealed plans to release Tablet PC products. Groove Networks Inc. also has lofty visions for digital ink.

Digital ink allows users to write on the screen in their own handwriting and the system treats the notes as searchable digital text. Innovative as this technology is, industry analysts and OEMs are more focused on the problems it solves.

"The Tablet PC is designed as a solution rather than a piece of technology. Handhelds gave the enterprise a taste of mobile computing but they were too limited in format and software. The Tablet PCs will fit the bill for field force and mobile people," said Tim Scannell, president of Shoreline Research in Quincey, Mass.

Startup Motion Computing, based in Austin, Texas, will ship a slate-based Tablet PC product, with a 12.1-inch XGA screen the week following the Nov. 7 launch, said CEO Scott Eckert.

The as-yet-unnamed Motion tablet will weigh less than three pounds and will be .8-inch thick. The device will have two USB ports for keyboards and other peripherals, built-in Ethernet and IEEE 802.11b, will offer as much as 1GB of memory and 60GB of storage, and will include a docking station. Pricing will range from about US$2,000 to $2,500, Eckert said.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP also will ship a unit in the $2,000 range under the Compaq brand in November, said Ted Clark, vice president of new notebook markets. According to sources, HP will be the only OEM not using the Intel Ultra Low Power Pentium III processor, instead selecting the Transmeta 1GHz processor.

Toshiba will brand its version of the Tablet in the Portege line.

Fujitsu is in a advantageous position, having been in the tablet business for more than 10 years. The Fujitsu Stylistic 4000 series Tablet PC will include a 10.4-inch screen, use the Intel chip, and include a unique docking station that pivots in portrait and landscape mode.

Officials at Groove, in Beverly, Mass., are excited about the possibilities that the Tablet PC inspires, said Matt Pope, Groove's product manager. "Conceptually, it is a hardware platform in line with the Groove principles. [It will] work the way people work -- the way people come together in an ad hoc way to get stuff done," Pope said.

To that end, the Groove plan "over time" is to make digital ink a native data type across the Groove work space, starting within Chat, Pope said.

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