Tech Industry

Commentary: Tablet PC, take one

Microsoft's tablet PC operating system is fine for early adopters and experimenters, but it needs better software and gear before it's ready for more widespread use.

Commentary: Tablet PC, take one
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
November 7, 2002, 1:25PM PT

By Frank E. Gillett, Principal Analyst

Microsoft and its partners, such as Hewlett-Packard, have launched the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and matching hardware. Built on modifications to Windows XP and Office XP, the tablet PC operating system is fine for early adopters and experimenters, but it needs better software and gear.

Forrester believes that Microsoft's tablet PC vision is a good one that will ultimately extend computing to new users and applications. Companies should try out the new systems with limited deployments to existing laptop users and "skunk works" efforts to test new applications for clipboard-toting fieldworkers. But companies also should hold off on wider adoption until Microsoft pumps up the pen and handwriting support in Windows, and users see the following:

• Deep tablet PC capabilities inside Microsoft Office. To take notes in a meeting, users must turn to a new application native to the Tablet PC software, Windows Journal, rather than using Word. But users want the ability to easily switch between writing, sketching and typing in the same document--and the current Office add-in pack isn't enough. Microsoft needs to drive Tablet PC functionality deep into Office 11, due in summer 2003, to make writing a natural part of Office.

• Application support for the Tablet PC operating system across the software portfolio. To enter text snippets in Tablet-ignorant applications like Web browsers and Siebel's business software, users must resort to the awkward Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP) to write, recognize, cut and paste. For Microsoft's vision to succeed,

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application vendors must add native Tablet PC support to their products and not just settle for clunky Tablet PC extensions that frustrate users.

• Better, more innovative form factors. The first slates and convertible laptops running the Tablet PC software are great extensions of today's subnotebook laptops--but feel heavy and clunky when compared with a paper tablet. For the new tablet computers to succeed, vendors must drive down their size, link lightweight screens wirelessly to a base unit nearby, and integrate easily with digital pens like Logitech's io Personal Digital Pen and Seiko Instruments' InkLink.

© 2002, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.