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Microsoft plans tablet application for Office

Karl Schneider
Microsoft is developing a completely new category of Office application that will support people who attend meetings and events, according to the company's chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer hinted at the new offering when he spoke to a packed audience of IT managers at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando last week. He was almost certainly referring to a product code-named Xdocs, which will allow users to manipulate documents written in XML.

Ballmer said Microsoft aimed to ensure that people attending meetings like the Gartner event would, in future, use a PC rather than a pen and paper to take notes.

Microsoft's new product would enable users to make notes and connect them to video, powerpoint presentations and other types of information. "Notes could be synchronised to events in a video," Ballmer said.

The new product would form part of the Microsoft Office range, Ballmer said, although he did not reveal any more details of the product or say when it would be released.

A few days earlier, Microsoft had unveiled the first details about Xdocs, which, the company said, would allow companies to create form-like documents that could be used by employees to gather information and then deliver it in XML to back-end systems.

A more detailed announcement could be timed to coincide with the launch of Windows-based tablet PCs from several suppliers, including HP/Compaq and Toshiba, expected early next month.

The product appears to be ideally suited to the new devices, which use an active "pen" to write directly on to the screen, coupled with advanced handwriting recognition software to convert the screen images generated into searchable text.

Hewlett-Packard was privately showing its new tablet device to delegates at the Gartner event this week.

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