Taking tablets beyond key vertical markets

Taking tablets beyond key vertical markets

"The latest breakthrough with tablets is the development of dual core, which increases processing power," Niu said. "In the past, there were only indoor or outdoor versions - not a combination of the two. We have models suited to extreme portability, harsh environments or general consumer use."

In addition to specialised software, resellers can add a number of ruggedised cases - including harsh environment padding - depending on vertical market requirements. Sales would lift once Microsoft's Windows Vista was released next year, Sager predicted, because the operating system's handwriting recognition feature supports tablet PCs.

"This will save users the hassle of switching between the general Windows and Tablet PC operating systems," he said. "The tablet PC will become more integrated."

Acer's Tobin also expected to see more tablet sales once Vista is launched.

"Vista will increase opportunities because there will be no separate operating system management," he said. "That has been the biggest issue. Many organisations wanted to roll out the technology but didn't want to manage it separately."

Looking ahead

Microsoft's chief software architect, Bill Gates, has predicted a future where every student has a tablet PC instead of textbooks.

"While we haven't seen that kind of movement yet, the Vista release will increase opportunities in hardware and software development," Tobin said.

Tablet criticism has included problems associated with portability because they are often heavy and awkward. A shortage of third-party applications has also been a worry for users, although IDC's Sager pointed out that this number was on the rise. He said handwriting recognition applications were the most popular.

The digitised screen in the Tablet PC version of Microsoft Windows, for example, lets users incorporate handwritten input into Office applications, annotate documents imported from a server or another computer, instantly change views from portrait to landscape mode and use pen gestures to perform functions such as pointing, clicking, selecting and dragging.

Additionally, one of the most appealing features of Tablet PC is Microsoft's Journal application. It lets users capture thoughts on the computer just as though they were handwriting on a piece of paper.

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