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Microsoft

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 517

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-look-at dept.
WallsRSolid writes "Microsoft just finished a week-long series of lectures and demos at my university, and the product that really stole the show was the Tablet PC. I was in a room with probably 150 hardcore linux users, and it seemed to me that the demonstration just floored them (the entire lecture hall CHEERED a Microsoft product). I believe that Microsoft's own online hype literature is insufficient in describing just how powerful their Tablet concept is. A July preview, Acer's propaganda, a press release about their initial success, and a behind-the-scenes account (good article) of the enabling technology. Oh, and the input stylus is electromagnetic, not pressure-sensing, ANY document (not just MS) can be annotated, and the journal software is AMAZING in its power and flexibility."
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Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:02AM (#4541248)
    1: Write free software.
    2: ?
    3: Make proprietary software.
    4: Profit!
  • hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Em Emalb (452530) <ememalb@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:03AM (#4541251) Homepage Journal
    I do believe the earth just ripped open, pigs have wings, and it might just be me, but it's awful cold down here....
  • by tiltowait (306189) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:03AM (#4541252) Homepage Journal
    Tablet PCs are touch screens with handwriting recognition that run software just like a desktop personal computer. Early designs have been released and the first generation of models are expected to hit the market in late 2002. read and learn [dmoz.org] more.
    • by Ivan Raikov (521143) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:22AM (#4541367) Homepage
      [...] Early designs have been released and the first generation of models are expected to hit the market in late 2002.

      Uh, no. The IBM ThinkPad 710 [ibm.com] was out in 1993, and it featured an electromagnetic stylus. Once again, no innovation whatsoever on part of Microsoft.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:31AM (#4541405)
        The whole innovation behind this has nothing to do with the electrostatic input device. MSoft is not in the business of sensors. Plenty of devices have had these kinds of input screens.

        IBM just used it ala mouse-input. Microsoft is allowing people to use digital ink as a first class citizen in the computing world. It's a whole new way of looking at computing.

        TabletPC is not some sort of handwriting recognition on steroids, it is a way of combining standard text with ink-based input, and allowing you to freely go between the two without effort.
        • by Ivan Raikov (521143) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:39AM (#4541448) Homepage
          IBM just used it ala mouse-input. Microsoft is allowing people to use digital ink as a first class citizen in the computing world. It's a whole new way of looking at computing.

          I don't speak marketing weaselese, so I don't know what "digital ink" is, but IBM had a little application that let you write with the stylus in say, a text entry box, and it would convert it to text on the fly. I'm also pretty sure Apple Newton did the same thing, and before that a research group in Stanford was developing similar principles. A whole new way of looking at computing? I think not.
        • by GlenRaphael (8539) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:14PM (#4542224) Homepage
          Microsoft is allowing people to use digital ink as a first class citizen in the computing world. It's a whole new way of looking at computing.

          Bill Gates rolls out the "Tablet PC" concept every few years at his CES presentations, and it's always been a minor reinvention of the Apple Newton presented as if Microsoft had thought of it on their own. Reflowable "ink text" could be used almost everywhere on the Newton that you could use printed text. There are a few fun new features in Tablet PC but nothing I've seen justifies the "whole new way of looking at computing" rhetoric. However, even if the core ideas aren't original, they are still important. I'm glad somebody with deep pockets is reinventing the Newton Notepad concept because it was a really great way to take notes and Apple seems to have abandoned the technology.

          Oh, and about that electromagnetic sensor: Early researchers in pen computing noticed that when peaple write on a large pad of paper they tend to rest the heel of their hand on it. This interferes with accurate touch-screen input and is why the AT&T Eo and the tablet-sized prototype Newton called "Bic" [geocities.com] and other early attempts at large-screen recognition used electromagnetic input.

      • by cmeans (81143) <cmeans@@@intfar...com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:48PM (#4542366) Homepage Journal
        Don't forget about the Compaq Concerto [yimg.com]. I've still got mine...a wonderful machine that ran Pen Windows (an OEM'd extension of Windows v3.1), but it was possible to upgrade it to Win95 without too much trouble. (It was even a small feature of the movie Die Hard 3 [imdb.com]...remeber the machine controlling the bomb in the park?)

      • by Ivan Raikov (521143) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:50PM (#4542381) Homepage
        Here's a nice, big photograph of the TP 710T [impress.co.jp] for moderators who modded this as a troll. I have a 710T at home.
  • by KeatonMill (566621) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:03AM (#4541256)
    I doubt they cheered because it was Microsoft, but because it was a tablet PC. As the article says, people have been trying to make an effective tablet PC for years. Maybe Microsoft will *&@% it up, but at least now we know that it CAN be done, and maybe other companies will figure out how to do it as well. I hope
  • by kitzilla (266382) <paperfrogNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:04AM (#4541258) Homepage Journal
    ...is their desktop OS monopoly, not than their applications. If they've done something cool, power to 'em. It'll be amusing seeing somebody copying M$, rather than the other way around.
  • how long.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by EvilStein (414640) <spam&pbp,net> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:04AM (#4541259) Homepage
    before:
    1)People get one and install Linux onto it (eleven seconds)
    2)Someone tries to make a beowulf cluster (fourteen minutes)
    3)We see them on eBay (4 days)
    4)That hinge thing on the Acer one gets broken (0.5345 seconds after the warranty expires)
  • Almost there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe U (443617) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:04AM (#4541265) Homepage Journal
    Acer just needs to add more RAM and and DVD video into their tablet and this will be a laptop (and portable DVD player) killer product.
  • timing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ayeco (301053) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:06AM (#4541276)
    Why is it that a tablet pc now gets cheers, as compared to a few years ago when all attempts for a tablet product fell on deaf ears (besides specialized applications)?

    Since the PDA craze is still hot, I suppose a new piece of hardware with some new, nifty software features is enough to get this thing some thumbs up. I've always wondered why there weren't hinges on laptops like this one. It seems like a no brainer (touch screen or not - a mouse/stick/pad on the side of the screen would have worked too).

    It all about timing. Flexibility is finally "in".
    • Re:timing (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cornjchob (514035) <thisiswherejunkgoes@gmail.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:40AM (#4541452)
      A few years ago, the miniaturization and processing power just weren't there, let alone the LCD capabilities. You need the miniaturization because you need smaller components to run cooler; a proc that's running at 120 directly behind an lcd screen will probably do more bad than good. You'll need the processing power because good handwriting recognition/speech recognition requires a relatively good amount of it, not to mention very good algorithims and a lot of RAM to store the reference characters in. And to make LCD screens that large with LCD screen drivers that small is an accomplishment in and of itself. Sometimes the public isn't ready because the product isn't ready.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:06AM (#4541279)
    Hellooooo... These are nothing new. I've had a Stylistic 1200 [the-labs.com] for years now, with the battery stylus, I'd prefer touch instead. Been running WinXX variant on it as well as different Linux dists. Nothing new here. More powerful, sure. Bigger screen, yep. But "Microsoft's concept"? Please. Not to mention they're taking a generic term, "tablet PC" and trying to make it a branding of their own product. Ridiculous.
    • by Wylfing (144940) <brian AT wylfing DOT net> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:34AM (#4541421) Homepage Journal
      I've had a Stylistic 1200 [the-labs.com] for years now, with the battery stylus, I'd prefer touch instead. Been running WinXX variant on it as well as different Linux dists. Nothing new here. More powerful, sure. Bigger screen, yep. But "Microsoft's concept"? Please.

      This is SOP for Microsoft, though. They always destroy someone else's innovative technology via the usual anticompetitive means (or just plain FUD), then release that same technology a few years later amid great fanfare as if it is a great new idea from Microsoft.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:36AM (#4541429)
      Nothing new here?? Did you read the article? Try the MSR artcile. What's new here is the "ink text." It lets you store your article as in digital ink text and drawing. Plus you'll be able to edit & search your text later. Letters written in ink text are NOT stored as typed letters. Get it?
      • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:51PM (#4541805) Homepage
        Don't spout about that which you don't know.

        I used to annotate my documents using digital ink editing marks and notes and digital ink diagrams as well as write some documents using natural handwriting recognition on my Fujitsu Stylistic using PenOffice. This particular model was more half a decade old -- it had a Pentium 100 CPU and an 800x600 display and ran Windows 95 + Office 95.

        This is nothing new.

        What happened to my Stylistic running Windows 95? I replaced it with an Apple Newton, yet another product which allows you to store digital in annotations and sketches for office documents and then recognize them later if you wish, but which is half the size of the Stylistic. The Newton 2000 was also released half more than half a decade ago. The Newton even has a cute "digital ink eraser" technique for editing your sketches and annotations.

        Most of the technology Microsft is demonstrating right now has been licensed from existing products (like PenOffice and Calligrapher) that have been on the market for years already. It's not exactly a secret.

        Yes, we read the article. But do you know what you're talking about?
    • by tswinzig (210999) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:22PM (#4541678) Journal
      The keys to why Microsoft will be successful:

      1) Good handwriting recognition.
      2) Office w/good handwriting integration.
      3) Developers, developers, developers...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:07AM (#4541283)
    I believe that Microsoft's own online hype literature is insufficient in describing just how powerful their Tablet concept is.

    "So I'll post it to slashdot, where the insufficient online literature is the only thing they'll have to go on, and therefore pooh-pooh the whole thing. Excellent! *evil grin*"

  • Old News (Score:5, Funny)

    by llamaluvr (575102) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:09AM (#4541295) Journal
    Tablet PC?! Electromagnetic input pen?! I'm pretty sure Fisher-Price [fisher-price.com] made the same thing like 25 years ago!
  • by sitturat (550687) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:10AM (#4541304) Homepage
    I don't know why people think a keyboard is such a bad thing. I can type much better than I can write, and I expect that goes for most PC users under the age of 50.

    My laptop gives me amazing mobility. I can even use it without having a desk by putting it on my lap (hence the name LAPtop).

    I just don't understand what is so revolutionary about the Tablet PC. Can someone please enlighten me?
    • by Anonymous DWord (466154) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:28AM (#4541395) Homepage
      Nothing's wrong with a keyboard. That's why it has one. But having worked in places where people can't type as well as they can write (and I assure you I wouldn't go with "most" for describing the alternate), I can see why people would like this. Some people write much better than they type. Some people want to just speak and have their words appear. I don't want to be a fanboy of a product that's not shipping yet, but it seems to me that those options would be the most appealing part to this, especially if they work out of the box.
    • by rseuhs (322520) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:40AM (#4541453)
      Microsoft tells it's revolutionary to make an oversized, noisy and heavy PDA. Isn't that enough as a reason for you?

      Seriously, I have really, honestly thought of situations in which a tablet-PC might be useful. In all cases, a currently existing, cheaper, more reliable and readily available PDA would have been better though.

      The only thing I would see as a possible use is for graphic artists which might need a large touchscreen. Yeah, that's possibly nicer than with a graphics tablet (although I'm no graphics artist). But other than that, I don't see any real use.

      And that's the reason why all tablet-PC attempts have failed so far.

    • by BigJimSlade (139096) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:47AM (#4541494) Homepage
      I don't know why people think a keyboard is such a bad thing. I can type much better than I can write, and I expect that goes for most PC users under the age of 50.

      That's quite an assumption you're making there. I know quite a few people that can take notes better than they can type on a keyboard, especially a subnote keyboard with extra small keys.

      While I will concede that they are not really revolutionary or anything, I think it's a nice concept. I especially like the "slate" PC, although I haven't seen any specs on those yet. All these PCs should have a hardware button on the screen that allows an instant switch between landscape and portrait layouts. Sounds like a more full-featured eBook-reading platform.

      Will I buy one? Certainly not at the ~$4500 price point I've seen in some articles on the Acer. They'll need to get the price down before I consider one. Anyway, I'm waiting for the iSlate/iTablet/iWhatever from Apple that will do the same thing. (pleasePleasePlease!)
      • by PythonOrRuby (546749) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:14PM (#4542219)
        I'm of the opinion that Apple either won't do a tablet, or at least such a product wouldn't last long. Why?

        In order to get people to enjoy using a computer it either has to be reasonably adaptable to their needs, or very tightly targeted.

        The iPod is a perfect demonstration of the latter. It's a killer MP3 player. It has a few extras, but those are just icing on the cake, rather than something people expect of it. Thus every new feature is a treat, rather than an obligation. The iPod is also quite successful.

        The problem with a tablet is that it has a relatively big color screen and versatile input. I expect to be able to do pretty much anything I can do on my iMac on an iTablet. I expect a tablet to be fully functional without depending on a desktop for anything(and for that matter, I don't want a concept where removing the tablet from the equation cripples my desktop).

        But this means that a tablet has to have pretty much everything a compact, yet fully-featured(like the iBook, rather than one that requires a "docking station") laptop. Double hinged screen or not, the "tablet" then becomes cumbersome. My Mead 70 page notebook doesn't weigh nearly as much as even the lightest laptop.

        The tablet concept is something that wants to be too many things at one time. It either has to wait for technology to become light and thin enough to make truly lightweight, non-crippled laptops, or it has to be more specifically targeted as a middle ground between the laptop and PDA. Right now it's just too close to being a laptop with a fancy screen to distinguish itself from that already-saturated market.

    • by tswinzig (210999) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:01PM (#4541561) Journal
      I don't know why people think a keyboard is such a bad thing.

      It's an extra piece of equipment to carry around, you have to sit down to use it adequately, and it requires two hands to operate at a reasonable speed (no chord keyboard rebuttals, please).

      However, all that being said, there is nothing stopping keyboards from being integrated with tablet pc's that Microsoft is showing off. Some do have that as an option.

      I can type much better than I can write

      No one is saying you'd have to write EVERYTHING on a tablet PC! Read the articles about them. Go see a demo. That's not the point. The point is you CAN walk around with it like a notebook and make notes, do cool things standing up and moving around with a PC easily, then set it down on your desk and sync up with keyboard, mouse, etc.
    • by tbradshaw (569563) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:05PM (#4542184) Homepage
      I can tell you exactly what the limitation of a keyboard is... you can't draw with it. At least not quickly. I noticed this shortcoming of my laptop just this Friday while I was in a review session for a biology class. As per usual, I had my laptop out and I was diligently... well... I was at least taking *some* notes during the session for later perusal. Then, while going into genetics, the instructor showed a method of completing the genetics problems that actually involved drawing the allels and chromatids and combining that simple and effective artwork with the typical table used to find genotype/phenotype probabilities. It was so simple, so elegent, and I couldn't find a damn way to get that quickly (I'm in a lecture after all) down into my text file or word processing document. All I could think of was. Damn, I wish I could just pull out a stylus and draw this on my screen. I ended up whipping out my mad ascii art skills from days of BBS yore. But I would have much rather had a stylus.
  • Chinese Characters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:12AM (#4541314)
    the article states: "Handwriting recognition in the Tablet PC will be a boon for Asian consumers. Chinese and Japanese are pictorial languages with thousands of characters - it is a Herculean task to input these characters into an electronic document."

    A herculean task to input these characters into an electronic document? Hardly. In fact I think it's quite the contrary. I've had experience with many Japanese who actually find it easier to type out their language phonetically and have the computer list potential chinese character matches than writing by hand. This saves them from having to recall stroke orders for obscure characters, and is actually faster. Typing two 10 stroke characters phonetically may take four or six key strokes, which is much quicker than 20 hand written strokes.

    But then the article then goes on to point out that they have algorithms for two to four stroke characters. This makes me think they are only looking to allow input via Hiragana or Katakana - the phonetic based Japanese character sets. Maybe they understand that the task of recognizing characters with upwards of 15 strokes is overkill and maybe simply beyond reach right now.
    • by KJKHyperion (593204) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:11PM (#4541613)
      the article states: "Handwriting recognition in the Tablet PC will be a boon for Asian consumers. Chinese and Japanese are pictorial languages with thousands of characters - it is a Herculean task to input these characters into an electronic document."

      Not only this is perfectly feasible, but Microsoft already has such a technology. To see it in action, install the support for Japanese on Windows (any version above NT 4 and 98 should do), and activate the Japanese input method in an Unicode-aware application (for example Opera, or NT Notepad). Open the IME pad (left-click on the red pen icon in the system tray, select the menu item), activate the hand-writing mode (click on the menu that displays the current input mode, "Soft Keyboard" by default, to get the list of modes), and experiment

      Keyboard input is also possible: write the translitteration of the word, and a drop-down menu will present all the ideograms that match, and remember your choice for the future

  • I smell a rat. (Score:3, Flamebait)

    by surfacearea (219926) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:12AM (#4541316)
    I was in a room with probably 150 hardcore linux users, and it seemed to me that the demonstration just floored them (the entire lecture hall CHEERED a Microsoft product). I believe that Microsoft's own online hype literature is insufficient in describing just how powerful their Tablet concept is. ...

    Oh, and the input stylus is electromagnetic, not pressure-sensing, ANY document (not just MS) can be annotated, and the journal software is AMAZING in its power and flexibility.

    You can't call Microsoft's stuff hype, and then make a post like this. This is hype. I don't think I need to say anything more.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:18AM (#4541335) Homepage Journal
    This writeup sounds familiar [bayarea.com].

    I've yet to see a house full of Linux "hardcore" geeks even warm up to a Microshaft presentation. And I've lived in the "geek world" for many many years.

    Just so you know: I have seen the Tablet PC; and most of the people (techies) who were with me were thoroughly unimpressed. I don't know what "Linux crowd" you hang out with, but check their foreheads for butterflies....

    • Don't be too sure (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dsfox (2694) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:27AM (#4541390) Homepage
      Microsoft Research went on an incredible hiring spree in the mid 90s, Picking up a majority of the top researchers in some fields. I'm surprised more killer products haven't come out of there since, apart from the difficulty of bringing products from reasearch to production I always observered at Bell Labs.
      • Re:Don't be too sure (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jejones (115979) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:48AM (#4541497) Journal
        Depends on MS's purpose in hiring them. It may be that as long as MS can keep the best talent from working for somebody else, it doesn't matter whether they actually produce anything at all.
        • by Planesdragon (210349) <`su.enotsleetseltsac' `ta' `todhsals'> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @01:05PM (#4541883) Homepage Journal
          Depends on MS's purpose in hiring them. It may be that as long as MS can keep the best talent from working for somebody else, it doesn't matter whether they actually produce anything at all.

          What?

          If a corporation spends a sufficient ammount of money for someone, they're certainly going to put them to work. If they don't produce anything, they probably get fired--and if they produce something that can make MS $, they probably get some sort of bonus.

          "Buy to sit on" makes sense for patents, copyrights, and trademarks--but not for people.
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sleestack (94766) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:20AM (#4541353)
    Exactly how are these features beneficial?

    I learned typing so that I didn't need to use such a painfully slow method as handwriting anymore. Why is everyone so delighted that your WPM is going down?

    As far as speaking, I don't know about the rest of you, but voice processing is useless for me practically everywhere I use a computer: On the train, in meetings, and at my desk. Everytime I've heard someone use a Dragon speech product I almost immediately hear someone else asking them to turn it off because it's annoying.
  • by rseuhs (322520) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:21AM (#4541359)
    ... seems to be to desperately try to put a x86 in place of every electronic device.

    Just look at XBox: Big, loud, fragile, power-consuming, sold at 150$ loss - and still behind Gamecube and Playstation.

    Now the same with Tablet-PC: Isn't it just an oversized PDA? The way I see it, it combines the disadvantages from PDA and Laptop: It's too heavy and big to casually carry it around in a pocket, battery lifetime is measured in hours like with a Laptop. - But it lacks a keyboard, many interfaces and connectors.

    Why should anybody choose it over a Laptop? or a PDA?

  • by dlevitan (132062) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:22AM (#4541365)
    I've used a palm for a long time, but I've realized one thing - writing on a piece of plastic is nothing compared to writing on a good sheet of paper. For example, my signature is consistent on paper. With the electronic signature things more stores are getting, I have a problem with my signature because the tablet doesn't feel the same way as paper. It seems like too little friction or something, but it doesn't doesn't feel right. So until I can write on real electronic paper that feels like paper, I don't think I want to spend another $500 on a tablet pc that I'll end up being annoyed with.
  • by hopbine (618442) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:22AM (#4541369)
    If the handwriting recognition software is as good as they say it is, give one to every doctor - that way we will all understand the damn prescriptions.
  • by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:22AM (#4541370) Journal
    Swap the stock photo girl out with Heidi Wall chicken-scratching GIMP under X windows, and I'll buy one. Tell me I can bash alias a frowny face to /dev/null and I'll buy two. Tell me someone's working on a GUI iptables interface where I can flick digital bugs with my index finger, and I'll swap out my router. And if I can get it with an at&t natural voice Majel Barrett module, I'll wet my pants and run around in little circles. Now to resurrect a cliche- will it run linux? oops, I mean, how long til it runs linux?
  • by NotoriousQ (457789) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:30AM (#4541402) Homepage
    and saw the tablet pc. Not all of those 150 people were rabid linux users. In fact I am quite certain there were not even 50. But you obviously misundertood what impressed the people. Noone cared that you could copy and paste ink. That is trivial. Annotations are passed through the bitmaps, as the guy specifically mentioned. Yawn. What impressed me and a ton of other people in the room was the kick ass handwriting recognition. I have not seen one that worked that well yet. For those of you who have not seen it, the recognizer is not line based, so it can form chunks of recognizable text at any position and angle. Nothing too mind boggling, but definitely a technical feat.
    • by zenyu (248067) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:45PM (#4541777)
      What impressed me and a ton of other people in the room was the kick ass handwriting recognition.

      Try writing fuck into it, won't work. It's not in their dictionary, you have to write one letter at a time, takes 3x as long as grafitti. I saw a PhD thesis with this level of handwriting regognition a couple years ago. It is impressive that it made it to market so quickly, but technically not very impressive.

      I do want one of those tablets though. It's got one of those Wacom tablets under the LCD which makes it like a real dynabook. The first prototypes I saw were completely unusable because the screen was so thick that you got lots of parallax. But the Acer doesn't have a glass covering the screen so it's completely usable. The glass used to be there to protect the LCD, so no heavy handed drawing on the Acer. Unfortunately the Acer is very fragile in many other ways too, but I think if Apple ever makes one of these it will be great.

      You don't use it as a tablet when browsing the web or writing anything significant. But if you want to draw something it is much nicer than a wacom tablet, you get feedback right under the pen. And since the screen is soft you get a better feel.* Unlike a PDA you have everything a Wacom tablet has, pressure sensitivity, pen angle, and accuracy. The handwriting recognition is fine for writing the small anotations it's intended for, just insert your words into the dictionary first.

      *BTW if you've tried a Wacom tablet but didn't like it, fastening a piece of paper on top of the drawing surface gives it a much better feel. You get some of that friction you get using a pencil on paper.

  • fun for artists (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kisrael (134664) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:36AM (#4541430) Homepage
    Tablet technology seems like it would be great for doodlers and maybe other artists, depending on the sensitivity of the input device. It'll be great when my big ol' LCD monitor can be taken off of its stand and used on my lap for a bit of drawing.

    On the other hand, right now, when I see the pictures all I can think is that it looks like a comically over-seized PDA.
  • guerilla marketing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonbrewer (11894) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:36AM (#4541432) Homepage
    Again I believe Slashdot has fallen victim to guerilla marketing. Were the poster in fact a real person, they would have linked to their university.

    The post might as well have been straight from a textbook. No facts, just unsubstantiated hype.

    The question is: who is the poster working for? Acer? Microsoft?

    (And the next question is, why is Taco falling for this shit?)
    • by Damion (13279) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @05:21PM (#4543251) Journal
      Actually, WallsRSolid is a friend of mine. The university in question is Carnegie Mellon. Microsoft really was here last week, and the reaction to them really was, in all truth an honesty, a positive one.
      I've been absolutely astounded on the number of people in this discussion who have completely blown off the topic. Microsoft does produce some quality products, and they are very attractive as employers (the purpose of the visit was one of recruitment), despite all of the Evil Empire BS that flies around.
  • Tried one yesterday (Score:5, Informative)

    by joebp (528430) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:36AM (#4541434) Homepage
    My dad got one of the Acer's a few days ago in order to test his company's software on it. I had a go in the local cybercafe down the road.

    Pro's:

    Nice feeling pens (there are two)

    The swivel idea is nice, abeit a little fiddly.

    It looks cool!

    It's pretty small and light

    Windows Journal is very nice

    Con's:

    Windows XP is as slow as a dog! I don't know what spec the machine is, but there is very noticable latency between clicking and menu's appearing for example. This might have something to do with it having an absolute shitpile graphics card.

    There is no positive feedback that you have clicked. A tiny click sound would improve usability 110%. This is where the whole thing really fails. I found myself reverting to the touchpad in a few minutes because it was just so frustrating to try and double-click.

    The onscreen keyboard is good, but the handwriting recognition is both crap and slow (about 1.5 seconds delay after writing 'jpixton').

    The screen has a protector on it which makes it rather reflective.

    Fiddly as fuck for clicking anything small. They really need to realise you can't just use a pen with windows which was designed to be used with a mouse. They need to alter the user interface to be more usable with a pen!!

  • by RainbowSix (105550) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:38AM (#4541439) Homepage
    Here is what floored everybody:

    You can open up a lecture slide on say, power point during a class, write notes on it in a spiraling circular fashion, then later search through your spiral scribble AS IF IT WERE TEXT. You write "foo," search for "foo" and "foo" in your hand writing will be highlighted.

    They did it during the presentation and it appeared to work very well.

    When I take notes in class I use paper and a pen because I like the variety in handwriting to help me remember things. If it were searchable... I'd buy on of these and I've used Linux exclusively for 2 years.
  • by niall2 (192734) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:45AM (#4541482) Homepage
    First Microsoft reinvented computing by giving us Windows 95 and now the tablet PC a little over eight years later in 2003. Brilliance.

    First Apple reinvented computing by giving us the Macintosh in 1984 and now the Newton a little over eight years yater in 1993. Brilliance.

    I guess the real question is when did PARC come up with all of this. 1978?

  • by standards (461431) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:47AM (#4541487)
    This is super exciting! Just a few questions!

    Microsoft just finished a week-long series of lectures and demos at my university

    What university?

    the product that really stole the show was the Tablet PC. I was in a room with probably 150 hardcore linux users, and it seemed to me that the demonstration just floored them (the entire lecture hall CHEERED a Microsoft product).

    What did they cheer for, other than nebulous "amazement?"

    I believe that Microsoft's own online hype literature is insufficient in describing just how powerful their Tablet concept is.

    What hype are you refering to, and exactly how is their "hype literature" insufficient?

    Oh, and the input stylus is electromagnetic, not pressure-sensing

    How is that better? Is an electromagnetic stylus a requirement of the Microsoft technology?

    ANY document (not just MS) can be annotated

    Can I annotate OpenOffice documents?

    the journal software is AMAZING in its power and flexibility.

    What exactly does it do that's powerful and flexible?

    More details please! I don't feel the amazement yet - perhaps you could tell us all why we should be amazed! Then we'll love you!

    • by generic-man (33649) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:44PM (#4541770) Homepage Journal
      Your anti-Microsoft advocacy is priceless. By countering hype with FUD, you will go far on this Internet-site.

      What university?

      Carnegie Mellon University.

      What did they cheer for, other than nebulous "amazement?"

      They cheered for the fact that their product blends handwriting recognition with Windows applications that are already in widespread use. Advantages over Palm OS: Larger, color screen; easier ability to add wireless. Advantages over Newton: Tablet PC has a large company actively backing it; larger, color screen; compatible with Office and other widely-used applications. Advantages over Linux: the hwr-devel kernel module has been stuck at version 0.2.5a since 1997, and doesn't support any hardware made in the time since then.

      What hype are you refering to, and exactly how is their "hype literature" insufficient?

      Their hype literature [microsoft.com], like many such pages, is pretty shallow.

      How is that better? Is an electromagnetic stylus a requirement of the Microsoft technology?

      Yes.

      Can I annotate OpenOffice documents?

      Yes, with the openoffice-hwr-devel module, currently at version 0.0.1a on SourceForge. If you'd like to see this technology implemented, write it yourself. That's the power of open source.

      What exactly does it do that's powerful and flexible?

      It lets you use handwriting recognition.
  • The first one I attended was for an introduction of Frontpage along with NT4. Very posh circumstances in Bellevue with catered food (this was back in the "good ol' days). The demonstrations were slick beyond belief, done by smart, attractive people who did amazing things simply and easily. They gave us CDs with NT server, SQL server, Frontpage and NT workstation (all time-limited) and I was impressed enough to try them all.

    Oddly enough, nothing worked as well for me as it did for those smart, attractive demonstrators. Perhaps I wasn't smart (or attractive) enough but it seens more likely to me that the demonstrations were carefully staged to only show the best side of the product and hide any flaws.

    Of course, most presentations are like this... but this one sticks in my mind as a stark example. I've warned all our people to view all such "dog and pony shows" with a good deal of skepticism... but this goes double for those done by MS, in my opinion. What you see may not be what you get.
  • Tablet PC (Score:3, Informative)

    by yar (170650) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:51AM (#4541504)
    Microsoft is hyping the tablet PC because it uses their Operating System (Windows XP Tablet). Several companies are coming through with the hardware, including Acer, Compaq, and Motion [motioncomputing.com]. My university has had demonstrations of all three, a couple of them MS sponsored.

    In our demonstrations Microsoft never claimed credit for the tablet concept, and the demonstrators did acknowledge that the idea has been around for some time. They are selling the difference in that a) the new tablet PCs are now affordable and b) the OS can run anything Windows XP can run.

    For approximately the price of a laptop, you get a somewhat more mobile but less powerful laptop. Acer's includes an integrated keyboard. They are nifty, but I wouldn't say that the Linux users in the audience stood up and cheered by any stretch of the imagination. Right off the bat they have their drawbacks. CD/DVD isn't integrated (which would be difficult at that size, although they have lots of ports to use), the voice recognition is still somewhat weak, and as I mentioned, they are somewhat less powerful than laptops at the same price. On the other hand, people can carry them around like they're a pad, people can annotate in any program, it makes using drawing programs a lot better, and it has the best handwriting recognition software I've ever encountered (that is what impressed me the most).

    All in all, they are selling the tablet PC as "an idea that's time has come." I don't know if that's true; if my area decides to support them I will probably use one, but I wouldn't go out and purchase one myself at this point.
  • Tablet PC in person (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nexum (516661) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:09PM (#4541607)
    I've had an oportunity to use Microsoft's Tablet PC in person - A week or two ago a MS trailer was on the grounds of my University (Plymouth UK) mainly to shout about .Net, but they had a couple of TablePC's in the trailer too, one was an Acer, and I think the other was a Sharp.

    These are my personal impressions, your mileage may vary.

    First of all the handwriting recognition is not amazing. It does a fair job if you print in capitals, but writing joined up as neatly as possible gave unusable results. The recognition system really should have been better for the simple fact that when using a TabletPC you are not going to be leaning the device on table, but standing holding it in one hand with the pen in your other. This contributes to wobble (try writing neatly on a paper notepad with a pen while standing - notice your handwriting isn't so great?). So for a device like this, this is an important point - it should have been better, and as it is, I guess it's only *just* about passable.

    My other complaint about the handwriting is that the screens on both devices were very smooth, and this meant that there was very little tactile feedback when writing, which promotes large scribbly handwriting. Notice how when you use a normal pen and paper there is resistance as you write? This is not present and promotes bad handwriting.

    But enough about the handwriting - I really don't see how this is a revolutionary product. It's a laptop with handwriting recognition (and some have no keyboards).

    That is about it - and because of the form factor being so small on most of the available devices you lose out on a whole lot of functionality (DVD, good graphics HW, CD burning, Large HDD etc etc etc.)

    Plus, on the two devices Microsoft was showing off (so presumably the best two available devices) the battery life was appalling - at around 1 - 2 hours. For a portable device like this to succeed, we need to see 'day's use' longevity, which will probably realistically mean 6 -8 hours. So what gives, there are fully fledged notebooks available with TWICE the battery life of this device, which is supposed to be more personal and available 24/7 than a notebook.

    Plus (and it could be because I only had it for 20 mins) the way that Windows Tablet edition responds to the pen is very confusing, you write away and all of a sudden it thinks you are trying to press buttons, and all sorts of stuff gets clicked on, then it'll calm down for the last couple of words of your sentence and go back to recognising handwriting.

    And what's more, the two MS employees openly stated their pessimism for the devices, and admitted they had no idea how to use the interface.

    Plus - with the devices that are simply going to be like a notebook without the keyboard half (rather than the notebook like ones that have an actual keyboard that folds around to the back of the screen) how on earth is the screen protected? A pouch? A cover? If so - this seems more ungainly than a conventional ultralight notebook (Vaio, PowerBook G4 etc).

    And the things are *heavy*.

    Sorry, but I was very underwhelmed by the Tablet PC, and find it surprising to hear of this reaction (cheering, clapping) from *anybody* let alone people who you'd expect to understand more about the industry

    There is nothing special about the Tablet PC, it's *just a small notebook with handwriting recognition* - and my final justification is that apparently the devices will cost *A LOT* - thousands of GBP. -Peter
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:46PM (#4541780) Homepage
    Sheesh, Microsoft once again claims to have invented the wheel and everyone claps. Why is this?

    Tablet PCs have been around for more than a decade at least. Fujitsu has the Stylistic and Point lines (some of them very current and very powerful), Casio has the Fiva, Panasonic and Sharp have models, and even the IBM ThinkPad line was originally given its name because the first models were tablet PCs with essentially the same form factor. A number of smaller manufactueres have also been making high-end tablet PCs. Just go to eBay and search for 'tablet pc' and you'll se models running the gamut.

    Natural handwriting recognition that works has been around forever. The Newton line of PDAs (which admittedly had trouble in early revisions) had very accurate natural, full-speed handwriting recognition and the ability to annotate documents in ink on a largeish, screen by the mid-90's with the release of the 2000/2100 series. These things can open imported MS Office documents in NewtonWorks and you can mark them up to your heart's content. Meanwhile, Paragraph's Calligrapher (eventually to become Microsoft's Transcriber in a licensing deal) has been available for years for Windows CE tablet PCs (which aren't even mentioned among the models above) and also provided natural handwriting recognition and digital ink for annotating documents. The same Paragraph product for full-fledged tablet PC's was known as PenOffice and provided all of this functionality for users of Tablet PCs running full-fledged Windows. Even Microsoft has done this before (years before) with MS Pen Extensions.

    Why is it that Microsoft can always get away with digging up, licensing and/or copying a bunch of old technology that everyone has been before, then throwing a party and calling it their own new invention? It saddens me to think that ten years from now people will believe that MS invented the tablet PC, just like they now believe that Microsoft invented multitasking, databases, graphics, the mouse, the concept of application windows, and the Internet. :(
  • by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:49PM (#4541794) Homepage
    There goes my theory that Apple was going to bust open the tablet PC market. They have all the pieces ready to go, including handwriting technology, Bluetooth/WiFi, and Rendezvous zero-configuration networking.

    Imagine the flat-panel iMac without the connecting tube. Everybody says "the screen makes you want to touch it and adjust it" wouldn't it be cool if you could pick it up and carry it into the next office?

    Personally, I've been wishing for a nice wireless tablet PC for home use for a while. So I can read slashdot while plopped on the couch, of course. :-)
  • by blamanj (253811) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:55PM (#4541831)
    In the late 80's a concept called "Pen Computing" was the Next Big Thing. Companies like Grid were building the hardware, and companies like Go were designing software that would be appropriate to the platform.

    Along comes MS with vaporware called "Pen Windows" and the whole industry collapses because everyone wants to see what the 800 lb. gorilla is going to do. Naturally, attempting to kludge up an entirely new UI on top of Windows fails miserably, but not before everyone else runs out of money and the idea dies.

    Of course, there were other issues, CPU performance, LCD cost, etc. but the technology was relegated to the Newton (and the subsequent PDA industry) where it has languished for 15 years.
  • Corel Grafigo (Score:3, Informative)

    by frank249 (100528) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @01:57PM (#4542144)
    I was surprised that Corel's Grafigo Tablet grahics /colaboration application was not mentioned. It has already been previewed [corel.com] last Sept at Seybold and got good reviews [makeashorterlink.com] here [informationweek.com]. Corel started development early with Microsoft and designed it from scratch for the Tablet PC. From all accounts it is one of the best apps.
  • by robertmc (620899) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @01:58PM (#4542155) Homepage
    I am not a fan of Microsoft, but this time they are really on the right track. I work in the imaging field and got a chance to play with a Tablet PC over a two day period in July. I attended a conference with Microsoft's Bert Keely (who is in charge of the project) who guided me through its features.

    Comments from people who have never or barely used the machines should be discounted. The work done at Microsoft Research in the area of merging bitmap and vector algorithms and compression/journaling (per the "behind the scenes account") is far beyond anything of which I am aware on any competing platform.

    That said, the resources necessary to accomplish the promoted tasks are large and will affect battery life. When the machines debut on November 7th and become integrated into the lives of the targeted audience, I believe it will become clear that, this time anyway, Microsoft is farther down the road than anyone else.

    About half of all Americans cannot type or efficiently use a keyboard. Not surprisingly, that's also about the penetration of PC use in the general population. This could be Microsoft's bid to achieve similar penetration of such appliances as the television and the telephone.

  • by Ogerman (136333) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:21PM (#4542254)
    The technology required to truly replace pen and paper with something more effective is probably 10-20 years off. A 75-100 dpi LCD screen just doesn't cut it compared to a quality fine-tip pen on a piece of notebook paper. Neither does the lag of screen output and character recognition. And what more, these Tablet PC's are way too large and heavy.. and they use short-lived batteries.. and they're really, really expensive!

    When I brainstorm, sketch, diagram, etc. I use paper and pen. When I write, program, or do anything else structured, I use a keyboard. I have precisely zero need or desire for one of these "Tablet PC's."

    Now, a real piece of innovation would be "electronic paper" nearly as flat and flexible as the real thing. Think 400dpi with a reversible draw/erase stylus. But it should be dumb--nothing more than a reflective monochrome bitmap device. You draw to turn pixels on and erase to turn them off. And it's only interface would be to transfer these page bitmaps to and from my desktop or laptop. (where I can do character recognition if I really need it) This electronic paper would also be excellent for reading books, newspapers, docs, man pages, etc.
  • by konmaskisin (213498) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:54PM (#4542412) Journal
    and XRnR... make X capable of "recognizing" vectors scratched at any angle on *any screen* the server can communicate with.

    SVG is the killer secret computing technology. 10 years in the making in W3C labs, perfected by Gnome, built in to Mozilla and waiting to be bundled into X and ....

    BLOW EVERYTHING OUT OF THE WATER!
  • by g4dget (579145) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @06:47PM (#4543640)
    Microsoft stole this market from several other companies more than a decade ago: they preannounced a product, faked demos by connecting a video player to a tablet, and lied about the software they had developed. As a result, investors lost confidence in the chances of companies like Go, because they would be facing competition from a superior product from Microsoft "soon".

    Well, "soon" turned out to be 2002. Let's not add insult to injury by ascribing these ideas to Mirosoft. Ink, ink journals, annotation, and handwriting recognition were not invented by Microsoft.

    I think people also overestimate the difficulty of putting this kind of software together. If Tablet PCs catch on and become widely available, I think you will see a similar Linux/X11 infrastructure within a year. X11 is actually more modular and better suited to building this kind of software than Windows.

  • by Zapdos (70654) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @07:12PM (#4543783)
    Where I work 80,000+ employees, most have workstations, we will avoid these like the plague. Most Large and Medium coorporations will, the employee trust factor is much too high. This will be a niche thing.

    Now if they came with bolt holes so we can bolt them to the desk..

  • Microsoft HARDWARE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Simon Garlick (104721) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @07:14PM (#4543790)
    ...is, in my experience, almost always fantastic. I for one could not live without a 5-button Intellimouse Explorer and a Natural Pro keyboard, and I have MS gamepads and joysticks for gaming.

    Say what you want about Microsoft's software, marketing, and management... but their hardware products are amazingly good.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles

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