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The Future of  the Tablet PC?
By Chris De Herrera
1/4/04

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Recently I have been considering what changes could be in store for the Tablet PC in the future.  Below are my thoughts on where Microsoft should expand the Tablet PC operating system to grow its market share.

Displays – LCD Monitors w/Built In Touch Screen Support

I think that LCD monitor manufacturers should have the option to include an electromagnetic digitizer which plugs into the PC via USB along with the software for the  Tablet PC that adds handwriting recognition and ink support.  This would allow users to take advantage of the features of the Tablet PC while using a desktop.  Examples include the use of OneNote or editing Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents on the desktop with the visual cues that are easier to handle with a pen directly on the screen. Also, keep in mind that the world at large is converting to LCD monitors so now is the time to capture the market share of users making that transition while allowing them to keep their existing PCs. 

Support External Wacom Tablets

Users should be able to use a stand alone Wacom tablet with a desktop/laptop running Tablet PC Operating System as well. This will enable a millions of people to “upgrade to the Tablet PC”

Expand Touch Screens Support

Allow OEMs and users to choose the type of touch screen they want to use.  Clearly consumers are aware of how passive touch screens work since millions of users use them daily with UPS or purchases at Home Depot or Best Buy so I doubt that the learning curve will be as large.  Also, for these businesses, passive screens are less expensive since they lose styluses on a regular basis.

Stroke Support - Easier Navigation and Editing

The recent changes that Microsoft is planning to implement with Tablet PC 2004 focuses on handwriting recognition.  I think that stroke recognition will be very important for users of the Tablet PC.  Clearly users that do not use the handwriting recognition can take advantage of the stroke recognition for navigation in Tablet Mode as one example.  Basic editing such as delete or backspace are also crucial to the effective control and use of handwriting recognition. Also, millions of Pocket PC users are used to this stroke support since it's been included in Transcriber in rom since Pocket PC 2000.  Prior to that the strokes were included in Calligrapher dating back to its implementation on the Apple Newton.

Include OneNote with the Tablet PC OS

Microsoft must include OneNote with the Tablet PC.  Clearly OEMs have recognized that many users are interested in Tablet PCs with built in keyboards called Convertibles.  The use of OneNote fosters the use of ink in a crucial application for the Tablet PC since it allows users to gather their ink, voice and text notes all together.  Apparently some OEMs get it - Gateway and Toshiba include OneNote with their Tablet PCs.

Expand Ink in Applications

Right now very few applications use Ink in their applications.  I would like to see the ink functionality of the Tablet PC be included in all applications that request Microsoft certification.  Further the delivery of the ink tools as a default option for the Microsoft development tools is crucial to the acceptance of ink for developers world wide.

Ink in Video and Audio

Right now the Tablet PC does not support the ability to annotate Video (even in MovieMaker) or Audio (a waveform).  What I am referring to is the ability to draw on the screen as the video or audio is being displayed.  These kind of notes would help people understand what occurred when the video or audio was recorded.  Further for entertainers and speakers it would allow them to see where they need to make changes.

Tying it All Together

All of these changes will help expand the use and acceptance of the Tablet PC as an operating system, not just a niche laptop technology.   Each of these items add new uses of the Tablet PC operating system for users and this will expand the number of Tablet PC users overall.


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