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Toshiba unveils second tablet PC

The company releases its Portege M200, a new Windows XP tablet with a higher resolution, 12.1-inch screen and a faster Intel Pentium M processor.

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Toshiba has released its second take on the tablet PC.

The company on Tuesday released its Portege M200, a new Windows XP tablet with a higher resolution, 12.1-inch screen and a faster Intel Pentium M processor.

Along with a number of competitors that have also recently released new tablets, Toshiba is aiming to capture more business in the fledgling category of computers that can capture handwriting and be operated with a pen.

Many of Toshiba's tablet customers to date have come from health care or insurance industries, where employees work in the field extensively, said Carl Pinto, director of product marketing at Toshiba's Digital Products Division. Toshiba has been happy so far with its Tablet sales, which have exceeded expectations, Pinto said.

"A lot of customers are evaluating the tablet in notebook form but looking to the future of potentially adding tablet (software) applications," he said.

But by offering a better screen and a faster processor than those found in its first tablet, Toshiba is also hoping to appeal to a broader set of customers, including more company executives and consumers.

Toshiba's Portege M200 offers a 12.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1400 pixels by 1050 pixels. The machine also comes fitted with wireless capabilities and a minimum of a 1.5GHz Pentium M processor.

"12.1 inches makes for the perfect size for (operating) on the road," Pinto said.

When fitted with a 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive, the 4.5-pound tablet sell for $2,399. Toshiba will also offer a docking station for customers who want to use the tablet in an office.

Toshiba is not alone in its effort to beef up its tablet. Several companies, including ViewSonic and Gateway, released new tablets during or just before the Comdex trade show, which is taking place this week in Las Vegas.

ViewSonic came out with its new V1250 tablet on Sunday. The 3.9-pound, $1,795 tablet comes with a 12.1-inch screen.

Gateway launched its M275 tablet last week. The $1,799 machine offers a 14.1-inch screen. Gateway also resells tablets from Motion Computing.

All three of the new tablets run Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition software and can convert from a notebook to a tablet, thanks to a rotating screen that can turn and fold flat to create a writing surface.

Tablet computers had been used for years in industries such as health care or insurance before November 2002, when Microsoft jumped in with its first Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system and recruited companies Toshiba and ViewSonic to build tablets with it. The software maker said this week that it will update the OS next year.

Following the Microsoft release, tablet shipments totaled about 72,000 units in the fourth quarter of 2002, research firm IDC has said. The firm has also predicted tablet shipments could reach 500,000 this year.

Although it is poised for a rapid increase in shipments, the size of the tablet market is still small compared with overall notebook shipments, which topped 30 million worldwide last year, IDC has said.

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