Microsoft Corp launched its tablet PC in New York with a raft of OEM partners, even though the platform is unlikely to see widespread take-up for at least a year.
Microsoft roped in hardware makers including Hewlett Packard, NEC, Toshiba and Viewsonic to back its launch. Ten vendors had shipping designs at the event, while Matsushita announced it would be building a tablet under its Panasonic brand. The designs were powered by chips from Intel, Transmeta and VIA Technologies.
A broad selection of software vendors are also committed to shipping applications for the tablet operating system. Many of these were vertical players, with medical specialists being well represented.
Microsoft said two main designs would be available, traditional clamshell notebook designs, and slate designs where keyboards are detachable.
The software giant is hoping its Windows XP Tablet PC Edition can succeed in popularizing serious pen-based computing. There have been notebooks that have combined keyboard, mouse and pen input in the past, but these have tended to be niche additions to vendor’s mainstream portables.
Earlier this week research group Gartner said that tablet shipments next year will be 425,000 units, just 1.2% of total PC shipments. As time goes on the format will get more popular, it added, accounting for 37% of all notebooks by 2007.
One factor that manufacturers will have to deal with before volumes shoot up is likely to be price. HP’s Compaq Tablet PC TC1000 will be priced from $1,699. Motion Computing’s M1200 comes in at $2,199, while Toshiba’s Portege 3500 starts at $2,299. To hit the mass market, prices will have to come down quickly.