Microsoft Corp. officials are confident that their new Tablet PC operating system will be popular in the enterprise, but with most early applications targeting vertical markets, some users are questioning where the system fits in their plans.
"Build them," Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates told hardware officials here last week at the rollout of the Tablet PC operating system. Hardware vendors are obliging the Redmond, Wash., company. Licensees announcing Tablet PC computers here included Acer Inc., Motion Computing Inc., NEC Corp., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and ViewSonic Corp. In addition, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. announced plans to build a Tablet PC under its popular Panasonic brand, and Samsung also announced plans to build a Tablet PC.
"This is about drawing new users by creating an additional category," said Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif. "Its about saying, No, innovation is not dead in this space."
Prospective customers are not so sure. "Medical is the only real application that comes to mind for me," said Christopher Bell, chief technology officer of People2People Group, a Boston-based media services company. "I might be convinced after applications have a chance to catch up, but at this point, my laptop meets my needs."
Much of the software that got attention at the Tablet PC event here focused on the medical community. Integrator Avanade Inc. announced a Tablet PC immunization tracking application, designed for the state of New Jersey for following smallpox vaccinations. The application includes the ability to capture electronic signatures for proof of consent.
Stentor Inc. announced an application called iSite 3.0 that enables medical professionals to view patient information on a Tablet PC, annotate that information and e-mail it.
Services company Electronic Data Systems Corp. demonstrated a Tablet PC version of the companys Teamcenter software, with an application aimed at U.S. Air Force personnel. The Integrated Point-of-Maintenance Execution software is for Air Force technicians handling maintenance information.
SAP AG, of Walldorf, Germany, last week announced a version of its MySAP CRM (customer relationship management) software for the Tablet PC. Officials said the digital handwriting integration inherent in the operating system makes it easier for customers to edit orders and collect digital signatures. Onyx Software Corp., which also specializes in CRM, said it supports the Tablet PC but has not updated its software to take advantage of the Tablet PCs "digital ink" features. "It will be a good while before there is demand for ink-enabled applications," said Robin Rees, a spokeswoman for Onyx, in Bellevue, Wash.
Additional reporting by Dennis Callaghan