Tablet PCs and the Write Stuff

Article excerpt

PRODIGIOUS note-taker? Always in meetings? Then keep on taking the Tablet u the Tablet personal computer, that is. Grab it on the way to an appointment and write notes on the screen using a stylus. Handwriting u even a spidery scrawl u will be captured and transformed into text or as an image that can be manipulated, annotated, highlighted and e-mailed.

Tablet PC is a new version of Microsofts Windows XP operating system. It captures the movement of a radio-frequency stylus over the screen. A new Windows Journal application then saves this handwriting into files, automatically transcribes it into text or numbers and can export it into applications such as Word or Excel.

On Thursday, PC makers including Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu-Siemens and Toshiba will begin selling removable otabletso that plug into desktop docking stations, as well as stand-alone lightweight notebook computers using the Tablet PC operating system. At around u1,500 (e2,400), they sound expensive, but the computer industry badly needs a pick-me-up. It must sell new PCs to people who already have them or into markets yet to be computerised. Tablet PCs should appeal to people who dont want to or cant use Qwerty keyboards.

The important new feature, Microsoft says, is that the Tablet PC allows people to revise and edit their handwritten notes on screen using the stylus. Documents can be shared so that a team of people on a wireless network could work collaboratively during a meeting. Microsoft plans to offer ways to create presentations directly from handwritten documents.

But users familiar with the transcription software integrated into Microsofts PocketPC applications, which drives iPaq and other PDAs, will find that Tablet PC doesnt yet offer the same level of integration. Initially, they will be unable to write directly into Word or PowerPoint, which may prove frustrating for early adopters. Microsoft has an add-on pack for existing Office applications, but you would do better to wait for the new Office 11 suite now being tested with trial groups. …