Microsoft has promised to make a new version of its Windows operating system for tablet PCs available to end-users and the channel from mid-year.
Danny Beck, senior Windows product manager at Microsoft Australia, said the company would release a new version of Windows XP for Tablet PCs by about June. Previously, the next scheduled update was not until Longhorn comes out in 2005.
"It will be free for all existing Tablet PC users and it will be a free download or it will be available to order through local fulfilment, on a CD," he said. "We have worked very hard to make sure it would be available free."
The current edition of Windows XP for Tablet PCs has been criticised for a lack of data integration. Gartner research analyst Andy Woo told CRN late last year that OS support for the tablet PC still required 'a lot of work'.
Woo said then that the quality and quantity of applications for tablets must improve before the market stopped viewing the hardware as merely an "exclusive piece of jewellery" with a high entrance fee.
"A lot of end-users are finding it hard to justify the cost premium," Woo said at the time.
However, Beck said the expected new version would include several improvements.
"We have further developed a deeper integration of pen support with Windows XP," he said. "There will be an enhanced intertext conversion -- what we're doing is making the pen a more mainstream input device."
Beck said a new Tablet Input Panel (TIP) -- the so-called "virtual keyboard" feature -- would include improved word and case recognition, intertex conversion and automatic word sensing.
"So we are really working on that and what we've also done is developers and end-users can create and add rules for how hand-writing should be recognised," he said.
For example, a user could create an email message and stipulate a rule as to how it would type in a URL.