Introduction to Tablet PCs


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The Tablet PC is a notebook or slate-shaped mobile computer that is approximately the size of a paper tablet. It gives us portability, flexibility and usability that are changing the way we work with our computers. Its touch screen or digitizing tablet technology allows the user to operate the computer with a stylus or digital pen instead of a keyboard or mouse.

Tablet PCs will have two formats: the “convertible" model with an integrated keyboard and a display that rotates 180 degrees and can be folded down over the keyboard, and the “slate" model with only a screen and pen. They can use external wireless or USB keyboards. The most popular convertible tablet PCs are the Acer and Toshiba. The most popular slates are the Motion Computing/Gateway Computers, Fujitsu, and HP/Compaq.

Many Tablet PCs use a Wacom digitizer, which delivers pen-position input to the computer at a fast rate. Tablets with these digitizers project a small magnetic field above the screen that interacts with electronics in the tablet's stylus. The user therefore is able to rest their hand on the screen without affecting the image or mouse pointer; only movement of the stylus affects the mouse pointer.

Tablet PCs became available to the general public with the introduction of Microsoft's Windows Tablet PC Edition in the fall of 2002. Before then they were used in small markets in industry, medicine, and government. Now they are used by students and many professionals.

Let us now have a look at the improvements in Tablet PCs:

  • The battery life of Tablet PCs has increased a great deal. This gives us more freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it. We're free to take our computers into meetings and classrooms and to take notes the way that's most familiar, by writing. Centrino technology has improved. This means that more powerful processors can be used with little or no loss of battery life compared to lower powered CPUs.

  • Better wireless support allows us to log on to networks more easily than ever, with built in firewire. All this convenience comes packaged in a 3 pound computer that's not much bigger than a paper tablet.

  • Those who don't type have the option to use handwriting, can use keyboard to enter data. Others may prefer speech input, or a combination of both. We're free to take our computers into meetings and classrooms and to take notes the way that's most familiar, by writing.

  • Tablet PCs are lighter than the majority of notebooks. Most weigh about 3 pounds or less. Size is also smaller, with the Tablet PC about the size of a paper tablet. Some of the newer Tablets have larger screen sizes or built-in drives. These can increase the weight considerably.

  • The Tablet PC uses a low or ultra-low voltage CPU chip that's actually considerably faster than its “number" indicates. This also improves battery life. With the introduction of the Intel Centrino and Dothan, the Intel-based Tablet PCs will be comparable with faster desktops. As an example, according to Intel, a Centrino 1.6Ghz processor is comparable to 2.4Ghx Pentium4-M.

  • Some Tablet PC models are including a CDRW-DVD drive within the unit. Some have USB or firewire models available. There are also third party drives available.

  • The Tablet PC can use the pen technology in PowerPoint presentations, etc. These annotations can be saved for future presentations or erased completely. Using a Tablet PC with a projector allows the presenter to annotate slides, etc as he speaks.

  • The Tablet PC can be used in both portrait and landscape modes. A touch of the button changes it instantly. There's no need to reboot.

  • Tablet PCs generally use a 1024x768 screen resolution. High-resolution displays and Microsoft's Clear Type display technology make the Tablet PC an excellent reading platform. Video is also improving with one model offering a resolution of 1400x1050.

  • Some Tablet PCs offer fingerprint scanners for increased security. There are also 3rd party devices such as USB pen drives that contain a security lock. Without the pen drive, the information on the Tablet PC is irretrievable.

    Tablet PCs are changing the way we use computers. They’ll continue to do so and in more ways than we’re currently envisioning. As this year progresses, expect to see more innovations in features and size and even more availability and features galore, including dual core processors and better graphics.

    Robert Scheer researches and writes about Tablet PC computers for

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