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Comdex 2001: Industry cool about Tablet PC

Microsoft's Tablet PC specification received a cool reception from some PC manufacturers at Comdex.

The software giant said Tablet PCs will become the next wave of computing, but some PC manufacturers are not convinced that there will be any demand.

Dell, Gateway and IBM said they would listen to their customers when deciding when and if to go forward with a Tablet PC product. Pamposh Zutshi, director of marketing for Dell's Optiplex PC line, said: "We do not believe that [Tablet PCs] are ready for primetime. I haven't heard anyone asking for them."

A spokeswoman for Gateway said: "We don't have any plans on the horizon for a Tablet-type device." Gateway plans to focus on networked PCs and low-cost notebooks, which would be able to operate in application areas similar to Tablet PCs, she added.

Leo Suarez, IBM's vice-president of worldwide product marketing for personal computing devices, said the company has no immediate plans for developing Tablet PCs. "I've yet to find a customer that has asked for a Tablet PC," he said.

The Microsoft Tablet PC specification is designed to offer laptop portability with the handwriting features of a personal digital assistant. Companies supporting the platform include Compaq, Acer, Fujitsu, Toshiba and NEC.

Tablet PC products are scheduled to be launched by the second half of 2002, but there are still many technical challenges to overcome. Oscar Koenders, vice-president of worldwide products at Toshiba, said the company is not rushing to ship the Tablet PCs it currently has under development.

Koenders said the technology that enables features such as swiveling monitors within the Tablet PC specification is inherently complex. Other technology under development includes new hard disks and batteries that will support the Tablet PC's slim design.

Microsoft is banking on the timely resolution of these technical hurdles. Albert Daoust, director of special projects at Evans Research, said Microsoft usually fails to bring products to market on time.

Commenting on the 2002 launch date for Tablet PCs, Daoust said: "I find it improbable that we are going to be that close in 2002." However, the wait would be worthwhile, according to Daoust. "Once Microsoft is backing something, they will get a good product out there."

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