Updated October 5th, 2006
Tablet PCs are an alternative to laptops for those requiring
more flexibility inputting data. Two designs are available. The convertible is useable
as a laptop and typically has a screen that flips around exposing the screen on
what would otherwise be the outside of the device. The slate-type of tablet is
a more compact, lightweight version which does not typically come with a
keyboard at all, except if docked in an optional docking station.†
Tablets otherwise are fully functional computers running a
special version of Windows XP designed just for them. Microsoft Office version
2003 also has tablet extensions that take advantage of handwritten and recorded
audio inputs and makes those part of the document. One
optionally can choose to have Optical character recognition (OCR) software
interpret your handwriting and turn it into typewritten text. Microsoft Vista
also has tablet features prominent within it. All of these features make
tablets an interesting alternative to laptops.
Tablet PCs were announced in the year 2002. By the end of
2003 about 500,000 units were sold. It started out mostly a Microsoft
initiative and is still driven mostly by the tablet edition of the Windows operating
system and a growing list of †tablet applications.† By November 2003 twenty six companies were
offering Table PCs.
User experiences seem favourable although many expressed
concerns about the perceived flimsiness and change in work habits. Problems
have been cited with fingerprints visible on the screen, glare in certain
lighting conditions, hardware problems to do with the pivoting of the screen
and heat, not just with the unit on your lap but with your hand resting on it. It
is fair to note that these problems are not unique to just tablets but laptops
as well. (Fingerprints on the screen are far less of a problem on tablets.) The
optical character recognition seems to be pretty good, out-of-the-box, but
comments were made that owners feel they are more efficient typing. Electronic
ink, as itís called, seems to be a hit with presenters.
After some evaluation those of us looking into tablets
zeroed in on the features we appreciated the most and identified the following
weight: One get fatigued quickly when having to carry a heavy tablet and
size: As with laptops our experience suggested the larger units, as nice
as they are at replacing a desktop when stationary, are awkward when
travelling. (See next bullet.)
station: We felt the ideal combination was a small tablet with a docking
station, which allowed connection of a bigger monitor, keyboard and mouse
when in the office.
CPU: The faster the better. This is the right thing to spend money on
given how much time is spent waiting for applications to launch
slate: If youíre spending the extra money it sure is nice to be able to
detach the keyboard from the slate when using it strictly as a tablet. We
also noticed that the keyboards on these units acted nicely as a buffer
against the heat of the slate when folded under and left on. Units where
the slate stayed attached to the keyboard tended to have the CPU in the
keyboard portion and got much hotter on your lap. (Unfortunately slate
tablets are less common that convertible ones.)
All units tested have had wireless included. It is included in this list
since it would not be nearly as convenient to use if it didnít.
512MB is considered the minimum one should consider when buying any PC
today. 1GB is better.
Always an important factor. We found some fairly rugged models seemed to
be just as feature-rich as units that cost much more so shop around.
Just a few comments from user experiences on the internet as
well as my own:
Some of the problems that became apparent include:
lag: which the training sessions point out requires attention
this functionality is offered a variety of ways. You can double-tab the
stylus, push-and-hold the stylus, or sometimes one can push a button on
the side of the stylus to activate this functionality
The slates get surprisingly hot and since you are in much more contact
with them than a laptop, you become more sensitive to this.
Because of the thicker, pen-sensitive screens, tablets tend to weigh more
than laptops. Many do not include a DVD player due to excess weight.
Some units have a much less rugged pivot point connecting the keyboard
from the slate. This may become an issue over time.
Pluses of tablets over laptops include:
having used a tablet before I found the interface, using the stylus, to be
very intuitive. There was no awkwardness first associated with use of a
Optical character Recognition software has come a long way. It was very
effective at translating even my handwriting into text.
units are feature-rich. The convertible types seem to have most of the
bells-and-whistles of a fully featured laptop and then add the tablet
functionality to that.
(all?) seem to support landscape or portrait mode operation when in tablet
tablet edition of Windows XP and Vista is
a super-set of the version we run on our desktops. Many applications are
available that capitalize on the handwriting features.
seems particularly well suited to design and music applications.
Electrical schematics, notes and other design elements are converted for
to applications like MS Word can be textual (keyboard or OCR) or graphical
(actually storing handwriting).
input and playback is limited but works well.
: Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Created by: Manfred
Grisebach, IST Ė Systems, Last modified October 5th, 2006 †††