First it was the slate. Then it was the PC-Tablet convertible. Now its a mini-Tablet that can do everything that a traditional Tablet PC can do, plus store electronic books, that could end up as the new gadget on which Microsoft is betting to further Tablet PC momentum.
A prototype of a new device—described by sources as a type of hybrid Tablet PC/eBook—has been making its way around the Microsoft Corp. Redmond campus, according to sources. The mini-Tablet, which measures about six inches by eight inches and features a digitizer, is just one of a number of new Tablet form factors expected to debut in the coming months.
Microsoft introduced the Tablet PC concept in 2000. The first units running the Tablet-PC-specific variant of Windows XP began shipping in 2002. According to Microsoft, the millionth Tablet PC was sold in February of 2005.
Microsoft has been criticized, even by some of its closest Tablet allies, for trumpeting the Tablets arrival, but then failing to follow through with adequate marketing. Some said Microsoft has been compounding the problem by delivering conflicting messages about the future of the Tablet operating system.
The new hybrid Tablet/eBook device may be Microsofts attempt to reinvigorate interest in the Tablet. The new system allegedly is a pet project of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
Gates could show off the hybrid prototype during his keynote at WinHEC (the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) on April 25, according to sources.
Microsoft isnt outright denying the existence of such a device.
“Microsofts OEM partners are working on a variety of form factors exploring the complete mobile experience,” said a Tablet PC spokesman. He declined to say anything further about the alleged device.
However, during an interview in February with ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, Gates outlined his vision for this new type of form factor. Gates told Jennings:
“I am meeting with our tablet people about the idea of carrying text books around. Theyll have just a tablet device that they can call up the material on. Thats been a dream for a long time, were making progress there. So [we keep doing a] review of the software projects and encouraging them in terms of what they are doing well and telling them who else they need to work with.”
The education market has been one which Microsoft has done relatively little to tap, but which some industry watchers say could be one of the most promising for Tablet PC devices.