Revolutionary concept or expensive gizmo?

By Uday Chatterjee | 19 Nov 2002


Mumbai: About 30 years ago, a computer was twice the size of a Godrej almirah. As chip technology improved, the computer shrank over the years. The first breakthrough came in the eighties, when IBM set up a secret top-level team to improve the features of the computer, and came up with the personal computer (PC) we see today. Smaller and better. Then came the laptop, and now the Tablet PC.

On his four-day visit to India last week, Microsoft chairman and chief architect Bill Gates, apart from dispensing largesse, also made a strong pitch for Microsoft’s Tablet PCs which will enter the Indian market in December 2002.

Microsoft’s new Tablet PC is supposed to combine the simplicity of a piece of paper with the power of a PC, and the rich features of a notebook PC with the convenience of a pen.

According to Microsoft, the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, the newest Microsoft operating system, paves the way for the most versatile computing experience ever. Microsoft says the mobility of Tablet PC combines with ink and speech tools to let you take your PC to many more places and use it in many new ways.

It expands on Windows XP Professional, giving the features and performance of the latest Microsoft operating system for PCs, and additional capabilities of the Tablet PC. It is compatible with all Windows XP software as the Tablet PC is built on top of Windows XP Professional and the user can run Windows XP-compatible applications like Microsoft Office XP.

Finally, it is easy to set up and use.

Additional features which were not available in the Microsoft stable earlier are:

  • Digital pen input: Information you input in your own handwriting can be used immediately in a variety of applications, including Outlook 2002, Word 2002, Excel 2002, and PowerPoint 2002.
  • Tablet PC input panel: You can input text into applications using your own handwriting on the writing pad or using your pen with the on-screen keyboard.
  • Microsoft Windows journal: You can unobtrusively take notes on your Tablet PC in meetings or in a variety of locations. You no longer have to take notes on paper and then enter them into your computer later.
  • Handwriting recognition/conversion: Handwriting recognition tools help in ink-to-text conversion by helping you spot and correct recognition errors before text is inserted into other applications.
  • Speech recognition: You can use your voice instead of a mouse, keyboard, or pen to control Microsoft Windows-based applications. You can also use your voice to dictate text for input into applications.
  • Different Tablet PC hardware to suit your needs: You can choose a Tablet PC to meet your particular needs. You can choose the "convertible" style with a built-in keyboard, or, for ultimate mobility, choose the "slate tablet" style. Both models are available with docking stations for use at your desk.

“The launch of the Tablet PC marks an exciting new era of mobile computing that is limited only by the imagination of its users,” Gates said at the launch of the PC in the US on 7 November 2002. “The Tablet PC is a great example of how computers are adapting to how people really work, whether they’re taking notes in a meeting, collaborating wirelessly with colleagues or reading on screen. We’re just scratching the surface of what is possible.”

Earlier, on the inaugural day of the Comdex computer show in Las Vegas, Bill Gates called it the device to launch the ‘Digital Decade.’ Last Thursday, at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai, attended by the who’s who of industry, Gates demonstrated his Tablet PC. Judging by the reactions, many of the guests will buy it as soon as it hits the market.

But what about others? The Tablet PC is priced at $2,000, which is about Rs 96,000. The Indian customer is very price-sensitive as far as any product is concerned and the Tablet PC, whatever its merits, is unlikely to be an exception. In all probability, Bill Gates’ digital visions for India will have to be kept in abeyance till the price falls.

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