Gates continues to tout tablet PC
'I totally believe in the tablet,' he says
IDG News Service - After failing to break into the mainstream of computing, the tablet PC might have been written off by many. But it still has at least one strong supporter: Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corp., who said today he still believes in the design and repeated a prediction that, with better hardware and software, it could still dominate over traditional laptops.
Gates showed prototype tablet PCs at the Comdex show in Las Vegas in 2001 -- a year ahead of their 2002 launch -- and at the show said in a statement, "It's a PC that is virtually without limits, and within five years, I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America."
Now, a little over three and a half years later, the tablet PC has managed to do only marginally better than the now-defunct trade show. A handful of vendors market tablet PCs, but specialist markets like health care account for a large percentage of sales. Other users and those in business have yet to take to the device.
Approximately 640,000 tablet PCs were shipped in 2004, and shipments are expected to hit 1.2 million units this year -- about 2% of the global portable PC market, according to a February report from IDC. "IDC continues to believe that tablet PC technology will become an integral part of future portable PC designs, but adoption of the technology will be slower than originally anticipated," the report said.
"We need to keep investing, both in the hardware and software side, before it moves into the mainstream," Gates said at a Tokyo news conference. "It's not yet in the mainstream. I totally believe in the tablet."
Gates praised Toshiba Corp., with which the news conference was held. The two companies said they are broadening their relationship to include work on interactive video disc technology and future computing platforms -- including tablet PCs -- based on next year's release of Windows Longhorn.
"I think we see very good gains in the sale of tablets, particularly in the health care area and the insurance area. What we need to do is get the form factor to the point where every student and every business person who goes to lots of meetings feels like they need that extra capability," Gates said.
"There will be a substantial improvement in the tablet software as part of the Longhorn release, and that's just one of many areas we are working on with Toshiba. And so I will again, without an exact date, predict that most portablemachines will be tablets in the future, and I would hope that over the next three to five years, the software and hardware refinements will make that a reality."
On the importance of Longhorn, IDC agrees. It said the software will help make 2007 be a key year for the tablet PC and lead to shipments of around 4.9 million units, followed by 9.7 million units in 2008. That is expected to represent around 11% of portable PC shipments at the time, according to the company's prediction.
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