The Tablet computer was released with considerable fanfare in late 2002 as the new paradigm in portable computers, ready to save a flaccid market.
It has a touch screen digitiser, but is mostly a notebook computer (sometimes minus keyboard and mouse, which may be optional) at a higher price point.
You can transcribe notes by hand into the tablet computer, just like using a $2 pen and paper, except a pen still works when computer batteries are flat. Obviously a considerable boon for those of you whose education neglected typing skills, or whose workplace can't afford a shorthand typist. Use digital ink to make notes, just like an old fashioned Etch-A-Sketch, or any cheap pocket organiser.
It also has handwriting recognition, which you may recall from the many Doonesbury jokes about how well the Newton handled that. This changes handwriting into what you would have typed, except probably with more errors. Indeed, given that the recogniser probably checks and corrects the spelling, it probably means lots of correctly spelled words that are not precisely the terms intended. We can hope that someone reviews any contracts written on a tablet computer.
You can add digital ink to regular Microsoft applications, thus creating a file that can't be read by anyone else. What an advance!
Microsoft claim the tablet PC supports legacy applications, but since it totally lacks legacy ports for printers and serial devices, it can't work with your old laser printers, your GPS and mapping software, or even older PDAs. If you have a fancy Smart Home, using X10 controls, it will not connect to the controllers (which have serial connections).
You can send your digital ink scribblings via email, however don't expect anyone using a different computer to read it.
Wireless communication is expected to be a big feature of the tablet PC. Potential users should probably note that most wireless networks lack competent administrators. As a result, wireless networks are generally so insecure that computer crackers love them. If planning on using a Tablet PC or any wireless network), you should ensure your network administrator is fully aware of the security implications. If you are doing this at home, how good is your security?
The manufacturers offering models initially are expected to include Acer, Hewlett Packard Compaq, Fujitsu, Motion Computig, NEC, Panasonic, Tatung, Toshiba, ViewSonic, WalkAbout and Xplore Technologies.
The operating system is Microsoft XP Tablet PC Edition, and the entire concept is being heavily pushed by Microsoft.