Gates Takes Wraps Off Tablet PC

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, accompanied by author Amy Tan and actor Rob Lowe, on Thursday took the wraps off the long-awaited Tablet PC operating system.

NEW YORK—After several years of talking about his plans for the ideal mobile operating system, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Thursday finally took the wraps off the Tablet PC.

"The tablets been a dream that I and many other people have had for years," Gates said in a keynote speech here.

The Tablet PC OS combines the Windows XP operating system with pen-based computing, which enables users to annotate applications.

Software companies announcing applications for the new operating system ranged from FranklinCovey, with a personal management application called TabletPlanner to Stentor Inc., with software that enables doctors to annotate X-rays and e-mail them. SAP AG announced plans to build CRM software for the Tablet PC.

Licensees announcing Tablet PC computers at the launch here included Acer Inc., Motion Computing Inc., NEC Corp., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Viewsonic Corp. Additionally, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. announced plans to build a Tablet PC under its popular Panasonic brand, and Samsung announced intentions to build a Tablet PC as well.

Executives from several of these companies joined Gates to address audience questions, many of which focused on where the Tablet PC will fit into the market. HP CEO Carly Fiorina adamantly stated that to wonder about cannibalization in the notebook market was to miss the point entirely.

"This is about drawing new users by creating an additional category," Fiorina said. "Its about saying, no, innovation is not dead in this space."

An Acer executive predicted that the Tablet PC would comprise up to 15 percent of mobile sales in the next year, while Toshiba executives estimated that their Tablet PC sales would be up to 10 percent of total company sales in the next six months.

Gates was bullish.

"Build em," he told the hardware executives. "Im quite sure were going to have short supply as the word gets out."

As is the custom with Gates key-notes, the Microsoft chairman brought several celebrities on stage to prove that he wasnt the only wildly successful Tablet PC user.

Author Amy Tan joined Gates on stage to say that she is writing her latest novel on a Tablet PC.

"I can take notes on it and send it to my editor," she said, adding that she reads novels on the computer, too, furthering Gates goal to replace paper books. "With my husband lying next to me, I dont need to turn the light on to read because its illuminated already," she said.

Actor Rob Lowe hopped on stage to say that he stores his ongoing projects on a Tablet PC. "Instead of having to lug three scripts around with me, I can have it on my Tablet," he said.

Self-help management guru Steven Covey hopped on stage to announce that Franklin Covey will be selling Tablet PCs, and that several of the Tablet PC hardware manufacturers will be offering 30-day trials of Franklin Covey calendar software.