In general, IT buyers try to keep the number of images they need to manage to a minimum. This drive is so powerful that some will put old, out-of-date operating systems on new hardware just so they dont have to deal with the differences between two versions of the same operating system. While this may result in reliability problems, security problems and the inability to use some of the features available on the newer hardware, they believe that the cost of multiple images exceeds the benefits of matching an operating system to the hardware it was designed for. This belief is based on a series of experiences going back to the early days of the PC, when compatibility problems between versions of Windows and patches could, and often did, crash large numbers of PCs when patches were applied or new applications installed and made recovery both difficult and expensive.While the introduction of Windows 2000 eliminated most of these problems, corporate buyers continue to be wary of the introduction of yet another version of Windows.Feedback from large customers and the analysts, like me, who supported them, was clear. To even get tablets into trials, Microsoft needed to produce a common OS so that corporate IT departments could maintain one image that could be applied to all mobile hardware, including tablets. Ideally, IT administrators want one image for both laptops and desktop computers, and few can supply this today. Microsoft listened and is now considering merging some of the Tablet PCs unique interfaces and features into Longhorn so this barrier to adoption is removed. In other words, they are looking for ways not to kill the Tablet PC but to help make it successful. Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. Introducing a new user interface is anything but easy. Apple pioneered the mouse after Xerox determined that no one would use it and even they havent moved away from the single-button version. We had a run at speech several years ago that stalled when Lernout & Hauspie, who had attempted to buy up all of the speech-to-text products, went bankrupt. Tablets arent the first platform to use a pen interface. Besides handheld computers, devices such as the WinPad, which Fujitsu was driving largely in the health care market, predated the Tablet PC. IBM actually saw the potential new audience for the tablet some time ago and launched the TransNote to address it: It floundered in the marketplace. This just goes to show that it often takes a number of attempts before the right match of hardware and software is created for a new market opportunity. This is because the needs of the potential customer are much harder to define for "new" products. They often behave differently then they say they will in focus groups and surveys when they actually are spending their own money and are faced with purchase decisions that generally dont exist during the time when the studies are performed. Thats one reason why a lot of first-generation products simply dont make the grade. Next page: Looking to the future.