Over the past few years, whenever Bill Gates opened his mouth at a big event, he would imitate the kid in The Exorcist by spewing an unfeasible amount of Tablet PC hype over the audience. And finally these PCs have arrived with their Gucci-like price tags.
Somewhere between a notebook, personal digital assistant and electronic clipboard, the Tablet PC is touted as the future of mobile computing.
Less blinkered observers find them a hard pill to swallow, seeing them as another way to carve out a slice of the ever-growing mobile market.
While mainstream PC sales have been down in the dumps, excluding the remarkably resilient white box sector, notebook sales have been doing OK.
In fact, Gartner has claimed that the notebook market will outperform the desktop PC sector in unit growth this year and next year.
One of the reasons is that notebooks have equalled the performance of many PC systems without burning a hole in your pocket. It is also exactly why Tablet PCs will not be taking off in a spectacular fashion.
On the performance front, the models launched recently are hardly fire-starters, and won't be until Intel finally starts shipping its low-power Banias processor next year. And the A4 format is still too big.
Then there's that handwriting recognition thing. Back in my Palm Pilot days I was prepared to relearn a new way of writing to take notes. Why not? It was new and cost less than £200.
When I'm being asked to fork out £2,000 for the latest untested mobile technology, I expect it to come bundled with a trained typist.
Gartner has claimed that Tablet PCs will make up just one per cent of all notebook sales next year. For a technology that is going to revolutionise mobile computing, this is hardly the most promising start.
Apart from the unwieldy size and heart-stopping price, Tablet PCs are still looking for enough decent applications. The vertical market is seen as the best place for them to establish a toehold. And there are always the early adopters with more money than sense.
But the appeal to the wider business community is a little hazy. Remember that Tablet PCs are Microsoft's way of extending the Windows operating system. They are not a revolution in themselves.
Forget making money by reselling them in 2003 because they will not be flying off the pallet until 2004 at the earliest.
The smart reseller should use next year to build a sales strategy around suitable applications. By then Tablet PCs should be smaller, cheaper and, maybe, an easier sell.
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