Vista May Spur Tablet Growth

Built-In Functionality Improves on Earlier Versions

Microsofts Windows Vista introduces a number of new capabilities tablet PC users have been waiting for. These include better handwriting recognition, pen-flick capabilities and a larger TIP (Tablet Input Panel).

The biggest change, however, is in Microsofts decision not to release a separate operating system and instead include tablet PC features and functionality into Vista. (The Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, Vista Ultimate and Vista Home Premium SKUs all have tablet PC functionality.)

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is a huge proponent of tablet computing, but the tablet PC platform has yet to gain real traction among users. Its likely, however, that Microsofts integration of tablet functionality into Vista will increase adoption by making it easier for IT managers to deploy tablet hardware.

During tests, eWeek Labs has found the handwriting recognition in Vista to be greatly improved over Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. Vista has the ability to learn a users handwriting through a training program or gradually, as a user writes on the tablet over time.

Vista also offers predictive capabilities—learning not only how specific words are written but also how often a user writes specific words. This allows the operating system to guess what a user means when it cannot read the handwriting.

It also helps that the TIP is larger now and is always visible as a shadow in the foreground when the hardware is docked. In addition, a change to the icons and pointers means the location of the cursor is now much more obvious.

Another notable improvement is the addition of pen flicks, or gestures. Users can now navigate applications and Web pages by moving the pen up, down, to the right and to the left on the screen. This makes it extremely easy to read content on tablet hardware and to undo actions without having to use the keyboard.