The Tablet PC resembles a clipboard, which places it between a Pocket PC and a laptop in size and concept.
The computer was shown for the first time during Microsoft chairman Bill Gates' keynote speech at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. "There has been more fighting over who gets to use this prototype than anything we've ever done," Gates said.
The key feature of the Tablet PC is the ability to manipulate the "electronic ink" input. This handwritten text can be manipulated in the same way that typed text can - it can be highlighted, cut and pasted, made bold and italicised. Handwritten text can even be used as a search item.
The standalone device, which was demonstrated running the beta version of the next Windows release, Whistler, runs all the usual applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and offers the same Internet connectivity as a desktop or notebook PC.
The Tablet is designed to connect wirelessly to desktop systems and currently supports the IEEE802.11 wireless local area network standard. But it will eventually support Bluetooth or any widely-used wireless standard, according to Alexandra Loeb, general manager of Microsoft's Tablet PC division.
Loeb said Microsoft aims to have Tablet PCs available by 2002, with specific timing depending on testing, software development and the design and production schedules of its partners.
For more on Microsoft see www.itnetwork.com