Vendors show Tablet PC wares

Two software vendors this week took the wraps off applications designed for new Tablet PC devices, which will be released later this year with the goal of making handwriting the preferred method for inputting data into computer documents.

Corel Corp. Tuesday previewed an application called Grafigo that it plans to release on Nov. 7. A second software, Pen&Internet LLC, also announced the immediate availability of an application for sending handwritten e-mail from a variety of devices, and will take advantage of the pen-based computing features of the Tablet PC.

Now in beta testing, Grafigo is designed to allow users to open graphics files -- for example, a building floor plan -- and add handwritten notes, diagrams and various shapes to those documents.

The software also will allow users to connect to the Internet and invite other Tablet PC users to join collaborative sessions. Multiple users will be able to access a single document and jot down notes on that document simultaneously.

Grafigo is being designed specifically for the Tablet PC and will only be available on devices that run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition operating system, said Roe McFarlane, product manager at Corel, in Ottawa. Corel is previewing the software this week at Seybold, a publishing industry conference here.

Corel will release the software the same day that new pen-based mobile computers from hardware makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Acer Inc. are expected to be available. The Acer device sports both a stylus and a keyboard so users can choose how to enter data into their computers. HP has yet to unveil the shape and features of its hardware.

Version 1.0 of Grafigo will be available as a free download, McFarlane said. "We recognize that the Tablet PC won't get the uptake that we normally see with other devices," he said. "We're just trying to get people to try it out."

The company plans to start charging for the software with subsequent releases. Grafigo is targeted at mobile enterprise users, according to Corel, and future upgrades to the software will be released in a series of editions targeted at specific industries such as manufacturing and mechanical design.

Pen&Internet, a maker of handwriting recognition software, announced the commercial launch of its Ritemail e-mail service, which allows users to send and receive handwritten e-mail. Designed to work on a range of computing devices, including Pocket PC and Palm Inc. handhelds, the company is promoting the software as an ideal application for the Tablet PC.

"People using any pen-enabled devices can exchange handwritten messages," said Leonid Kitainik, general manager of Pen&Internet, in Sunnyvale, California.

Unlike applications designed to run only on the Tablet PC, users of Macintosh, and existing Windows operating systems can also send and receive e-mail with the Ritemail application, according to Kitainik.

Ritemail messages are delivered using Java technology, and can be opened on any device that supports Java, including handheld computers running the Pocket PC or Palm operating systems. Ritemail can be accessed with a Web browser, or can be installed as an application on the various devices, according to Kitainik.

Ritemail is being offered as a subscription service, and went live on the company's Web site Tuesday. Pen&Internet is offering a 30-day free trial, and will cost US$29.95 to $49.95 a year, depending on how many devices are used to access the e-mail software.

Grafigo and Ritemail are the earliest applications to be announced for Tablet PC. Microsoft has also demonstrated Journal, a note-taking application that allows users to save handwritten files as well as translate notes into text. The Tablet PC edition of Windows XP will also allow users to input handwritten notes in Microsoft Office and other Windows applications.

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