Theres been a lot of talk around eWEEK.com about the future of the Tablet PC, so Ive decided to add my two cents worth. My prediction? Someday every business notebook that uses a Microsoft operating system will be a Tablet PC. And most of them will even have tablet features!
Whether you will use your future notebook as a tablet—even whether it will be possible to do so with your machine—will depend on what you buy and how you choose to use it. But make no mistake: Tablet “goodness” will be baked right in, whether your screen has a digitizer or not. Why? Because its very likely that tablet support will be a standard part of the Longhorn OS.
And as we move toward Longhorn, Microsoft is investing a lot of money in hardware technology to persuade notebook manufacturers to make tablet features a standard part of their notebooks. Microsofts goal is to push the marketplace rather than wait for evolution to popularize tablet technology.
Redmond wants tablet technology to work well enough and be inexpensive enough that customers wont give a second thought to buying a Tablet PC. Even the special name will go away as todays Tablet PC morphs into being “just” the notebooks we all buy.
Indeed, third-generation Tablet PCs, due later this year, show significant improvements over whats available now. I was up at Microsoft this week and had the chance to play with one of these machines, and I found the screen much more responsive to my handwriting and less susceptible to glare.
The screen also had higher resolution, meaning I didnt have to write larger or use a broader pen for my scrawl to be legible. Solving these problems makes a tablet much more appealing to me.
Hardware companies are beginning to figure out how to make decent convertible tablet screens. Still, many of us wont have (or want) a screen that spins and turns the notebook into a true tablet. Well buy normal-looking laptops equipped with a screen thats pen-sensitive. These arent tools for big-time notetaking, but theyre great for making drawings, adding annotations and signing documents.
Microsofts goal isnt for some people to use a pen and digitizer all the time, though that is already happening in vertical applications. Instead, Microsoft wants everyone to use a pen at least occasionally. Redmond wants a pen to be a part of a notebook computer just like a keyboard, screen and wireless network adapter. No big deal, nothing wed pay any special attention to.
A Microsoft executive predicted tablets will go mainstream within the next 24 to 36 months. I am expecting it to take a bit longer, but am just as convinced that before long well all own Tablet PCs without even thinking about it.