Tablet let out of bottle

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After many years and several false starts, Microsoft has launched itself into the Tablet PC market, with claims that advances in hardware and software had finally turned the tablet into a viable, commercial reality.

In launching Windows Tablet PC Edition, Microsoft was joined by EOM hardware vendors Acer, Fujitsu, HP, Toshiba and ViewSonic in Sydney for the first of a series of launches in different time zones across the globe on Thursday.

The Tablet PC's will be available in Australian retail outlets from the middle of November carrying prices ranging from $3,500 to about $5,500.

Microsoft Tablet PC product marketing manager Danny Beck would not reveal the company's sales expectations for the product, but said it expected to see "substantial demand" for Tablet PCs in the next six to 12 months.

Demand was likely to increase as more applications specifically designed for the Tablet PC came to market.

Beck said versions of Office XP and Visio tailored specifically to the Tablet PC were not expected to reach the market until the second half of next year. In the meantime, Microsoft has made available a free, download pack that adds Tablet features - including its Digital Ink handwriting system - to existing versions of Office XP.

Beck also outlined a new note-taking application code-named "Scribbler" that Microsoft was currently working on, also due out in the second half of next year.

Microsoft expects the Tablet PC to have wide appeal, especially from mobile "knowledge workers", regardless of whether their mobility was around the office or outside the office.

"For anybody who works away from their desk, the Tablet should seriously be considered as an alternative," Beck said.

"We believe there are applications developed by third parties that haven't even been thought of today," he said.

Beck said the proliferation of 802.11x wireless networks would add to the appeal of the Tablet PCs, which come with built-in wireless connectivity.


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