Faster, Sleeker Tablets Wait for User Demand

Commentary: While there's little user demand for Tablets now, there will be in the near future.

My first experience with a tablet-size computer was with the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. From 1983 through the early 90s, these notebook computers were the hardy companions of journeyman journalists. They were both friend and enemy. You could spill coffee on the keyboard and beer in the acoustic coupler, and theyd still work. Even if you didnt make it, theyd happily put in 16-hour days as long as you threw in four AA batteries each morning.

Our Labs analysts have taken a look at the latest round of Tablet computers. These Tablets are sleeker, far faster, and have graphics and handwriting capabilities much beyond previous generations. What they dont have at this point is a swell of user demand that would back up Microsofts expectations of 1 million units a year. As Labs Director John Taschek states in his comparative review, "We dont think the first systems in this current generation of pen-enabled notebooks are going to cause a procurement stampede, but we do believe theyll make up a significant chunk of sales in the near future." To see why we think the enterprise will warm to these systems, see Johns review. Of the current crop, John picked the Toshiba Portégé 3500 to get our eWeek Labs Analysts Choice award.

While it is rare for eWeek Labs to hand out Analysts Choice awards, in this issue West Coast Technical Director Tim Dyck also cites the enterprise edition of XML Spy 5.0 for Analysts Choice. These types of products are necessary if the promise of Web services is to move from hype to reality.

Also this week is Peter Gallis story on the next version of Linux. Linux is moving faster and faster to be as fully robust as any other enterprise contender. As Linux founder Linus Torvalds told Peter in an e-mail exchange, in January it will be exactly 12 years since he created the first Linux PC. The development of an operating system from stand-alone hobby system to enterprise-level contender in only 12 years is a record that will be hard to match and is a tribute to the open development process.

In "IBM Targets Lifeboat Technology at Downtime," Carmen Nobel reports on IBMs plans to make wireless and notebook computing a truly secure process. Overcoming security concerns will have greater impact on computing than all those neat Tablet systems shown at last weeks Comdex. And if those Tablet manufacturers hope to surpass the 6 million Radio Shack TRS-80s that were sold way back then, it will be advances in such areas as security that will drive the business along.

Comdex winners and losers? Tell me at