Fine Print on Microsofts New Tablet OS

Microsoft on Monday offered more details of Lonestar, the new version of the Tablet PC platform. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2004 will improve upon handwriting and developer support.

LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp. is readying a new version of the Tablet PC platform that improves upon the handwriting features in the operating system. Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates demonstrated the device and software in his Sunday evening keynote address.

Code-named Lonestar, the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2004 software will offer a larger "ink-to-text" panel than the current version, meaning users can scrawl longer e-mail messages that the computer translates into typed text.

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The new OS also will feature an improved handwriting recognition engine that lets it anticipate what kind of data to expect—a phone number, a state, etc.—with the result of more accurate recognition. This would come in handy for doctors who write drug prescriptions on their Tablets, according to officials of the Redmond, Wash., company, who added that the health care field is one of the bigger markets for Tablet PCs.

The new operating system also will offer single image deployment, meaning that customers can e-mail and annotate the same document back-and-forth without having to create multiple versions of the document.

Tablet PC Edition 2004 will make it easier for developers to integrate pen and ink into enterprise applications, officials said, adding that the new writing-focused features will help justify a decision to buy a Tablet PC rather than a standard laptop computer.

"This gets us over the why would we want to buy this issue," said Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president of Tablet PC and SPOT [Smart Personal Objects Technology] at Microsoft.

The operating system is in alpha testing. It will be available to the public next summer as a free download upgrade, Mitchell said.

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