Toshiba Corp. and Microsoft Corp. are working on plans to rejuvenate the market for tablet PCs following sluggish sales over the last two years.
The tablet PC is not necessarily accepted by the consumer market because it is expensive and they don’t know how to use that [functionality], said Toshiba PC and Network Company president and CEO, Atsutoshi Nishida, neatly summarizing two of the biggest barriers to tablet PC take-up.
Research firm IDC has predicted that only about one million tablet PCs will ship during 2004, representing less that 0.5% of the overall PC market. Meanwhile, Canalys said notebooks outsold tablets by a factor of 100 to one across EMEA in the second quarter.
A lack of applications has also been blamed by Toshiba competitor Acer Inc. for poor tablet PC sales, while features such as handwriting recognition, the use of digital ink to capture handwriting as images inside documents, as well as voice annotation and voice recognition, are seen to push up the price.
We need to reduce costs, said Nishida, adding that Tokyo, Japan-based Toshiba is working with Microsoft on plans to increase the acceptance of tablet PCs next year. The introduction of Windows XP Tablet PC 2005 Edition will help, he said, while revealing that Toshiba has plans to take use of Organic LED displays to remove the need for a backlight and reduce power consumption.
Nishida was less forthcoming on how Toshiba and Microsoft will reduce the cost of tablet PCs and boost user adoption, particularly on whether the company would remove some of the nice-to-have functionality such as voice recognition from the devices. Maybe, maybe not, he said.
Nishida said he expects the corporate take-up of tablets to remain restricted to specific application areas and vertical industries, such as healthcare, real estate and insurance.
Meanwhile, it seems Microsoft might have helped Toshiba in more ways than one to enhance the handwriting recognition technology on its tablet PCs. If our tablet PC can recognize Bill Gates’ handwriting, it can recognize everything, Nishida said.