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The day of the Pen
Microsoft Tablet launch
by Rick Smith (November 7, 2002)

Today, Microsoft Corporation launched their latest incarnation of the "pen computer". I applaud these efforts, because the use of a pen as a pointing device, is far more natural than using ANY other input device. Just think of how many years you have used a pen or pencil in your life, compared to using a mouse, trackball or other computer pointing device.

I have used a pen-enabled computer since 1994 and I am quite passionate about this product category. I can attest that for mobile professionals "on the move", a pen-enabled computer (tablet) is FAR more productive than either a laptop or a PDA. Just try walking around while using a notebook or surfing most web sites using a PDA. The pen-enabled tablet computer combines the strengths of a notebook PC and a PDA into an extremely useful product.

A pen-enabled computer makes many tasks far easier and faster than using a desktop computer, notebook or PDA.

Some of these tasks are:

  • Taking real handwritten notes (not writing on a postage stamp)

  • Annotating a document or a photograph

  • Actually signing your letters

    Some of the recent tablet related product announcements:

  • Fujitsu Stylistic ST Series Tablet PC

  • Viewsonic Tablet PC V1100

  • Corel Grafigo software

    Summary Comparison

    It will be most interesting to see how these different tablet models will "stack up" against each other. They tend to have many common features (screen size, port connectors, tablet buttons) and consequently all are in the $2000 "ballpark" and weigh about 3 pounds. The key differences between systems appear to be in:

    Wireless 802.11 -- optional vs. standard

    Battery size-- runtime vs. weight

    Overall Weight -- ounces of difference

    Total RAM capacity -- most are 512 Mb, but some higher

    Optional features -- CF slots, connectors, docking features

    Since I have found that a "pen computer" is a much more intimate computing experience than either a notebook or desktop system, deciding on the best tablet can't really be done using specs alone. Small differences that appear nearly insignificant on a spec sheet can play a large role in both performance and ease of use.

    Reviews OnLine will be reviewing these units in the near future and be reporting on our findings -- Check back.

    Copyright 2002 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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