Tablet PCs launch today

7 Nov 2002

Today marks the global launch of tablet PCs, an attempt to introduce a new form factor into a market dominated by desktops and notebooks. These new machines will utilise Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC edition.

The development of tablet PCs was very much driven by the software giant. Both the form factor and operating systems are brain children of Microsoft and it has been pushing hard for manufacturers to adopt the standard. Tablet PCs allow users to input handwriting onto the device using an electro-magnetic pen. Handwritten notes can be stored in their original format or converted into text as needs be.

Several manufacturers are supporting the project, such as Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Toshiba, PaceBlade, Time, NEC and Fujitsu Siemens and some machines are going on sale from today.

One of the first to market is Hewlett-Packard. The new Compaq TC1000 was announced today and will be on sale in the coming weeks. The device comes with a detachable keyboard on which the display can be mounted, allowing it to act as a notebook replacement in addition to its tablet functions. The TC1000 is weighs in at 3lbs and HP promises up to five hours of battery life. Central to this longevity is the inclusion of a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor.

The Crusoe is specifically designed as a low power chip for portable PCs. While the chip has gained plaudits for the extended battery life it offers, it has also attracted some degree of criticism for the trade-off in processing power involved. In the longer term, it is anticipated that Intel’s new low power Banias chip will make an appearance in most models. Other features include built-in wireless networking, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive (40GB and 60GB options also available), two USB 2.0 ports, one PCMCIA slot and one Compact Flash slot. The Compaq TC1000 is expected to retail for around €2,200.

Also out is the Acer TravelMate 100. It too features a keyboard that can be folded behind the screen. It features an 800MHz Pentium III processor, 256MB of RAM, a 12GB hard disk, built-in wireless card and smart card reader. The Acer machine weighs 3.2 pounds and promises a battery life of up to 3.5 hours. It is expected to retail for around €2,600.

PaceBlade is another manufacturer to opt for the Crusoe processor in its tablet PC, the PaceBook. A 600MHz Crusoe features alongside 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. The PaceBook comes with a wireless keyboard that can be attached to the tablet to form a conventional notebook. Weighing in at just under 4lbs, PaceBlade promises a five hour battery life. It is expected to retail for around €2,500.

By Dick O’Brien