Microsoft launch the windows xp Tablet.
November 7, 2002 3:18 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft launch the windows xp Tablet. A cross between a laptop and a PDA, comes in two forms, a laptop with a rotatable screen or just as a tablet with no key board or mouse. you can write directly onto the screen with the magic pen and send e-mails or create documents in your own hand writing. not sure how much it costs. I wonder how long before the Linux posse get their hands on it! more cool pics here.
posted by JonnyX (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is the same thing.
posted by JonnyX at 3:30 AM on November 7, 2002

Hey, look! It's supposed to have a blue screen! :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:31 AM on November 7, 2002

JonnyX, that is the same thing. When I was offered a chance to preview a working prototype of TabletPC and write an article on that, the thing was manufactured by Acer. And as a matter of fact - that was planned to release working and buyable product from misc companies just as it is announced.
posted by laacz at 4:33 AM on November 7, 2002

Was it any good laacz?
posted by JonnyX at 4:46 AM on November 7, 2002

won't the screen get all smeared and greasy if you rest your hand on it while writing?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:00 AM on November 7, 2002

These do not strike me as very innovative. Something out of Apple's protoype book from 10 years ago. The Tablet PC is nothing more than a screen that you hold in your hand. I want to see someone (Apple) come out with an ergonomic handheld; something that really fits your hand AND happens to be a computer... or able to connect and communicate with your computer.
posted by scalz at 5:18 AM on November 7, 2002

Well, the only real change here is that you can write on the screen with a stylus. The next generation of these will prove invaluable to digital artists.

Drawing or 'painting' with a mouse is tough because it is separated from the medium (it's like painting without looking at your brush), and the mouse doesn't flow well. A graphics tablet (mouse replacement) makes for a more natural feel, and is pressure sensitive- better but still not quite there. With the tablet, drawing straight on the screen is fantastic. I've used the Acer, I like it, but am not in the market for either a laptop or a tablet. Make it lighter, push the screen further toards the edge, increase resolution and battery life, and I'll jump on the bandwagon.
posted by kahboom at 5:29 AM on November 7, 2002

No, its not an innovative form factor, pen operated computers have been around for a while.

Still, i hope they work because I want one. Problem is they are gong to be too heavy and use too much power.

Why pen your hopes on Apple? Jobsie has said a computer is only a computer if its got a keyboard.
posted by lerrup at 5:33 AM on November 7, 2002

What can I say, I'm a diehard Mac User. No amount of "innovative" pen-inputting or hand-held ability is going to make me like Windows any better.
posted by scalz at 5:45 AM on November 7, 2002

I'm just hoping for a PDA from Apple, instead of a full fledged Tablet PC.

Fact is, when I am on the go, I don't need a whole lot of power. I'm thinking iPod with a keyboard. Maybe apple could make one of those for on the go and plug it into the firewire port, and have the firmware upgrade support it.

I write maybe 2-3 pages tops on my current PC laptop, mount it to the Mac and transfer the file over. I'm considering a new iBook, but that's still overkill for what I need 'on the go'.
posted by benjh at 5:59 AM on November 7, 2002

Well.. There is a lot of good things about this TabletPC. At least - i had not enough time to find out bad ones :)

Writing/painting with stylus is just as easy as with pen (you can put your wrist on screen, etc) - it is electromagnetic, so - as you press harder, the line goes thicker.

It has very good speech/handwriting recognition (of course, both are adjustable for your individual characteristics) - one of the best i've seen around.

Additional software.. TabletPC addon for MS Office makes TabletPC just a paper notebook with more features.

And brand new Windows Journal is just like a paper for taking notest. You can also search for handwritten tekst and it works well, because it finds not only precise matching words, but those, which are written similarily.

I doubt here is a right place for (p)review, but i guess you will be able to find them on internet.

Well, of course it is just first step in combining palmtop with laptop's or even desktop pc power. I never liked PDAs. I like TabletPC's idea. And it is promising. There are only two things to wish about this device:

a) i would like it to have less width and less weight

b) it is (and for a long time now will be) expensive - price is like for high-end laptops.

Hope i didn't mess up anything with my broken english :)
posted by laacz at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2002

Dumb question: don't most people that use computers regularly type a lot faster than they write?
posted by MegoSteve at 6:10 AM on November 7, 2002

Newton 2002. See 'ya in 2012.
posted by blamb at 6:18 AM on November 7, 2002

don't most people that use computers regularly type a lot faster than they write?

Yeah, I do anyway, that is why I record all my lectures and type out the notes...

I could be wrong, but I don't really see these selling well...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:29 AM on November 7, 2002

How do you know it has very good speech/handwriting recognition? Have you actually tried it or just viewed a demo on the web site? I'm really suspicious of anything MS does until it is actually demonstrated in actual use.
posted by scalz at 6:37 AM on November 7, 2002

I could see the uses in certain situations. However, it's not a new idea is it? I remember working on a project in the mid 90's that involved tablet PC's and wireless networking. I remember that we used a really rugged tablet pc powered by a 486 that ran Windows 95.
posted by gyc at 6:37 AM on November 7, 2002

I still use my Newton 2100 every day. And it's a much smaller than the TabletPC I saw at CompUSA yesterday. I'll admit I am curious about the functionality of the TabletPC, but it's way way too big to be carrying around like I carry around my Newton.

My little green friend is awesome.
posted by at 6:50 AM on November 7, 2002

As a guy who wears a suit most of the day, I'd like to request something that will fit into an interior jacket pocket, does wireless updates automatically, has rounded corners, and will tell me at odd intervals that I'm "... looking especially hot and delicious today." In Rena Sofer's voice.

I don't feel that's too much to ask from a tablet PC. Oo! pit in a built-in mp3 player. And assloads of free eBooks. And a GPS chip.
posted by UncleFes at 6:52 AM on November 7, 2002

The real users aren't people in suits. They are people in scrubs or aprons: people who stand all day and write stuff in paper forms on clipboards.

The trouble is: manufacturers have gone to a lot of trouble to make these things run pretty much ordinary Windows, so all our cheesy business apps written in VB will run on them. That's great, but with MS pushing .NET onto the PocketPC/WinCE in the next 6 months, all our VB.NET apps will still run on lighter, driveless platforms. There just isn't the incentive to buy expensive, heavy tablets where what we will really need is a pocket PC with a big screen.

I have tried to get clients to buy these things and they all push back on price and weight.
posted by ednopantz at 7:03 AM on November 7, 2002

what you all want are netbooks or netpads
posted by lerrup at 7:29 AM on November 7, 2002

Doesn't anybody here remember the Gridpad? They were doing pen tablets back in the late '80s. Using DOS.
These things have been niche appliances all through PC history. Will the fact that the new tablets are blessed by Microsoft make them more mainstream?
By the way, PC Magazine has reviews on the new tablets
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:01 AM on November 7, 2002

Whoa. It's 1983 all over again.
posted by gwint at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2002

Pen input is a bad idea, has always been a bad idea, and will always be a bad idea. Writing by hand is slow, uncomfortable, and inefficient. I mean, come on; even before they had computers people hadn't used pens for business for fifty years or more, since the typewriter came out.

What I want, as someone who does significant writing on my computer, is an up-to-date PoqetPC with a color screen, running Linux, with wireless networking support. I'd be willing to give up the color screen if it meant I could still run it off of two AA batteries for weeks (as the original PoqetPC could). I used to have one of these things, and except for the passive-matrix monochrome screen, this was a writer's wet dream: a handheld with a keyboard you can actually type on.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2002

Well, the only real change here is that you can write on the screen with a stylus. The next generation of these will prove invaluable to digital artists.

That's assuming they haven't already gone out and bought one of these.

Admittedly, the Cintiq is too pricey for most users, and too heavy to carry around or in my opinion to use comfortably. But I don't see these tablets being of much real use to artists, not for the next few years, anyhoo; the people who would want it are likely going to need more processing power than a portable can provide.

You're on the money, though, that pen-based input is better suited for art than for text... I'd love to see one of these designed from the ground up for use as a sketchpad: preload it with Photoshop and Painter, keep the price down, toss in a firewire port and a memory stick to get the images into your real computer, and you've got a winner.

(As an aside: once you get used to a mouse, using a pen for most operations feels really awkward. I generally wind up with the pen in my left hand for drawing, mouse in my right for pulling down menus and such, tablet in my lap, and typing with my nose...)
posted by ook at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2002

yep. you just described my wet dream, ook. (not the typing with the nose thing)

Pen input is a bad idea, has always been a bad idea, and will always be a bad idea. Writing by hand is slow, uncomfortable, and inefficient.

ah, yes, but it can be done with one hand! Dr. Johnson doesn't want to put his laptop down so he can type, he wants to bring up the patient's chart, and jot down some notes.
posted by kahboom at 8:41 AM on November 7, 2002

just a side note... "ah, yes, but it can be done with one hand! Dr. Johnson doesn't want to put his laptop down so he can type..." That's pretty funny.
posted by benjh at 8:43 AM on November 7, 2002

You pen nay sayers are assuming that the only thing you use this for is writing text. I demo'ed one of these a couple weeks ago at work and had alot of the same preconceptions that alot of you have, that the pen input is more of a novelty than a utility.

I was blown away at how useful the set up was. As someone who has to keep engineering notebooks with pictures, sketches and notes, this is a missing link. I can sketch out ideas, save them in 'journal' pages and email or archive them across the country or world to vendors and customers. Go check out a demo if you get a chance, you might not be as excited as I was, but these things are pretty slick.
posted by jonah at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2002

Newton 2002. See 'ya in 2012.

You'd think this comment would be an exaggeration, but aside from the addition of color, it's not. (of course, even PC screens had bad color back then, so you can hardly fault Newton for being monochrome)

The Newton would take the note "lunch with bob tomorrow afternoon" and automatically connect it to Bob in your contact list and reserve 12-1 the next day. Can the TabletPC do this? Or is it just a niche product for people that want to sketch on screen combined with a big hype campaign?
posted by jragon at 9:07 AM on November 7, 2002

These do not strike me as very innovative.

There are different kinds of innovation. Some involve the creation of a brand-new concept (more or less). Others involve the development of an idea into a saleable product. Apple seemed to have the first when it introduced the Newton, and maybe other pen-based computing devices or ideas, but let's face it - they lacked what it took to make it into a product that enough people wanted. Microsoft doesn't do the first kind of innovation well, but they are quite good at bringing products to market.

Writing off products as having been done seems to be a favourite passtime of Applephiles, and while I love some of their innovations (e.g. IPod), they too have been guilty of ripping off others' ideas in the past and of collosal failures in bringing useful if pretty products to market.
posted by holycola at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2002

I had a chance to test the Acer tablet a few months ago, and was less than impressed. The size and weight are about the same as Apple's iBook, and I imagine it would get quite burdensome if held with one hand for an extended period.

And unless there have been significant improvements since my test run, the handwriting recognition is not at all good. Rather than translating text on the fly, you have to highlight your handwritten text with an awkward "lasso" maneuver, and then hit a convert to type button.

This results in a garbeled translation, at best.

Apple's handwriting recognition software, while not perfect, translates handwriting instantly - giving you a chance to rewrite those words that it doesn't understand. Not so with the Acer.

I like the idea of the tablet PC, and would love to see one that really worked well - even if it was Windows based. The current crop, however, is almost worthless.
posted by aladfar at 9:45 AM on November 7, 2002

Eat up Martha.
posted by troybob at 9:49 AM on November 7, 2002

Disclaimer: I am not an altogether unbiased party, at least in principle.

I work for MS, and the Acer tablet PCs have been getting quietly deployed across campus for a while (they've gone as far as recommending them over notebooks for new hardware purchases). I don't have one myself, but I've got to say this: when you receive a handwritten email sent from one of those devices, it makes it seem very much more personal and thought out. Pure difference of perception, of course, but I like it.

Certainly, there will be no convincing the Apple crowd, clutching their Newtons as if they were firstborn. For the more open-minded of you, I highly recommend you tablets out.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 9:49 AM on November 7, 2002

As a former Mac-o-phile who has gone over to the dark side, the "been there, done that" comments are especially amusing.

I mean, yes Apple has created many innovative products over the years. And many of those have failed to gain widespread acceptance. Microsoft (and numerous companies in the Wintel monopoly) has adapted and improved many of those ideas, and made piles o' money in the process.

I guess I'm most interested in ideas that really fly.

I'd amend old Steve Jobs' phrase: "Real artists ship," to read something like "Real artists steal and then ship kickass products."
posted by mooncrow at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2002

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posted by ook at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2002

when are these going to come out? Formerly called Mira devices, they sound like a much more elegant option - why to have separate tablet PCs when you can just utilize the processing power of the computers around you? Of course I'm thinking about moving within an environment that has enough CPU density to support that, so it's not exactly a trip-to-the-wilderness alternative. Has anyone gotten their hands on these, and if so, what was the latency between the tablet and the host computer?
posted by bokononito at 10:26 AM on November 7, 2002

bokononito, I watched the video. Apparently the two girls like the song "Like Humans Do" as much as I do :)
posted by samsara at 10:55 AM on November 7, 2002

Too funny. A few weeks ago I was bitching and moaning about windows slow boot times, especially the "preparing network connections" phase on some computers, and lo and behold.. what do we have in the screenshot. Ha!
posted by antidigerati at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2002

I'd rather just have a cheap pen screen LCD for my desk computer. Why can't they ever do the better thing first?
posted by HTuttle at 1:20 PM on November 7, 2002

As others pointed out, this is for users of forms and programmable buttons. I think the tablet is too heavy (and expensive) for that market, but MS thinks they can make money on it. Then again, they can afford to lose money at it as long as they want.

Of course, you could have a Mira-like device that is little more than a wireless receivable LCD screen. But I don't think MS wants that ATM. It would require a software server that supports the Remote Desktop Protocol (which IIRC requires the most expensive XP version - Pro?, not in Home Edition). But the biggest hurdle for home adoption is liscensing issues. You can't play a DVD sitting on your desktop on it and multiple Mira devices cannot be used with a single home computer. So the chains are pretty short.

No, I think this TabletPC is different than what Bill was promising 2 years ago. It is little more than a subnotebook with a pen on it. It is made by the same Wintel hardware dealers who want to minimize cost buy using off the shelf parts which results in a (IMHO) compromised product. The TabletPC should be aimed at niche vertical markets to succeed, but the result is too much and overgeneralized for that. For the same price I can get a good laptop (admittedly sans-pen).

I don't understand why MS doesn't drop the marketing speak and just modularize XP for specific devices (like laptops, tablets, desktops etc) with only the required bits. You know, sorta like some *NIX/dedicated systems. Then they can continue to brand XP and not "tabletPC, PocketPC, WinCE, XP home, XP pro" etc.

However, I do think that a Mira-like device will succeed. Just give it 2-3 years and use hardware suited to a small form factor (ie not x86 chips) and make it under $300. Remove the odious liscense restrictions (if Hollywood will let them) and market it as a portable digital entertainment slate (and downplay the sound quality!)
posted by infowar at 1:44 PM on November 7, 2002

oh hell, samsara, this is just too funny (the video). corporate storytelling rocks. I still want the device though (minus the family).
posted by bokononito at 5:10 PM on November 7, 2002

I don't have one myself, but I've got to say this: when you receive a handwritten email sent from one of those devices, it makes it seem very much more personal and thought out.

So people will email you an image of a handwritten note? Or am I misunderstanding you? That strikes me as intolerably obnoxious.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:17 PM on November 7, 2002

I was really bummed that the Newton derived eMate laptop never really got a fair shake in the marketplace. They were super rugged, did handwriting recognition, a little sketch app, productivity software and ran for 28 hours without a recharge. And they were totally beautiful (natch).

It would be cool to see Apple complete its Pro/Consumer/Education grid with an eMate style device:
Power Mac/iMac/eMac
PowerBook/iBook/EMPTY SLOT

In the empty slot would be something called the eBook. Visiting, it seems like a shame that Apple isn't doing anything in the 2-3 lb notebook space. They could really be knocking them out of the park. Well, who knows, they may have something ready to go in their skunkworks once the recession blows over.
posted by Scoo at 7:18 PM on November 7, 2002

I work for a company that just finished a website for one of the newer Tablet PC manufacturers, so I got to play around with their tablet a bit over the past few months. (If I don't say which one, can I not be accused of spamming?) I was more impressed with it than I thought I would be. They really are neat for particular applications.

The handwriting recognition works quite well. Laacz mentioned this briefly above but the Journal application is kind of neat -- it can recognize your handwriting in the background while leaving the actual words you write in your own handwriting, so when you do the searching that Laacz describes you're actually searching through your handwritten notes. I thought that was kind of clever.

I think they'll mainly be attractive to people who need to be highly mobile while running full Windows apps. They sell a holder for the tablet I played with that has an X-shaped elastic web on the back, so you can slip the whole thing over your hand and wear it like a baseball glove. Someone who has to walk around a hospital or factory or lab while they work could use it in ways that would be awkward with a clamshell laptop design. And you can hot-switch the screen from landscape to portrait mode (it runs either mode).

I would have loved one of these things for taking notes when I was in grad school. I can type at least 4X faster than I can write, so I'd never favor pen input when I could be typing instead, but laptops are awkward in class (for me, anyway) and they're not much good for drawing little diagrams, which I used to do a lot. When I was a teaching assistant I could have had my gradebook spreadsheet right there to make grade changes (instead of writing down lists of changes on paper and inevitably losing a few of them), I could have run SPSS and SAS while sitting in my stats class, etc.

Given the higher prices you really do have to value the extra mobility for a tablet to be worthwhile, though.
posted by boredomjockey at 7:23 PM on November 7, 2002

I was hoping these things would be a lot dumber and about 90% cheaper. I'd use one of these primarily as an ebook reader and for wireless web and email access. Smaller, lighter, and less powerful would all be good. I guess what I want is the ebook of the future.
posted by Songdog at 5:55 AM on November 8, 2002

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