Toshiba Tablet Gives Larger View

Toshiba's Portege 3500, the company's first computer based on Microsoft's new Tablet PC OS, features a 12-inch swiveling screen.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. on Thursday will introduce the Portege 3500, the companys first computer that runs Microsoft Corp.s new Tablet PC operating system.

Microsoft is launching the long-awaited OS on Thursday. Based on Windows XP, the Tablet PC system combines pen-based handheld computing and speech recognition with a traditional PC operating system, enabling users to scribble notes directly onto applications and integrate text and voice.

Weighing in at 4.1 pounds, the Portege 3500 Tablet PC includes a full-size keyboard and a 12-inch screen that can swivel to lie on top of the keyboard when users want to enter data with the pen instead. Because several Tablet PC licensees are announcing their hardware at the same time and they all run the same OS, the manufacturers have distinguished their products with slight variations in form factor. Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, includes a detachable keyboard. Toshiba includes a larger screen.

Toshibas Tablet PC includes Intel Corp.s Pentium III-M 1.33GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, integrated support for 10/100 Ethernet, an integrated 802.11b (Wi-Fi) WLAN radio and V.90 56K-bps modem, a Type II PC Card slot, a Secure Digital expansion slot and a CompactFlash II slot. Customers also have the option of ordering support for the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol, Marking said. Future versions of the computer will have support for 802.11a as well, Craig Marking, product manager at Toshibas Computer Systems Group, in Irvine, Calif.

The Portege 3500 costs $2,299, with prices varying according to configuration and individual reseller pricing decisions.

Analysts have predicted that the Tablet PC form factor is not likely to garner much industry-wide support in its first year, beyond vertical markets such as health care and insurance—where it is necessary to annotate photographs and applications with handwritten notes. But Toshiba executives said they expect wider adoption because corporate customers might warm to the idea of handwriting e-mail messages and a PC form factor that doesnt require hiding behind a vertical screen.

"I really think its an extension of the way people access their information," said Rod Keller, Jr., executive vice president of Toshibas Computer Systems Group, in an interview with eWEEK. "Most people initially see it as geared toward vertical applications, but the killer application in my opinion is as simple as e-mail.

In terms of how many of Toshibas notebook sales will be Tablet PC sales, "Initially, we think we might ramp to 10 percent in the first six months," Keller said.