WPCE - Tablet PCs get an outing in Tokyo

Less than a month before they are due to go on sale, Tablet PCs from a variety of companies were unveiled to the public Wednesday as the World PC Expo show opened in Tokyo.

The Tablet PCs, from companies including Fujitsu Ltd., Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp., Sotec Co. Ltd., PaceBlade Technologies Inc., ViewSonic Corp. and Acer Inc. are most of the models that will hit Japanese retail shelves on Nov. 7 -- the date Microsoft Corp. has chosen to launch its second attempt to popularize tablet computing.

The machines on show fell into one of two form-factors. There are single slab models which feature notebook-size screens and are used like large notepads and models with keyboards, which can be used like regular notebook computers or, with the screen twisting around 180 degrees and folded back down so it faces outwards, used like notepads.

Among companies showing the single-slab type were Fujitsu, NEC, PaceBlade and ViewSonic while notebook-computer-type machines were on show from Toshiba, Sotec and Acer.

Hardware-wise, there is little to choose between many of the models and early-adopters are likely to find themselves choosing a product more on looks and brand name than on technical specifications.

The systems, all of which were prototypes and subject to change, all had similar hardware profiles. All but one were based on Intel Corp. Pentium III-M processors with Acer and Fujitsu choosing the 800MHz version, NEC and ViewSonic using the 866MHz version and Toshiba going for a faster 1.3GHz version. PaceBlade's tablet was using a Transmeta Corp. TM5800 processor running at 867MHz.

All machines were equipped with 256M bytes of memory and all had 10.4-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) panels, with the exception of Toshiba, which had chosen a 12-inch LCD. Hard disk drives were between 20G bytes and 30G bytes among the makers that disclosed the drive capacities.

Whether Microsoft can make a success of its efforts this time round, and avoid a repeat of the failed Windows for Pen Computing push in the mid-Nineties, remains up to the market -- a market that Microsoft is keen to make as broad as possible.

"We are hoping to sell enough that it gains momentum and the market realizes this is the replacement for the notebook," said Alexandra Loeb, corporate vice president of Tablet PC at Microsoft. Loeb, one of several executives the company had flown in from its Redmond, Washington, base to promote the system at World PC Expo, said Tablet PC is aimed at the "mass market."

However, Tablet PC makers showing their products here have narrower segments in mind.

"Our target user is a 20- to 30-year-old business man," said Yoshimura Koji, of Japanese PC maker Sotec's technical support center. At present, such users represent around a 10 percent slice of the company's entire user base, he added.

A ViewSonic representative said his company will target vertical markets, such as hospitals or workers who spend time outside of the office while Toshiba said it too will focus on business users.

In terms of geographic adoption, Microsoft still has some way to go. The basic handwriting recognition engine is designed to work with a dictionary and is available in six language versions: English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (simplified and traditional versions), said Loeb.

For the system to work well, it needs to consult the dictionary. This means, say, writing French through the English version will deliver less than perfect results and also means the system's usefulness will be severely limited in markets where the six languages are not widely spoken, such as all Spanish and Portuguese speaking nations in Europe and Latin America and the wealthy European markets in Scandinavia.

With the launch still several weeks away, few companies would talk about the price of their machines. However, a few were willing to offer clues. Sotec said it is hoping to sell its machine for between ¥250,000 (US$2,005) and ¥260,000 while Toshiba said the price would be somewhere between ¥200,000 and ¥300,000.

Tablet PCs are likely to be more expensive than comparable notebook computers because of the more complex display (a digitizer needs to be mounted over the LCD to work with the pen) and Windows XP Tablet Edition, which costs makers more than XP Professional, said Takahisa Shirakawa from NEC's client server computing division.

World PC Expo, Japan's largest PC exhibition, runs from Oct. 16 to 19 at Tokyo Big Sight. More information can be found online at http://arena.nikkeibp.co.jp/expo/ .

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?