Author: Yogi Schulz

A new generation of Tablet PCs has just been launched by Microsoft and its hardware partners.  The new generation will find wider acceptance in businesses for reasons that go beyond its cool appearance.  The higher weight and shorter battery life of previous generations of tablets created too many hurdles for widespread use.

Changing how we work

The new Tablet PC will be a big hit in businesses because it will trigger a substantial change in how office workers actually work.  At present, most of us leave our PC behind once we leave our cubicle.  A workstation is too heavy and bulky to carry and a laptop in a base station requires an annoying shutdown and an eventual time-consuming reboot.  Taking notes on the small screen of a PDA is awkward.  So we’re stuck with reading printed reports and writing with pen and paper during meetings.

Now we can take the Tablet PC along as we leave our office without any fuss because it can be removed from and re-inserted into the base station without a time-consuming reboot or re-connect.  At 3 to 3.5 pounds, it’s easy to carry.  With a battery life of 2.5 to 3 hours, it can last through even the most long-winded meeting.  Now we can scroll through the reports on our screen.  We can also use the Windows Journal to easily take notes with the stylus.

For me, Windows Journal is the breakthrough application that makes the Tablet PC attractive.  At a minimum, it captures notes as graphics files.  More usefully, Journal can insert space in the middle of the written text when we want to add more detail.  No piece of paper can match this feature.  Journal offers handwriting recognition to convert handwriting to text.  Its handwriting recognition is not perfect but it’s better than the Pocket PC that is better than the Palm.  We can now keep drawings and tables we create with the text in the same file.  Previously, if took the time to bring a laptop, we ended up with a separate Visio or Paint file for drawings.

The Input Panel is the Tablet PC application that converts handwriting for application input.  This feature avoids having to carry along a keyboard or pecking at a software keyboard with the stylus.  That’s still possible but should be rare.

The Tablet PC’s ability to send and receive e-mail during meetings through the wireless network connection, just like a Palm or a Blackberry is also appealing.  That others may see this activity as rude and disruptive is often glossed over.

The stylus of the Tablet PC is less disruptive to others in meetings than the clickity-clack of the laptop keyboard.  Similarly, the Tablet PC has no vertical surface like the laptop screen that tended to act as a psychological barrier between its user and the other meeting participants.  These irritants are now gone.

Seamless Integration

The Tablet PC avoids the problems associated with being different from widely installed devices in businesses.  Previous generations of tablets required unique applications, balky connectivity, costly training or incompatible file formats depending on how far back you want to look.  The Tablet PC can be seamlessly installed in the typical Windows-centered environment found in most businesses.  This feature will ensure acceptance by both system administrators and end-users.

The Tablet PC will appeal in businesses because it uses the same Windows XP operating system that is appearing on many desktops.  The Tablet PC can execute the same set of Windows applications, particularly Office XP, as the existing desktops.  The Tablet PC is connected to the Local Area Network using the same 10/100 mbit Ethernet or wireless 802.11b connection as the existing desktops.

Hardware Comparisons

Hardware manufacturers offer the Tablet PC in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Toshiba offers the fastest of the with-keyboard Tablet PCs with the largest screen at 12.1 inches.  However, it is also the heaviest by about ½ lb. and the most expensive.  Fujitsu is the best designed of the no-keyboard Tablets because it offers low weight and the clearest, brightest screen.  The Compaq is appealing because it offers the most innovative design and the lowest price.  This web pages contains links to all the hardware manufacturers that offer Tablet PCs:


We’ll see many Tablet PC’s in businesses.  The modest cost increment is unlikely to deter many office workers or their bosses.


Most Tablet PCs are configured with:

1.      10.4-inch XGA LCD display with 1024×768 resolution

2.      touch sensitive screen with stylus

3.      about 866MHz Mobile Intel Pentium III Processor – M

4.      256MB of RAM

5.      models with 20 – 40 GB of disk

6.      lightweight 3.4 pounds

Manufacturers and Models

I have a clear preference for the models that offer an integrated keyboard.

Acer – TravelMate C100 Tablet PC

Screen lifts to reveal keyboard

Special shock absorbing features in case it’s dropped.

Compaq – Tablet PC TC1000

Light weight – under 3 lb.

Nifty keyboard/stand combo with identical length/width that attaches to Tablet PC if desired/needed.

Looks cool

4 lb with keyboard

Huge accessory selection

Electrovaya – Scribbler

10.4″ XGA TFT

suggest they have 8 hours of battery compared to competition of 4 hours

Fujitsu – Stylistic ST4000 Series Tablet PC

Editor’s choice

Emphasized superior/brighter 10.4″ XGA display

Motion – Computing

12.1″ display

Toshiba – Portege 3500

Editor’s choice

Screen lifts to reveal keyboard

Made the same solid impression my own Toshiba laptop makes and has demonstrated reliably for 2 1/2 years.

12” Poly-Silicon Display

1.3GHz Pentium III-M processor

ViewSonic – Tablet PC V1100

Xplore’s – iX104 is the first rugged Tablet PC

Reference Material Pages:

It’s tablet time – summary evaluation comments

Microsoft Tablet PC page

Tablet PC arrives backed with broad Industry SupportPage lists software vendors who are releasing software specifically aimed at the Tablet PC

The Tablet PC revolution

Tablet PC Talk

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition Material

Interview with Bob Bemis of MRIS about the Tablet PCBob believes the following characteristics are required for success with realtors:

Price: < US$1,000; not over US$2,200

Battery: > 7 hours; not 3.5 hours

High speed communication: OK with cell and WiFi.

So we’re definitely not there yet.  Bob did point to the US$5,000 cell phone that he bought years ago as an example of how prices evolve.