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Emerging Technologies Progress Report

These four emerging technologies made a big splash when they gained attention two years ago. Have they finally arrived?

June 28, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - While technologies continually emerge to take aim at enterprise adoption, few become a significant part of the corporate IT infrastructure. With that in mind, we thought it was time to check in on some of the technologies we had spotlighted in past Emerging Technologies features.
Since their introduction, tablet PCs, InfiniBand, server blades and iSCSI have seen their stock rise and fall as each has evolved. Tablet PCs were once touted by vendors as eventual replacements for general-purpose notebooks, but so far they've mainly been used as replacements for proprietary slate devices in vertical markets. And InfiniBand is finally finding a niche in high-performance server clusters. But server blades, which are rapidly moving into the mainstream, may prove to be the biggest success. And iSCSI isn't far behind, as it ushers in an era of low-cost, departmental storage-area networks (SAN). Here's a closer look at how each has fared so far.
¥ Tablet PC Awaits Horizontal Leap
While General Motors Corp. and other large companies have piloted tablet PCs as a notebook replacement for general-purpose computing, most tablet PCs sold to date have been deployed in forms-based, vertical market applications, where they often replace proprietary systems. Market research company IDC estimates that tablet PC shipments last year totaled 415,000 units, compared with more than 24 million traditional notebooks.
"The first generation really wasn't ready for widespread deployment," says Tony Scott, chief technology officer at GM, citing problems with digitizer resolution, battery life and the maturity of Microsoft Corp.'s Tablet PC software.
A second pilot of HP Compaq Tablet PCs is now under way at GM, and Scott says the hardware has gotten much better. Although pen accuracy and overall system performance have improved, he says, the two-hour battery life is still inadequate.
On the software side, Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005, scheduled to ship with Windows XP Service Pack 2 later this summer, should smoothen some of the rough edges. "Pen support was grafted onto the side of [Windows XP] rather than a major change to the internal structure," says Dan Kusnetsky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. The next version will "integrate ink capability more tightly" with the operating system, he says.
IDC expects strong growth in tablet PCs, with unit sales doubling this year and passing 20 million by 2008. More than half of those are expected to be hybrid units that include a keyboard as opposed to pen-only slate designs. But outside of vertical niches, users may be reluctant to pay the $150 to $200 premium that tablet PCs currently carry over traditional



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