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The Tablet PC is often referred to as the evolution of the laptop. Microsoft describes it as "the most mobile and versitile computer ever". The device is expected to reach its full potential in the first quarter of 2003. A Tablet PC is essentially a PC with a touch-screen and no keyboard, though one can be plugged in if a user prefers. Input is entered using a stylus, and the device uses handwriting recognition technology similar to the Pocket PC's Transcriber tool. The devices run Windows XP Professional as their operating system. Tablet PCs feature low-power Intel processors with long battery life. The devices are generally lightweight and some of them come with wireless capability. Tablet PCs differ from Palms and Internet appliances in that users can run full Windows applications using a pen. In essence, users create documents using "digital ink." Some people refer to the Tablet PC as a "Super Personal Digital Assistant."

Although still in development, several companies are adopting Tablet PCs, including: Microsoft, ViewSonic, Compaq, IBM, and Sony, among others. The price is expected to be initially large due to competition in the laptop market and the PDA market simotaneously.

Oddly enough, the tablet PC has been around for many years. I have a smallish collection of them, and I use the lot to show my computer students how PCs can take many forms.

I usually describe them as Palm Pilots on steroids. My IBM model 730T came stock with a version of Windows most folks don't even know exists - Windows for Pen. It is a version of Windows 3.1, tailored for use with a stylus as the input device. The Fujitsu Point and Stylus series can run Windows 9x.

These were originally designed for use by professionals who rely on clipboards and reams of paper - doctors, nurses, insurance agents, etc. All of the tablet PCs I have came from the insurance industry.

The IBM 730T had a 486 processor, PCMCIA hard drives,DRAM and a monochrome VGA LCD display. The Fujitsu Points have either monochrome or colour displays, and range from AMD 486DX4-100s to early low-power Pentiums, although these are rare.

They are still quite useful. I use mine as a display for radio direction-finding programs and for APRS.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

In fact, Tablet PCs will use a special edition of Windows XP called Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Don't worry, it is not some crummy trinket like the feared Windows CE (Compact Edition). Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is actually Windows XP with added features.

You may remember a special version of Windows 3.x designed for pen computing called Windows for Pen Computing. Although nobody really used this Frankenstein OS, feel free to think of it as the grandfather of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Desktop Orientation
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition makes it easy to rotate the orientation of the desktop between landscape and portrait depending on how you are holding the Tablet PC. This function will come in handy for users of the many Tablet PCs that can function as a monitor as well.

Input Panel
This feature, represented by an icon next to the Start Menu, toggles between an on-screen keyboard and a pen-text entry mode. In the pen-text entry mode the user can use a stylus to enter handwritten text. Sophisticated software promises to convert this handwritten text into computerized text for any software program. Using the single-button available on the stylus along with the pressure sensitive click, the user can enter various modes such as highlight, italicize, or erase, to name a few.

Windows Journal
This software utility is the Tablet PC version of WordPad and Notepad. Featuring a college-rule note paper atmosphere, it is designed for use with the stylus. Within Windows Journal the user can select text, highlight text, add lines of text between others, cut and copy text, convert handwritten text to computerized text, and more. There is even a feature to Copy as Text so that you can retain handwritten text in the clipboard before conversion.

Windows Sticky Notes
Yes, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition comes with sticky notes. Users can attach sticky notes to most applications. In addition to text, the notes can retain sound samples recorded by the user.

Personal note on Sticky Notes: I wrote a Sticky Note shareware program back in 1995 and sold it on AOL as shareware. (Me and about 5,000 other people.) Mine sold considerably well since I charged a nominal $1 for registration. I was in 8th grade, what did I know. To me, a hundred bucks was equivalent to topping out an IPO at 5$US Billion.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition features a game called Inkball. I haven't played it, but I assume it involves the stylus somehow. I think it is a pong derivative somehow.

Tablet PC Office Pack
Microsoft Office will have special features designed for the Tablet PC that come in the Tablet PC Office Pack. Basically, the pack will offer handwritten text compatibility for Word, Outlook, and Powerpoint.


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