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New tablet PCs to pad the market

A cavalcade of new tablets from PC makers marks the first anniversary of Microsoft's Tablet PC launch.

Tablet PC 2.0 is on its way.

With the first anniversary of Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system approaching in November, several PC makers have released or will soon release new tablet PC models designed around the OS.

Hewlett-Packard led the pack, launching its HP Compaq Tablet TC1100 on Monday. Meanwhile, Acer is working on a big-screen tablet PC, which recently appeared on its Web site, and several other manufacturers are said to be working on new models as well.

The first crop of tablet PCs with the Microsoft OS have done relatively well. The tablet market, which includes machines with the Microsoft operating system, along with more specialized hardware, is on track to ship half a million units by the end of this year, market research firm IDC said.

While many companies are focusing on updating their existing models, Acer is attempting to break the mold. Its forthcoming tablet features a 14-inch screen and, like its current tablets, is also a convertible. The tablet's 14-inch screen can open, rotate and fold down to create a writing surface.

Acer is likely to have a size advantage over its competitors, which offer either 10.4-inch or 12.1-inch screens. Tablet PCs that use the Microsoft OS typically also come in a slate form, usually with a provision for a detachable keyboard.

Acer executives have suggested that the larger, 14-inch screen tablet would also attract a different customer. The company, which also sells 10.4-inch screen TravelMate tablets, has said that while slate-style tablets and small convertibles are often used by health care workers or on the factory floor, larger tablets are more likely to be used by consumers or executives who spend less time in the field and more time in meetings or at home.

Attracting more consumer purchases or more corporate executives would help increase tablet sales dramatically, analysts have said in the past.

Acer will call its latest tablet the TravelMate C300 and will offer at least one model that comes with a 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD burner/DVD-ROM drive, the site shows. An Acer representative said the machine, which the company plans to release later this month, would sell for $2,299. The company also markets a similar TravelMate notebook that comes with some tablet features.

HP stuck with a slate motif and 10.4-inch screen for its TC1100. As expected, however, HP changed processors, choosing Intel's Pentium M for the TC1100, which will begin shipping next month for a price that starts at $1,849, HP said in a statement. It also ships with a detachable keyboard. HP's current model, the TC1000 uses a Transmeta Crusoe processor.

While Acer and HP and are in various stages of preparation with their new models, Motion Computing is expanding its reach. The start-up company, which markets a slate-style tablet PC, said Monday that it has begun selling its hardware in Austria, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Fujitsu also recently launched a convertible tablet, making it the only manufacturer with a tablet and a slate-style machine to use the Microsoft tablet OS.

In the near future, new models are also expected from Toshiba and Gateway, which said it would launch a convertible tablet PC this year.